WEST BROM’S survival hopes were sunk under a hail of stones as they crashed to a defeat which could be fatal to their chances of staying up.
Sam Allardyce’s side are tumbling down as quickly as the droplets of ice fell when a second half storm engulfed Selhurst Park.
A failure to make the most of their chances added to pressing the self-destruct button gifted Crystal Palace the win that surely make them certainties for another season up with the elite.
But the Baggies are surely only bouncing back down to the Championship as they failed to close the eight-point gap separating them and safety.
They were undone by themselves as they handed Luka Milivojevic a first half penalty that proved decisive.
And barring some kind of miracle reversal of fortunes, the men from the West Midlands will be joining Sheffield United on the way back to the second tier of English football.
Having lost just once in five coming into the game, the signs had been that Allardyce is gradually making his mark on the mess of a squad he inherited.
But only one of those was a victory and as we enter the final stretch of the season nothing other than wins are good enough.
Certainly his players started with the intensity of a group who knew what was required of them, but as so often of late they were found wanting in front of goal.
Only four minutes where on the board when Matheus Pereira nodded a ball back into the box where Conor Gallagher was arriving, but the midfielder couldn’t get his feet sorted out and it rebounded off his leg into the grateful grasp of Vicente Guiata in the Palace goal.
Gallagher is never one for hiding, and he tried to make amends on 15 minutes with a driving run and shot from 20-yards, but his aim was off and the ball travelled wide of target.
Still West Brom applied the pressure looking for a breakthrough, and when Okay Yokuslu sold Milivojevic with a dummy the chance suddenly opened up for him.
But though the midfielder turned sharply he could only fire a yard wide of target from the angle.
For a side containing the undoubted threat of Wilf Zaha and Eberechi Eze, Palace were offering precious little as an attacking threat.
Yet the Baggies gifted them the lead when Darnell Furlong conceded a silly penalty as he lent out to intercept Zaha’s cross with his left arm.
Ref Simon Hooper had initially missed it, leading to Milivojevic crashing in a wonderful dipping volley which Sam Johnstone did well to acrobatically tip over the bar.
But he received a call from VAR Mike Dean to look at replays which showed the ball had made contact with the arm of Furlong and after viewing the monitor he gave the penalty which Milivojevic tucked away.
It was such a soft way to relinquish control of the game, especially when you are as bad at coming back in a game as West Brom are.
In 44 Premier League matches since February 2017, when the Baggies have conceded first they have lost 37 of them and won none.
Those statistics do not lie, and it might have got a lot worse just two minutes after the break had it not been for the sharp reflexes of Johnstone in goal.
Christian Benteke latched onto a ball from Eze, held off Conor Townsend to drive in a shot which was heading on target only for the Baggies keeper to just get a hand to it and tip it over.
In the position they are in Allardyce knows they need to take the opportunities when they come their way, but again he was left disappointed as chances went begging.
First up it was Gallagher, who snatched at a chance 12 yards out and could only hit the legs of Cheikhou Koyate when he should really have at least hit the target.
And on 55 minutes Matty Phillips was next to pass up a chance when he was picked out in the area by Townsend only to slice his volley high over the bar.
What West Brom also lack is a player of genuine ability to conjure something out of nothing, which Eze almost did on 65 minutes with some quick feet to escape two challenges, only to see his shot from the edge of the box saved.
Instead there was plenty of effort from the visitors, and when Allardyce sacrificed their only real creative player in Pereira for the robust Hal Robson-Kanu, you knew what the last 20 minutes would be about.
So it proved as the Baggies toiled without any real danger being posed to a Palace defence who love nothing more than a robust challenge.
All toil, and all trouble now for West Brom.
Source: Read Full Article