Monday 24 September 2018

Moore belief as Baggies keep hopes of miracle escape alive

West Bromwich Albion 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0

West Bromwich Albion’s Jake Livermore scrambles the ball over the line to score an injury-time winner against Spurs at The Hawthorns yesterday. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA
West Bromwich Albion’s Jake Livermore scrambles the ball over the line to score an injury-time winner against Spurs at The Hawthorns yesterday. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA

Jon Culley

The Hawthorns can seldom have generated a noise as loud as that which greeted Jake Livermore's scrambled added time winner, keeping alive - until the final round of games next Sunday at least - Albion's chance of chance of pulling off the greatest of great escapes and staying in the Premier League against all the odds.

The home crowd knew too well it might all come to nothing but after the wretched season they have endured - this was only the third time they had witnessed a win here this season - the last five matches has seen a reconnection with the club that a month ago they could not have imagined.

It has been brought about largely through the catalyst of Darren Moore - 'Big Dave' as he is known in these parts - who has brought together in his spell as caretaker manager a dressing room clearly fractured during Alan Pardew's disastrous tenure and conjured an extraordinary response that must make him a contender to keep the job regardless of the team's fate.

Perversely, as the stadium was in uproar and the players celebrated wildly even with Livermore still on the floor, Moore was motionless and emotionless on the touchline, determined to keep his focus whatever happened.

Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez (left) and West Bromwich Albion's Salomon Rondon (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA
Tottenham Hotspur's Davinson Sanchez (left) and West Bromwich Albion's Salomon Rondon (right) battle for the ball. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA

"I knew we had a few minutes still to play and I just wanted to stay connected with the game, to see the game out and look at the result afterwards," he said.

"When you score a goal you are vulnerable to a sucker-punch because of the emotions involved and I wanted to try to help the players keep their composure for the last few minutes."

Indeed, though the goal might have been a delightful shock for Albion fans, Moore had an inkling it could come.

"I thought from maybe 60 or 70 minutes that we had a chance," he said. "With the system they play and the quality they have we set out to contain them and we felt that when spaces began to appear we had players who could exploit that. We had a trust and a belief in the players that we could win."

Moore still plays a straight bat to any questions about whether he might become the permanent manager.

"All I have done is answer the call by the club to take the team over the next six games," he said. "I called for strength and unity and that has been answered, to get that togetherness as a team and a squad.

Tottenham's Lucas Moura in action against West Bromwich Albion's Chris Brunt. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters
Tottenham's Lucas Moura in action against West Bromwich Albion's Chris Brunt. Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters

"When the dust settles we will come together as a club and evaluate the season and take stock and make the right decision for the good of the football club."

Meanwhile, Tottenham were left to reflect on another unsatisfactory performance, following on from the low-key win over Watford, that suggests the disappointment of losing their FA Cup semi-final to Manchester United still lingers. They dominated possession and had enough chances to score but it was all rather underwhelming and means they may still have work to do to be sure of their top-four place. "I've been disappointed with our performance in the last two games," manager Mauricio Pochettino said. "We do not create enough chances with the possession and we need to show more ambition.

"We dominated the game but we didn't score. West Brom have a lot of quality and physical strength at set-pieces and can cause problems for any team. I am not upset or angry, only disappointed that we didn't score. We need to be more clinical. Our challenge now is to be more clinical in front of goal in the last two games.

"We have two home games and we need to approach them with the right attitude and finish positively.

"It is important for the club in the new stadium that we are playing in the Champions League."

The player whose clinical touch was most obviously missing here was England striker Harry Kane, who, perhaps, is feeling the effects of a long campaign without tangible rewards, either for the team in terms of trophies or for himself, with Liverpool's Mo Salah now seeming to hold a decisive lead in the race for the Golden Boot. His best two chances came a minute apart in the first half. Ben Foster saved the first, a close-range shot on the end of a defence-splitting pass from Keiran Trippier, without knowing too much about it by the simple virtue of getting in the way.

Tottenham's Son Heung-min battles with West Bromwich Albion's Chris Brunt. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters
Tottenham's Son Heung-min battles with West Bromwich Albion's Chris Brunt. Photo: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

A sharper Kane might not have allowed him the opportunity. Moments later, from the corner, another chance, this time to head his side in front.

The ball went tamely wide. Bizarrely, late in the game, England's biggest hope for this summer's World Cup in Russia went closer to scoring an own goal, Hugo Lloris reacting superbly to turn the striker's sliced attempted clearance over the bar.

Foster was the busier goalkeeper, saving long-distance efforts from Victor Wanyama and Christian Eriksen, but Albion might have scored just before half-time when Ahmed Hegazi headed a golden chance wide at a corner and looked more threatening throughout the second period.

The goal was the most scrambled affair, arguably an own goal by Danny Rose in the melee that followed Lloris's save from a Craig Dawson header.

Former Spurs midfielder Livermore was the Albion player whose effort seemed to bounce off Rose into the net.

Thus Moore had his third victory, adding Pochettino to Jose Mourinho and Rafa Benitez to his managerial scalps.

Telegraph

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