match text commentary
a friend of mine asked me how situations like this perpetuate themselves. for example, how does one team so completely dominate the results against another team of similar size and resource year after year, so as to become the nemesis of the other... a so-called "bogey" team, as it were?
is it the style and ethos of one club that is particularly successful against the style and ethos of the other? is it some inexplicable cosmic force at work, imposing a kind of astrological status quo? what is it?!? i had to think about it for awhile. the answer soon became obvious.
the fact is - and even in the world of modern football where players no longer spend entire careers at a single club - no matter what change in personnel has come to pass at the two respective clubs in the intervening time between one match and the next, there is always a couple of guys who were there the last time the two played each other. with the fixture comes a trepidation on one side, and an assured confidence on the other that becomes fixed, so that the failure of the one and the success of the other becomes a kind of inherited psychological pre-set. stoke city have now lost just one match and drawn 6 in the last 28 times the clubs have met. the albion must dread this fixture as much as any they have to play at this point.
oooooooh!!! stoke city... boogie boOGIE BOOGIE!!!
and so it was, once again. only seconds away from a draw - perhaps the best they could have hoped for after two goal-saving stops by stoke keeper, asmir begovic - when baggies' goalie, ben foster, was not quick enough in taking a long ball coming back at him on the edge of the box. baggies' centre-half, gabriel tamas, looked momentarily to be in two minds, but with foster shouting that he had it - and was indeed better positioned to take the ball and clear than tamas - all the romanian centre-half had to do was block out stoke substitute, ryan shotton, and shepherd the ball back for foster to take on the hop.
shotton got past tamas and foster's hesitation allowed for the stoke defender to literally nick the ball off the tips of foster's fingers and put it in an open goal. it was sunday league football stuff, and not the first time we've seen it at the hawthorns. but the gaffer was adamant that by today's standards, shotton's challenge was a foul and he came in with his leg high and his studs showing.
hodgson acknowledged that foster and tamas shouldn't have got themselves into such a mess at the back. truly - and while it probably was a foul - foster should have come more decisively for the ball, been a little more aggressive and risked taking a set of studs in the chest. at least there would have been no doubt about as to whether it was a foul or not. hodgson stated that he was particularly aggrieved after having seen the replay.
unlike playing against manchester united and chelsea, this game was thoroughly dominated by the baggies. they had the better of the possession, they created better chances, and they started and finished the stronger of the two teams. jonas olsson had kenwyn jones in his back pocket all day, and gabriel tamas played an intelligent and useful game, considering he was booked early in the first-half and played the remaining 83 minutes on a yellow card. the stoke goal was their only shot on target in the whole of the match while the baggies managed six.
the best scoring chance in the match came when somen tchoyi placed a perfect cross into the box which shane long headed powerfully at goal. while the final ball was pretty much straight at begovich, long had gotten enough power behind it that it required quick hands on the part of the stoke keeper to keep the baggies from going 1-0 up.
again, this was much better on TV than it was as audio commentary. particularly the second-half. it seemed as though the albion were resigned to meet the long ball tactics that stoke played throughout the first-half with the like. it made for a second-half that never really got going, and left the albion radio commentary team to lament the lack of flow and pace that characterized the first 30 minutes of the second period; and suggest that it may have been a tactical mistake on the gaffer's part.
the real story of this game, is that it brings home the immediacy of the premier league and seeing a possible nine points - of which the baggies should have taken at least three - as well as some good football go for nothing. the albion will need four points from the next six or they're going to find themselves in trouble and growing desperate for points with roughly 20% of the season gone. in the football league you could probably drop the first four or five games and still go on to win the division.
meanwhile, and with the summer transfer window closing, we have to start to worry a little about peter odemwingie. he played fifteen minutes against chelsea, and we certainly caught a glimpse of what he and shane long might be like in a forward pairing. but he was out of the line-up (and not even on the bench) this week due to continued problems with his ankle. in truth, this has been bothering him in varying degrees since he got to the club, and i would now start to be concerned that it might be something from which he may never fully recover and will hinder his last few years in professional football.
whatever the case, i have an ultimate faith in roy hodgson, and individual technical errors aside, he has managed to put together a much more stern and disciplined defence within the structure of a 4-4-2 set up. we can only hope that this somewhat deflating result won't erode any of the team's essential confidence this early in the season.