It may all be too little too late (and with some uncharacteristic Baggies luck), but that’s exactly the performance and result we’ve been looking for. Two missed penalties and VAR controversies. Settle in, this game really had it all.
Allardyce named a somewhat unchanged team, except for the return of Dara O’Shea to the starting XI, in place of the suspended Semi Ajayi. We started a bright and sunny day in the West Midlands in a position no side has ever survived from before at this stage.
Despite this, the first half proved to be one of the most entertaining halves of football you could ever wish to see. In the first five minutes alone, Brighton keeper Sanchez started the half in a cap due to the infamous Midland’s sunshine and Connor Gallagher wiped out referee Lee Mason.
After a superb Baggies start, we took the lead through another Bartley header off a superb Gallagher corner, which Brighton failed to deal with. After which, Sanchez decided he’d had enough of the cap and ditched it (not sure what it had to do with the goal, mind).Embed from Getty Images
Brighton felt their way into the game though, as Connolly’s shot was narrowly deflected wide. Then, in the first of two VAR controversies in the half, Yokoslu’s flailing arm way above his head was deemed to be in an unnatural position and a penalty was awarded to Brighton. Gross stepped up to take the spot kick, but only managed to slam the ball at Johnstone’s cross bar. An early let off for the Baggies.
A well-worked throw-in then gave Diagne a superb chance to double our lead, but he couldn’t make the contact with the header he would have been hoping for and his effort went wide.
What happened next, can only be described as one of the most hectic things I’ve ever seen on a football pitch. A rash Gallagher challenge on the edge of the box gave Brighton a free kick. Johnstone was standing on the right-hand side of his goal, lining up his wall as Lee Mason blew his whistle for the free kick to be taken. Some quick thinking from Brighton’s Dunk meant he passed the ball into an almost empty net.Embed from Getty Images
A total loss of control by Lee Mason followed. The goal was initially ruled out, then given, then ruled out again by VAR. The Video Assistant Referee stated Mason had blown his whistle, but then blown his whistle again before the ball hit the back of the net.
The free kick was eventually taken again five minutes later, but Dunk’s effort was saved. A confusing, but fortunate let off for Johnstone and the Albion.
Four minutes of added time ended the half, with another few minutes of madness at either end. First, two fantastic Brighton chances were missed by Connolly (after a good save by Johnstone) and Maupay, who squandered potentially Brighton’s best chance of the half. Then at the other end, Maitland-Niles broke through one-on-one with Sanchez, but shot straight at the Brighton keeper. The half ended with another superb Brighton chance, but the Baggies held on to go in with a 1-0 lead.
What a half of football.
The second half picked up where the first left off, with Johnstone pushing out a shot to Connolly, who blazed over with the goal completely open. Veltman then missed another good Brighton chance in the 60th minute, finding himself free in the box, but his header missed the target. Brighton continued to pile on more pressure, with Trossard stinging the gloves of Johnstone minutes later.
An Allardyce sub with 20 minutes to go saw the return of Grady Diangana in his first appearance since early January.Embed from Getty Images
Brighton’s pressure resulted in their second penalty of the afternoon, with a Townsend tackle from behind on Gross. The seagull’s frontman Welbeck took centre stage this time, but for the second time from the spot, Brighton hit the frame of the goal. You really couldn’t write it.
With just over ten minutes to go, Allardyce then made his second change, aiming to sure up an increasingly suspect defence, moving towards a back five. His final change came shortly after, seeing the return of Robson-Kanu for Pereira. We were in for a nervy final few minutes.
Kyle Bartley’s heroic challenge then saved the Baggies yet again, with a contribution arguably almost as valuable as his goal.
Four minutes were added on at the end of the half as substitute Moder put in a superb ball into the box for Brighton, but nobody was there to get on the end of it.
After a nervy final few minutes, we hung on for just our third league win this season and our first home win in three months. One of the most extraordinary 1-0 wins you will ever see.
A glimmer of hope given to Allardyce’s men now, with eight points separating us and safety. Next up for the Baggies is in-form Everton on Thursday, with again another unlikely win needed.
It obviously looks unlikely, but we’re still alive (just). Surely, we couldn’t get ourselves out of this one?
Ratings: Johnstone (7), Furlong (7), O’Shea (7), Bartley (9), Townsend (7), Yokuslu (9), Gallagher (8), Maitland-Niles (8), Phillips (7), Diagne (7), Pereira (7). Subs: Diangana (6), Ivanovic (6), Robson-Kanu (6).
West Brom: Johnstone; Furlong, O’Shea, Bartley (c), Townsend; Yokuslu, Gallagher, Maitland-Niles, Phillips (Diangana 71′), Pereira (Ivanovic 78′), Diagne (Robson-Kanu 82′).
Unused Subs: Button, Peltier, Sawyers, Livermore, Grant, Robinson
Brighton: Sanchez; Veltman, White (Moder 84′), Dunk (c), Burn; Groß, Bissouma; Trossard, Mac Allister (Lallana 46′), Connolly (Welbeck 61′); Maupay
Unused Subs: Steele, Alzate, Propper, Zeqiri, Tau, Jahanbakhsh
Referee: Lee Mason