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31st Dec 2017

Alan Pardew comments on James McClean own goal were unduly harsh

Ben Foster was livid

Patrick McCarry

Ben Foster was far from happy with this, but James McClean was just doing what the sideline were screaming at him to do.

West Brom’s Premier League clash with Arsenal looked to be heading for a dour 0-0 draw before it all kicked off in the final 10 minutes.

With the Baggies thwarting Arsenal’s attacking game-plan and looking to threaten from counter-attacks and set-pieces, both sides were cancelling each other out. Then, Craig Dawson fouled Alexis Sanchez just outside the WBA box and it was all hands on deck for the free-kick.

That is not an exaggeration – all 11 West Brom players were in the box as Sanchez lined up his free. Foster set his wall and looked to be giving the Chilean a glimpse of his left-hand post.

In situations like this, it should be left up to the goalkeeper to set his own wall but the West Brom sideline must have been as worried as Gary Neville on Sky Sports commentary duty. Neville remarked, “It looks to me that [Sanchez] can bend it around the side of the wall where Jay Rodriguez is… McClean has gone in now.”

Joining the wall late, after the barked instructions from the Baggies’ coaching area [circled above], Rodriguez linked arms with the Republic of Ireland midfielder.

Sanchez struck his free low and, unfortunately for West Brom, it ricocheted off McClean’s shin and deflected past a helpless Foster.

As Foster berated Rodriguez and McClean, the midfielder stood disbelieving for a moment before turning his eyes to the heavens. It was not his call but it had gone wrong. He may not be pleased, though, at twisting around as the free was struck.

Steve Claridge, on commentary duty for the BBC, had a degree of sympathy for the player. He commented:

“I don’t even know if James McClean was supposed to be part of the wall. He was just on the end, and if it does hit you, you can’t turn away.

“It was such a poor free-kick, I don’t even know if it was on target. Boy have Arsenal been lucky there – that might have just got them out of jail.”

The Sanchez strike, which may yet go down as a McClean own goal, only ended up getting Arsenal a point.

Calum Chambers was unlucky to concede a later penalty – West Brom’s first in the league since September 2016 – and Rodriguez tucked it away. The game ended, minutes later, as a 1-1 draw.

Speaking to Sky after the game, West Brom boss Alan Pardew was definitely not stepping up to say it was he that gave McClean the last-minute advice to join the wall. He said:

“James McClean is as honest as the day is long, but you can’t turn your back like that and he will have to learn from that.”

McClean will know himself that he should have stayed front and centre but the late shout did not help.

Thanks very much boss.