Burnley 0 - West Bromwich Albion 1
I don't really know what to say.
The first half was very forgettable - we might have gone in a goal up from the back of Field's head from 6 yards had he not been more concerned with his primary role of blocking the keeper within the laws of the game.
We might have conceded had Burnley done a bit better with their chances which were better than ours.
Second half was also pretty forgettable apart from the 15 minutes in which HRK came on, showed immediately his strength in holding the ball up, scored and then got sent off.
I thought the goal was a combination of good play/strength/touch/composure, a fortunate little ricochet that got him in on goal and bad defending but he took it superbly.
I thought the sending off was justified - there was no malice in it but it was a strange way to challenge for the ball with an almost straight arm forward jump. Silly, not dangerous.
We might easily have conceded again with Burnley missing another close header and then a very good chance at the back post with the last touch of the game. But we didn't and we have our best top-flight start in decades.
Tony Pulis is a genius at what he does - even if it isn't really football in a conventional sense.
In a completely hypothetical scenario, if you are the owner of an average football club with no ambition to win anything, no aim to invest your own money but quite happy to make 5-10 million pounds in profit per annum from your asset then Tony Pulis is an absolute dream.
Under his system and tactics I sometimes wonder what level of footballer we could get away with in midfield without it failing - Sam Field's instructions seemed to be to block the keeper at set plays and in open play cover various zones on the pitch, and if he was to get the ball then to quickly release it into the corners.
I'm not even really complaining - I'm just fascinated by it the more I watch it and the longer it goes on.
We might have lost this game by 2-3 goals had Burnley converted marginal chances, I'm not sure any of our players played well individually but we won the game and it happens again and again under Pulis.
Does it matter if Evans goes really? As long as we get fair money I don't think we can stand in his way - he's genuinely too good and deserves the chance to win a few more trophies. Arguably, there comes a level of footballer that is wasted on us under Pulis - as long as we replace him with someone 75% as good we'll be OK. That's not a criticism either - but the extra class he provides becomes wasted the moment we (sometimes) go over the halfway line.
Business as usual
This game was very much a case of "After the Lord Mayor's Show", at least for the hosts, given their away win against the Champions the previous week, although for the Albion, it was merely back to business as usual, in that, unlike the previous week, they sucked the life out of the game for the first-half and then scored in the second, albiet not from a set-piece.
Any thoughts of Yacob having been unceremoniously given the boot from last week's winning side, so as to accommodate our exciting new signing, Barry, at the heart of the midfield five, were soon laid to rest with the news that the Argentinian had injured himself in training.
Other than some early attempts to put pressure on the ball, high up the field, by McClean, a tactic that none of his team-mates seemed all that interested in, the only thing I noted from, a pretty dour first-half, was that Dafabet is now available in Kenya.
The business as usual theme carried on into the second half, with last week's introduction, with 20 minutes or so to go, of HRK for a wide-player and Rodriguez, who'd been asked to do, and had done, very little as the isolated target-man, moving to the flanks, being re-enacted, although this week it would be McClean who would come off, so as to give Rodriguez some experience out on the left-flank.
Seven minutes after moving out there though, he'd be shown the sort of thing likely to required of him by Brunt, who, from a short way inside his own half, belted a loose ball clear, high and handsome, back over his shoulder, towards the centre of the Burnley half, where Phillips headed hopefully on. At this point, Rodriguez would get another lesson in the Albion way, as he watched HRK do it all for himself, taking the ball down, then getting past two defenders and into the box, before firing home between the keeper and the near post.
Given that HRK's 71st minute solo performance had given the game its first shot on target, there was little to suggest that Albion wouldn't simply see the rest of the game out, however, HRK still had a bit more excitement up his sleeve - literally - in that, ten minutes after scoring, he decided to challenge for a nothing ball on the corner of the Burnley box, by leading with an outstreched arm, whereupon, when his outstreched arm made contact with the defenders throat, he was shown a straight red. Whatever you might think about the decision, there was absolutely no need to have given the referee a decision to make.
Although no-one was to know that Burnley would still fail to get a shot on target in ten minutes against ten-men, it was still a bit of a surprise to see one of our other "regular" substitutions, a five-minute run-around for Rondon, being made, at the expense of Field, who is really developing into the Fletcher role, not least in impeding the opposition goalkeeper at every (OK, all five) corner, however, a run-around did Rondon get.
As if to highlight Burnley's inability to get a shot on target, shortly after I watched the game, delayed as live, the NZ sports' bulletins were crackling with the news that Chris Wood, ex of our parish, would be making a "return" to England's top flight, having moved from Leeds.
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