West Bromwich Albion’s pending relegation appears to be closer than ever, following an uneventful 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.
With Albion eight points from safety, a win was somewhat imperative for Sam Allardyce as his side looked to give themselves a glimmer of hope in the race for survival. Although with Crystal Palace organised as ever under former Albion boss Roy Hodgson, Albion’s lack of quality was apparent once more.
On his return to South London, Allardyce opted to name an unchanged team from last week’s 0-0 draw against Newcastle. Whilst Hodgson made one solitary tweak from the Eagles’ 4-1 loss at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with star attacker Wilfried Zaha replacing Andros Townsend.Embed from Getty Images
The opening half-hour was evenly contested between the two teams, with Albion lacklustre in front of goal and struggling to force Palace ‘keeper Vincente Guaita intro a meaningful save. Efforts from Conor Gallagher, Okay Yokuşlu, and Dara O’Shea were harmless from Hodgson’s point of view.
Whilst the Eagles’ were also ordinary in attack, they were handed a golden opportunity in the 34th minute with Darnell Furlong giving away a needless penalty, after blatantly blocking the ball with his outstretched arm. Following a swift consultation with VAR, referee Simon Hooper pointed to the spot.
Luka Milivojević sent Sam Johnstone the wrong way and netted his first goal of the campaign by doing so. A huge blow to the Baggies who were desperate to get the first goal.Embed from Getty Images
With Albion going into the break behind, a second-half response was needed. Although it was Hodgson’s side who came out the blocks quickest with Christian Benteke’s powerful strike well saved by Johnstone.
Birthday boy Matt Phillips saw his volley sail well over the target from inside the penalty area, whilst Matheus Pereira’s last contribution was a shot which rippled the side-netting before being replaced by Hal-Robson Kanu.
Eberechi Eze, who was a summer transfer target for Albion, struck an effort well from range but Johnstone was again equal to it.
Despite the Baggies pushing for an equalising goal, Palace were in complete control with Robson-Kanu and fellow substitute Robert Snodgrass failing to make an impact from the bench.
The final whistle confirmed Albion’s seventeenth defeat of the season, and despite once again not being outclassed by their opponents, they clearly belong in the second tier of English Football. The victory however, took Palace to 37 points and all but clear of relegation.
Ratings: Johnstone (6), Furlong (4), O’Shea (6), Bartley (6), Townsend (6), Yokuslu (7), Gallagher (6), Maitland-Niles (6), Phillips (5), Diagne (5), Pereira (5). Subs: Snodgrass (5), Robson-Kanu (5)
West Brom: Johnstone; Furlong, O’Shea, Bartley (c), Townsend; Yokuslu; Gallagher, Maitland-Niles; Phillips (Snodgrass, 71′), Diagne, Pereira (Robson-Kanu, 63′)
Unused Subs: Button, Ajayi, Peltier, Diangana, Livermore, Robinson, Grant
Booked: Furlong (36′)
Crystal Palace: Guaita; Ward, Kouyaté, Cahill, Van Aahnolt; Ayew (Townsend, 84′) Milivojević, Riedewald, Eze (Schlupp, 74′); Zaha, Benteke
Unused Subs: Butland, Kelly, Dann, Hannam, Mateta, Wickham, Batshuayi
Booked: Eze (53′), Van Aanholt (90+1′), Cahill (90+3′)
Referee: Simon Hooper