Baggies

Arsenal 1-0 West Bromwich Albion: early Giroud goal proves decisive (Video)

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West Brom, currently four points into safety, will have to wait and see whether Norwich manage to get a result at Chelsea later in the day. If so, their loss to Arsenal won’t matter one bit, as the Albion will be safe. The Gunners, meanwhile, would like the opposite result, as if Chelsea lose they’ll be two points back of third place.

It was the Baggies that needed the win, but Arsenal weren’t prepared to be generous. Before five minutes had passed, Lukas Podolski had given the visitors a bit of a scare, but his effort went wide of Ben Foster’s post.

The Gunners’ shaky defense was exposed early on, when Saido Berahino easily slipped behind the back line. His low shot hit the heel of Laurent Koscielny, however, and Wojciech Szczęsny was able to make an easy save.

That must’ve served as a wake-up call for Arsenal, because they took the lead before the 15th minute. A shot from Santi Cazorla was deflected out for a corner, taking by Cazorla himself. Olivier Giroud shook off his man, heading past Foster to give the hosts the lead. 

West Brom steadily worked their way back into the half, while Arsenal gently drifted off to sleep. Graham Dorrans woke them up with a sharp strike from 25 yards, which must’ve stung Szczesny’s palms as he pushed it away. It fell to Berahino, but the forward could only balloon his shot well over the bar.

The rest of the half trailed off into nothingness, so it came as a relief when the Albion started pressing harder after the restart. Yet, despite their need to find safety, West Brom couldn’t find a decent effort.

With 20 minutes left, the Baggies were able to make a little noise. Morgan Amalfitano broke through the Arsenal defense, going one on one with Szczesny. The goalkeeper somehow managed to keep it out, with the aid of Per Mertesacker. Craig Dawson got his head on the end of the resulting corner, but it went high. 

Arsenal looked like they were set to double their lead, with Podolski close in on goal. He couldn’t quite connect, but somehow the shot drifted into the post…and drifted right back out again.

The visitors continued to make their presence felt, but could only come close – their best effort a narrowly high header, again by Dawson, in the 86th minute.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal (Vermaelen 80), Flamini, Arteta (Kallstrom 63), Cazorla (Rosicky), Ozil, Podolski, Giroud

Goals: Giroud 14′

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, Lugano, Olsson, Brunt, Amalfitano (Anichebe 80), Mulumbu (Vydra 85), Morrison, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Berahino

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Discuss)

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With Everton’s loss to Manchester City on Saturday, Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League – so will they go easy on West Brom when they visit the Emirates today? (Watch live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).

The Albion likely wouldn’t object to an easy three points. After picking up seven points from their last three matches, they’ve moved up to 16th, four points above the drop. Relegation doesn’t look likely, as West Brom still have a game in hand, but beating Arsenal would guarantee the Baggies’ safety. Plus, it would lift them over rivals Aston Villa once more, which is always important in the Midlands.

But Arsenal still have a (very) slim chance of reaching third. The Gunners are certain of Champions League play, but if they overtake Chelsea, they’ll skip qualifying and go straight to the group stages. This hope will only be realized if Arsenal win their final two matches and Chelsea lose to both Norwich and Cardiff, but hey, it’s fun to dream, right, Gunners fans?

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After last week’s 1-0 victory over West Ham, Pepe Mel makes just two changes to the Albion side. Steven Reid, injured last weekend, is out, as is Billy Jones. Diego Lugano comes in to reinforce the defense, while James Morrison steps into midfield. It looks like Mel’s chosen to go with a back three – are the Baggies aiming for just a point at the Emirates?

Abou Diaby makes his return to Arsenal after thirteen months out, starting the match on the bench. After last week’s 3-0 victory over Newcastle, there’s just one change for Arsène Wenger. Mathieu Flamini steps in for Aaron Ramsey, who was fantastic in his return last week after four months out with injury. Looks like Wenger wants to make sure the midfielder stays fit for the FA Cup final.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud

Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Diaby, Sanogo

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, Lugano, Olsson, Brunt, Amalfitano, Mulumbu, Morrison, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Berahino

Subs: Myhill, Anichebe, O’Neil, Sinclair, Vydra, McAuley, Yacob

Norwich City 0-1 West Bromwich Albion: Amalfitano opener proves enough for West Brom this time (video)

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West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City are now even on points, both five points above the relegation zone. But even discounting the Baggies’ game in hand, after two rather weak performances from the Canaries, it’s Norwich that should be sweating the possibility of time in the Championship.

The hosts had the majority of the possession and the better of the chances in the first half, yet somehow, West Brom went into the break with the lead.

Norwich very nearly opened the scoring after just fifteen seconds. A sloppy backpass allowed Gary Hooper in on goal, but the Baggies defense were able to clear.

Thirteen minutes in, Johan Elmander wasted a golden chance for the Canaries, moments after Hooper had forced a save from Ben Foster. A half-cleared ball fell perfectly to the Swede, but rather than set up his teammate, Elmander elected to take a shot from twenty yards out, skewing it into the stands instead.

That miss was made even worse minutes later, when West Brom took the lead. An unfortunate slip from Martin Olsson allowed Morgan Amalfitano to slip past him, placing his shot perfectly into the far corner of the net. That’s two for two for the Frenchman, who just might be single-handedly keeping the Baggies in the Premier League.

