Saints spoil Baggies’ Takeover Party

West Bromwich Albion 0 Southampton 2

With the prospective new owner in the stands and a full house at the Hawthorns, the Baggies faithful were all set to celebrate with a sixth successive home league victory, but while there were some controversial decisions, Southampton were comfortably the better side and secured the three points without too much trouble.

The red card shown to Carlos Corberán was certainly one of the most bizarre decisions I have seen. The Spaniard evidently believed that the ball had gone out of play and stopped it on the pitch – the assistant referee had not flagged and the referee, Sam Allison, showed Corberán the red card for “interfering with play”. It seemed an unduly harsh decision for what was a genuine mistake that had little impact on the flow of the match as the ball was heading towards Darnell Furlong anyway, and Saints’ boss Russell Martin described it as “nonsense” after the match. It means that Corberán will not be on the touchline at Home Park on Tuesday.

Allison would go on to anger the home fans with several more contentious decisions during the first half, not least the award of the corner that led to the visitors’ opening goal, and the non-award of a penalty for a handball by Jack Stephens. To be fair to the referee, he was not in a position to see the handball, but his assistant really should have done.

While an equaliser at that point, just before half time, may have changed the whole feeling of the game, Southampton were ultimately too strong for Albion. They are a Premier League side in all but name and had quality in abundance throughout the starting eleven and off the bench. Both goals were extremely well worked and the hosts couldn’t really muster than much in terms of clear chances with Yokuşlu’s late header that was well saved by Bazunu their best opportunity.

There were some positive signs, however, with Mikey Johnston’s first half performance a real stand out for me. I look forward to seeing him and Fellows running at defences on either side as not many in the Championship will be able to cope. Okay and Mowatt did well in the middle of the park, although the Turk was guilty of giving the ball away occasionally, and I thought Pieters, who got the not ahead of Ajayi, put in a decent display once again.

There was plenty of frustration in the stands as Albion failed to really break through the Southampton midfield and defence, but we have to remember how good the Saints are. Russell Martin has them playing excellent football and, when not in possession, their energy and organisation in the press is first class.

What was particularly disappointing for me were the substitutions. The withdrawal of Swift was understandable as, for the second game running, he didn’t really get into the game, but Wallace and Johnston were easily our most effective players. Marshall looked well out of his depth and I did thing it was strange to bring him in on in such a difficult game. Weimann remained on the bench in a game that was crying out for the sort of impact he mas made in his last three appearances, and suggestions that he had picked up some sort of injury in the warm up is the only understandable reason for him not being used. Meanwhile, Diangana looked, unsurprisingly, like a player that hadn’t played much football in the last month. I do wonder whether the absence of Corberán from the touchline had an impact on those decisions.

A point would have been an excellent result against a side that had recently gone 25 games unbeaten, but it was not to be and Albion must now look towards two massive away games in the coming week. Carlos Corberán’s team are still well placed for a play-off spot and, let’s not forget, the most important result of the week was off the pitch.

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