I was curious to see which of our walking wounded had recovered in time for the game and was pleased to see both Pienaar and Fellaini start the game. Lescott was rested to avoid the risk of a ban since he was one yellow short of a automatic suspension. Neville wasn't allowed that luxury since Rodwell was missing with injury. Hibbert slotted into his right back place and Yobo next to Jags in the heart of our defence. Jo up front alone although Cahill was alongside him for all practical purposes playing an advanced midfield role. Steve "Evil" Bennett was the ref and I didn't expect any favours from him.
We started brightly with a Baines cross eluding a jumping Cahill (who ended up falling awkwardly, thus making my heart skip a few vital beats!). After that, West Brom dominated possession and actually passed the ball really well at times. Thankfully for us, their finishing was not up to the mark and so we survived. Koren then took a shot from outside the box that went just wide.
After almost half an hour, Hibbert went off with an injury and Ossie came on, with Neville filling Hibbert's place. Pienaar, who started on the left, moved over to the right later on, was looking good in short spells but kept getting fouled. West Brom continued to use the wide areas well with Zuiverloon especially doing well on the right. Howard had to be quick off his line to thwart the run of Fortune. A free kick we got was well and truly wasted by Jags.
Just as I thought that the half would end scoreless, a free kick from Baines found Cahill unmarked (actually, Fellaini and Yobo too) to head past Carson. The replays showed that Yobo and Fellaini may have been marginally offside. The standard celebration followed at the corner flag.
West Brom didn't give up after that and continued to threaten us when they had possession. All-in-all, a poor first-half showing but at least a goal to show and a clean sheet too. The second half started the same as the first with West Brom passing the ball well but failing in the final third. Koren hit a screamer just past the upright as they made their intentions clear. Fellaini, who had given up a few silly fouls in the first half, got himself in the ref's book for what looked to be an innocuous challenge. He was later taken off and Saha was sent on to take his place.
A scary moment came our way when, after an attempt by Donk, the ball was cleared magically off the line by Jags and Howard held onto the ball. Replays showed how good the decision actually was.
There were a few spells where we showed our passing skills but that cutting edge was missing in the centre of our midfield. Hope that Rodwell recovers soon to take that place coz neither Fellaini nor Castillo appear able to. A one-goal lead seemed dicey and i was hoping that we could get another one somehow. Just then the ball fell to Saha, who turned and from just outside the box unleashed a left footed skimmer that found its resting place in the back of Carson's goal.
2-0 and we should have been comfortable and yet we allowed ourselves to be scared by the likes of Fortune and Moore. Moore then hit the crossbar with minutes left and we scrambled the rebound away. We held on for the final whistle and 3 valuable points but it wasn't a great display by any means.
Howard: We often take him for granted but I can imagine us being equally lost (or even more) like in midfield if we lose him. Another clean sheet for him.
Hibbert: Looked good when he was on and hope the injury isnt going to keep him out for long since we need Neville in midfield for the home stretch.
Jags: That goal-line clearance apart, he was magnificent again in the heart of our defense. Hope he stays away from our right back slot and free kicks though!
Yobo: Commanding headers in defense from him and an overall good game but I prefer Lescott and what he offers.
Baines: Can't believe that we were planning to sell him. He has been great for us on the left and the assist for the goal was a fitting reward.
Neville: Avoided a booking and played well in midfield and at right back. Proud to have him as our captain.
Fellaini: Better than the Newcastle game but still not playing as well as he was earlier in the season. Got himself in the book again. Like Andy Gray said — "it's not like he can hide from the ref after a foul with his height and that hair".
Gosling: Needs to improve his crosses and his shots on goal. Give him time...
Pienaar: Did a great job today. If he was in a "Top 4" team, he woulda got more of the opposition booked for the incessant fouling. Great one-two with Fellaini.
Cahill: "He's not a midfielder any more, he's a WINNER" said Martin Tyler and Andy Gray which was a fitting line for the man who has Blue running through his veins. Great goal and great work ethic getting back too. Amazing player, Amazing human being.
Jo: Has looked slow and tired in the last 2 games. Maybe will do better if he plays alongside Saha. Was smiling though when he came off, which was nice to see.
Subs: Osman: Was muscled off the ball too often in my opinion.
Castillo: Not upto the mark at all.
Saha: What a moment of individual brilliance from him. Has great potential and hope we can reap the benefits of that in the remaining games.
Tough midweek away game to Blackburn and an even tougher FA Cup game with Boro (who just beat Liverpool by the way, effectively ending their title hopes). We need to play our socks off and take our chances or the run may end. I loved Moyes in his post-match conference. Calm, collected and realistic (Have you even heard of those, Rafa?). He liked the win but not the performances. Agreed that some guys looked tired and hoped to sort things out in training. All the best with that. Onwards and Upwards.
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