Norwich got off to a decent start in the second half, with Elmander looking to redeem himself, although he was unable to connect with a good ball from Robert Snodgrass. Shortly thereafter, Snodgrass himself forced Ben Foster to tip his shot into the bar, just minutes after Hooper hit the woodwork.

That was about all the Canaries were able to muster, however, as their attack rather petered out in the final fifteen minutes. Chris Hughton introduced Nathan Redmond and Luciano Becchio, but kept Ricky van Wolfswinkel on the bench. Becchio managed a decent attempt minutes from the end, but his shot went just wide.

LINEUPS

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson (Gutierrez 81); Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan (Redmond 64); Elmander (Becchio 70), Hooper

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Amalfitano, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans (Gera 77, O’Neil 83), Sessegnon, Vydra (Berahino 71)

Goals: Amalfitano 16′

Watch Live: Norwich City vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Discuss)

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West Brom can’t afford to repeat last week’s mistakes as they travel to Carrow Road to take on Norwich City (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET online via Live Extra).

Last week against fellow strugglers Cardiff City, West Brom held a 2-1 lead into the 73rd minute, when the visitors equalized. The Baggies must’ve thought they were home free when a goal from Thievy Bifouma sparked celebrations at the Hawthorns. But before the ground had even quieted, Mats Daehli equalized for Cardiff, and the sides were forced to share the spoils.

That leaves West Brom just three points in the clear, although they do still have a game in hand. Norwich, meanwhile, aren’t comfortable either, just six points above the drop. The Canaries do have home field advantage, however, having not lost a match at Carrow Road this calendar year. But considering their lackluster performance in the 3-0 loss at Swansea last weekend, will that advantage really be enough?

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Norwich have made two changes from the side that lost in Wales last time out, with Joseph Yobo coming in for Ryan Bennett, and Gary Hooper replacing Ricky van Wolfswinkel up top.

The visitors have just one change, and, no surprise, it’s a defensive one. Jonas Olsson comes in for Craig Dawson at center back. Is Pepe Mel counting on another early goal from Morgan Amalfitano, coupled with a better defensive display from the Baggies?

LINEUPS

Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan; Elmander, Hooper

Subs: Bunn, Whittaker, Johnson, van Wolfswinkel, Gutierrez, Becchio, Redmond.

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Amalfitano, Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Vydra

Subs: Myhill, Thievy, Berahino, Dawson, O’Neil, Gera, Anichebe

West Bromwich Albion 0-3 Manchester United: Baggies in real danger after loss (video)

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After coming from behind to draw even in each of their last four home matches, West Bromwich Albion must’ve been confident when they went into halftime down by just a goal. Instead Manchester United managed to tear them apart in the second, leaving the Baggies even closer to the drop zone. They’ll be praying that Cardiff – Fulham finishes in a draw (and Pepe Mel will likely be praying he’s still got a job).

West Brom spent the majority of the first half sitting deep, inviting pressure from the visitors. They had an excellent chance in the 11th minute, when a quick counter allowed Victor Anichebe space to get behind the United defense. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones managed to stop his run, but Jones immediately gave the ball away. Unfortunately for the hosts, Chris Brunt could only aim his shot into the side netting.

(MORE: Premier League Roundup – Chelsea clear at the top, Man United click, Cardiff bag huge win)

From that point on, the first half belonged to Manchester United, as the Red Devils continued to wear down West Brom. In the 16th minute, a shot from Marouane Fellaini bounced off Brunt, but Youssouf Mulumbu was there to clear off the line.

The turning point came in the 34th minute, when Brunt fouled Rafael. It was Robin van Persie that stood over the ball, putting a lovely free kick into the midst of the red shirts. Jones got on the end of it, barely needing a touch to flick his header past Ben Foster and into the back of the net.

Then, in the 42nd minute, Foster handed us all a nice, big, talking point, one that will surely be discussed by pundits for the next few days. The Albion keeper came out to deal with the ball, but appeared to handle it just outside the area. The linesman was nearby, but no call was made. West Brom got away with one, as it certainly looked like Foster should have been sent off.

Early in the second half, United breathed their own sigh of relief when, minutes after being booked for a late challenge on Morgan Amalfitano, van Persie escaped a second yellow for a foul on Steven Reid.

Possibly mindful of West Brom’s tendency to come back and snatch a late equalizer in the dying minutes of the match, Wayne Rooney decided to knock in a second for his side in the 65th minute. Rafael, getting forward once more, put in the cross, with Rooney getting on the end to head home.

And that was game-set-match for the Baggies, whose spirit seemed broken by the second goal. Thus the third United goal came as little surprise. Danny Welbeck, on for van Persie shortly after the booking-that-wasn’t, put the ball in after a lovely move that saw Fellaini and Rooney exchanging passes as they made their way up the pitch. It was Rooney that provided the assist, a through ball that Welbeck pounced on to slide into the bottom right corner of Foster’s goal.

West Brom: Foster; Reid (Sessegnon 60), McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob (Morrison 40), Mulumbu; Amalfitano, Gera, Brunt (Berahino 66), Anichebe

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael (Vidic 87), Smalling, Jones, Evra, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Rooney, Januzaj (Kagawa 76), van Persie (Welbeck 63)

Goals: Jones 34′; Rooney 65′; Welbeck 82′