West Bromwich Albion 1 Brighton & Hove Albion 0
Brighton lost an astonishing game at the Hawthorns, missing TWO penalties and an open goal and faltering deep into relegation uncertainty.
You literally couldn’t make this up – the Albion again had a majority of the play and masses of shirts in the opposition area but they appear simply terrified in front of goal.
Kyle Bartley put the home side in front on 11 minutes as he headed in a corner that the Seagulls, despite all their big men, just could not defend.
After this, Albion as usual controlled possession and as usual worked their way to the opposition penalty area. Sadly, as usual, the front players wasted the chance or simply didn’t make an effort on goal.
Albion’s first lifeline came after 19 minutes. West Brom defender Okay Yokuslu handled in the area as he challenged Dan Burn.
Astonishingly, play continued for almost two and a half minutes before referee Lee Mason stopped proceedings to check the VAR monitor. He awarded a penalty.
Pascal Gross stepped up as the £20 million striker Neal Maupay had missed a fair few spot kicks he had taken previously.
Gross’s penalty rattled the bar and rebounded into play.
Ten minutes later followed one of the most farcical moments ever witnessed in a Premier League pitch.
Mason awarded the Seagulls a free kick 20 yards out. As the players debated who would take it, the referee blew his whistle.
In a similar fashion to the Liverpool game last season, Lewis Dunk took a quick one and scored. However, just as Dunk struck the ball Mason blew his whistle again. The referee then disallowed the goal.
After much discussion, he was told by Dunk that he had heard his first whistle, and Mason appeared to give the goal. The referee looking bemused and frankly out of his depth.
Just as the restart was about to commence Mason communicated with the VAR officials again – and again disallowed the goal on the basis that the ball hadn’t crossed the line when Mason blew a second time.
To be clear … so far, only the people who know who shot JFK – and Lee Mason himself – know why he blew a second time.
Just how the officials can deem a ball moving at around 300 metres a second hadn’t crossed the line when the second whistle sounded is bizarre. Perhaps NASA are assisting Stockly Park!
The Seagulls ended the half with glaring misses from Maupay and Connolly.
The Seagulls were in possession again early in the second half and again had plenty of men forward but again were simply devoid of any one player who looked like scoring.
Maupay finally looked like bucking the awful trend as his good work saw him find space in the area – only to see his shot saved by West Brom keeper Johnson.
The ball fell kindly for Connolly, but from eight yards out and with the opposition keeper prone on the floor, he blasted his effort high and wide of an open goal.
The Seagulls were at least in control – a corner from Gross found Monday’s goal hero Joel Veltman unmarked, with a completely free header in front of goal but the ball ended up in the empty stand.
Running out of the ideas Graham Potter introduced Danny Welbeck for Connolly not long after West Brom’s Conor Townsend upended Gross in the box for a second penalty.
Welbeck confidently strode up and rattled his kick against the foot of the post. For good measure, Welbeck tried half-heartedly to convert the rebound as no other player had touched the ball.
He actually managed the rare feat of conceding a defending free kick from an opposition penalty. This happened on 75 minutes.
Apart from another Veltman shot saved and Gross missing the rebound, the remaining 20 or so minutes were a blur to anyone who has anything to do with Brighton and Hove Albion.
Quite how Potter picks the team up or even picks the team after this is anyone’s guess.
After the euphoria of Anfield, February has ended terribly for the Seagulls. Leicester City visit the Amex next Saturday for another vital Premier League fixture – Jamie Vardy is bound to score. Maupay, Welbeck and Connolly, however …
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