Burnley 0 - West Bromwich Albion 0
I don’t know what to think about that, it was a bizarre game.
Going into the match having seen our starting lineup, which made absolute sense to me, and Burnley’s (which was missing Barnes and Wood who’d have been a threat peeling onto our fullbacks in the air) I was pretty confident we were going to win.
In truth the opening 30 minutes of the game were pretty terrible. A combination of our tactics, Burnley’s similar tactics and the blustery weather made it difficult to watch. I thought for our part, we were a bit slow out of the blocks and our early passing was quite wayward.
But the sending off - for which I blame Gallagher’s awful decision-making - changed it. Personally as a football fan of some vintage I thought it very harsh to give a red card for handball on the halfway line. I just find it massively inconsistent that the Villa keeper a few months ago didn’t even get booked for handling the ball outside of the area and if a player needs to run half a pitch to score with a defender like Ajayi capable of recovering it just seems a daft interpretation. To put it another way - if a player crosses the ball to an unmarked striker in the box and it hits a defender on the arm, you never see a red given for that.
But if anything we were better with ten. More disciplined, our passing through the pitch improved and after riding it out to halftime we took the game to them second half.
We were also lucky because Bartley committed a blatant handball that I cannot for the life of me understand why it wasn’t given at nil-nil. Totally nailed on. Bizarre.
We took the boost and then created 3 great chances. Maitland-Niles, looking far better as a narrow wide player whose ability to carry the ball at pace transformed us on the turnover, cut inside and should’ve hit the target but fired over. Diagne blasted off the top of the bar having done well when being played in and finally Diagne, Maitland-Niles and Pereira all pissed about or fluffed their lines from 7 yards and contrived to allow a ball to be cleared off the line that should’ve been buried.
There was still time for a couple of promising breaks to fail in the final pass and we pinned them back in injury time but we lacked the quality to finish them off.
In the end despite the huge improvement our points tally and in average is still no better than Bilic but clearly had we signed Diagne and Okay (or even players less good but of their type as we all knew we needed) in the summer we’d have likely still be in with a chance of survival instead of the purgatory we suffer now; competitive at this level, more solid, even maybe enjoyable to watch but already relegated.
But let’s not take anything away from the players today. They were brilliant and fought like lions with 10 men for nearly 2/3s of the match and that is so difficult in this league so at least some pride is being restored.
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