West Brom 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 0
If anyone thinks that Albion have not had the rub of the green this season, Lady Luck made up for it in one fell swoop in what was an incredible game at the Hawthorns against Brighton.
The most straightforward part of the game was ultimately the most important, Kyle Bartley (pictured) rose majestically (and unmarked) to head the hosts into an 11th minute lead that they somehow managed to cling to for the remainder of the ninety minutes.
The visitors managed to miss two penalties and had a “goal” disallowed in the most bizarre of circumstances. The first penalty, given for Okay’s handball when challenging Lewis Dunk, was struck against the bar by Pascal Groß. I thought Conor Townsend was unlucky to concede the second penalty as I felt he got enough on the ball, but “justice” was done when Seagulls’ substitute, Danny Welbeck struck the post. I did find it incredible that neither the commentator not the “expert” summariser Lee Hendrie knew why the referee blew for an indirect free kick when Welbeck attempted to score the rebound, with the commentator even suggesting that Welbeck could have been offside!!
However, despite one side missing two penalties, the most talked about incident was Lewis Dunk’s “goal” from a free kick that was ultimately ruled out, although not before several minutes of deliberations.
As Sam Johnstone was lining up the wall, Dunk took the free kick a split second after referee, Lee Mason, had blown his whistle. Whether Mason thought that Dunk had taken it before the whistle, I’m not sure, but he blew a second time as the ball went into the net. Having initially ruled the goal out, he then changed his mind and awarded it only for the VAR to rule it out once again. There is no doubt in my mind that Dunk started his run up before the whistle was blown, but ultimately I think Mason blew too early not realising the Johnstone was not set, and the VAR gave him an excuse to disallow the goal.
As for Albion’s performance, I felt they battled well and largely restricted Brighton but they did make mistakes. On this occasion, they got away with them – other than the penalties, Aaron Connolly missed Brighton’s best chance when he fired over from seven yards and Johnstone was only called into action on a couple of occasions.
I thought Bartley and O’Shea were immense at the heart of the defence and Okay was also excellent other than his misjudged challenge that resulted in the first penalty. In possession, I thought Albion were not at the levels they had been in the previous two matches, with a few poor choices made at key moments and as a result, they only had one other clear cut chance when Maitland-Niles was through on goal just before half time, and really should have scored.
There is no doubt that Albion were fortunate to get all three points, and for the second time this season they recorded a 1-0 win when the opposition had an xG in excess of three, but there have been many occasions when they haven’t got the points they deserved.
It is no more than a start, and we move on to Thursday’s match with Everton looking to continue the unbeaten run. The Toffees will present a much tougher test, which makes the three points against Brighton all the more important.