West Bromwich Albion 1 - Crystal Palace 5
VARed again!! I've watched the Pereira incident a dozen times and there's no way he should have got a red card. It doesn't even look like a yellow. We had just scored and were looking like the better team. That awful decision not only wrecked the game, it will have a massive impact on our season if Pereira is out for three games.
We made it to half time at 1-1, then at the start of the second half the second VAR incident went against us. Gallagher was going for the ball in the area when he was clearly barged in the back. Penalty!! No says VAR. Rubbish!
I was all for VAR. I thought it would clean up the obvious mistakes. I was wrong. It is ruining the game and I'm not sure I can watch much more of it. If they claim there was violent intent by Pereira, then both Zaha and McArthur should have been red-carded.
When are we going to get a break? Fuming!
Well there’s a lot to say about that. Where to start?
I thought it was unbelievably harsh to leave Robinson out of the starting lineup and I can only assume Phillips started at left wingback because Gibbs has missed training.
The opening period was decent enough but a slip and an own goal led to a soft opener. After that we rallied really well, had a great spell and scored a really good equaliser through Gallagher on the edge of the box.
We continued to look the better side but an innocuous enough foul on Pereira led to him being sent off via another dubious and harsh VAR call. In real-time it looked like nothing and even after multiple replays I’m not convinced beyond doubt it was more than a falling player protecting himself and it’s hard to imagine such a call being made if it was a player from a ‘big club’. I felt we continued to be the better side until half time.
After the break Krovi came in for Diagana which was understandable but our system didn’t change - and that was what I felt really cost us the match. Has anyone ever seen a side with 10 men play 3 at the back? I can’t recall it at any level and there is a reason; the gaps left are too great and your extra CB is negated because they are a sitting duck to wide runners and easier through balls that the extra space allows for.
Also, imagine being a wing back in that system? Endurance-wise it is too much to ask.
Uncle Roy couldn’t believe his luck really and after a ten minute spell where we were the better side out of the blocks, and in fairness had a couple of classically soft but in VAR world fairly clear penalty calls ignored (Gallagher taken out when shielding the ball, Ivanovic taken out by the keeper), Palace began shifting the ball through our lines with ease and worked the half chances necessary at this level to punish us severely. Sure, we could’ve defended better individually but we were set up to fail. Robinson was introduced too late, the system didn’t change and I’m not sure what the point of getting O’Shea on as a left wingback was by that stage. Not his fault but utterly pointless.
Questions will be asked of Bilic on that and rightly so. We have no plan B and are the softest touch when down to 10 men.
Next weekend is must win if we want to stay at this level. Honestly, I’m not bothered!
Never mind the quality: look at all the space in the width down the sides, and feel it through the middle
The TV graphic showed us lining up in a 3421 formation with a right-winger, Phillips, playing in behind a left-winger, Diangana, on the left of the four.
After just seven minutes, Palace found a way to exploit the space down the sides of our three centre-backs, when a quick free-kick, found Pereira, the right-sided forward doing the left full-back's job on the edge of a narrow defensive line unable to prevent a Palace player getting around the outside of him, although Furlong, the right-sided player in the four can consider himself unlucky in turning the driven cross just inside his own left-hand post.
The fact that the free-kick had resulted from one of our centre backs stepping up into mid-field to give away a soft one only served to compound the despair, that and the fact that one of the bar managers at the Inglewood, Dean, a follower of Palace, had put a bet on that both sides wouldn't score, and so he now had nearly 85 minutes to see if we could rob him of his winnings.
The attempt to exploit space down the flanks appeared to be something that both sides were looking to do although, with Palace deploying a back-four, our attempts centred around balls inside their full-backs that a wide player could run onto, whereas Roy Hodgson's plan just saw his side play the ball into the space where a full-back would (could? should?) have been.
Around the quarter hour mark came the first of a number of poor refereeing decisions when a player appeared to dive over the top of Sawyers's leg, shortly after which, Furlong, who seemed to be turning up all over the pitch, hit the bar with a header from the centre of their box. Given he was deployed on the wide right of the four, it's not clear if that adds to the "our defenders are not scoring enough" claims?
A quarter-of-an-hour later saw Furlong, now in his assigned position, getting on the end of a fine ball inside the Palace full-back, and then, having been half-blocked as he looked to cross, regained his composure and was able to set up Gallager, making a run into space the box, who fired home. So much for Dean's bet then.
If the goal was nothing more than the Albion deserved, then what they didn't deserve, five minutes later was to have a foul awarded for a challenge that saw Pereira bundled to the ground, but then see slow-motion VAR turn it into a sending off offence as Pereira's dying-fly legs in the air were run onto by the player who had run into him and knocked him to the ground.
If you think about it, as I did, the loss of one of the two players playing in behind the lone striker, should not have required much of a change, as we still had a back three and a midfield four in front of them, however, in what was the first of a tri of baffling substitutions for me, Bilic swapped Diangana out for Krovinovic as the second-half began. Why?
A few minutes into the half Krovinovic looked to be breaking away into space, only for the ref to bring him, and the ball back for a foul on Gallagher, rather than allowing play to develop to our advantage.
Around 50 minutes in, Gallagher gets an elbow in the back in the Palace area but this time the ref waves play on, and Palace come away with ball, and start the bit of pressure that leads to them taking the lead after Zaha, one of a number of Palace players with much quicker feet that most of ours, manufactured enough space inside our box to get a shot across the goal and into the net.
Five minutes later, Palace found space down the left-hand side of our back three inside the box and the pull-back saw Benteke stoop to glance the ball in for the third.
Palace's third goal saw Bilic decide to change things, and his response involved taking off our striker, Grant, and replacing him with another striker, Robinson. Not sure what that change was supposed to change though, Slaven?
What it didn't change was our defence's inability to get near the soft quick feet of the Palace attack, and a really slick move saw Zaha score a fourth with twenty minutes still to go.
Another ten minutes would pass before Bilic made his final, and perhaps most incomprehensible change, taking off Swayers and replacing him with centre-back O'Shea, although he seemed to end up playing as a left-back. Not sure if this one was supposed to see us "give it a real go" or was some bizarre form of damage limitation?
Whatever it was supposed to achieve, having four centre-backs on the field didn't really help much with the (re)organisation of the defence though and within a couple of minutes Palace had added a fifth to the damage when Benteke seemed to used some kind of Tardis key on a string cloaking device that permitted him to get all the time and space he needed at the top of the box to get off his shot, whilst not being noticed by anyone.
With the game into time allowed for stoppages, one of our "don't score enough" defenders missed a header from close range, shortly after which the game ended and I drowned my sorrows watching England beat France in golden penalty goal overtime.
Summing up this one is hard. Albion, with Sawyers at the base of a diamond, and Gallagher at the tip, and Furlong going wherever he wanted to, played some good football at times, even when a man down, and so, if we hadn't seen the sending off, I feel we would have won it. Where going down to ten men raises questions for me though is what, other than having an extra defender who doesn't score enough out on the pitch, three-centre backs is bringing us. They certainly don't look able to stop the opposition running straight through the middle of them, and they leave us with a load of space out on either side of them. And the less said about those substitutions the better.
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