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After playing reserve side and losing to Newcastle United, Slaven Bilic says ‘The league is the priority’

2 years ago

Slaven Bilic made nine changes for the FA Cup match with Newcastle United.

Only Dara O’Shea and Rekeem Harper staying in from their first choice Championship eleven.

After exiting the FA Cup at the fifth round stage, Slaven Bilic declared ‘The league is the priority’ after an eventful 90 minutes.

Seeing the thousands of empty seats in the home sections (in contrast to the sold out 5,050 away allocation that quickly sold out), it was obvious that the West Brom fans didn’t have great expectations when it came to the likely line-up and how seriously Slaven Bilic was taking the cup, as compared to promotion to the Championship.

West Brom having seen their lead at the top cut to one point ahead of last night, six points ahead of those chasing the top two automatic promotion spots with 10 games to go.

Despite his claims that he desperately wanted to fight for promotion AND stay in the FA Cup, you have to feel that this really sums up how Slaven Bilic feels: ‘We are very disappointed to lose but at the same time, this will give us a boost for the crucial remainder of the season.’

No more cup distractions in a competition they realistically had pretty much no chance of winning considering the teams that have gone/are going through, yet his reserve side performing so well and deserving to have taken it to extra time as Newcastle’s goal increasingly led a charmed life in the second half.

It had looked a perfect set-up for Newcastle with Slaven Bilic picking a reserve side that contained veterans in midfield such as 39 year old Barry and 35 year old Brunt. So it proved in a first half where the lack of pace in the home side was repeatedly exposed by the runs of Almiron and Saint-Maximin.

However, just like the West Ham match where Newcastle led 3-0, poor game-management by Steve Bruce in the second-half helped the Baggies take control as the game progressed and all but helped throw the game away.

Allan Saint-Bruce rescued Steve Bruce at Oxford when the head coach almost threw that one away after a two goal lead and with the legs of the team – Almiron, ASM, Lazaro all subbed – and West Brom having brought some first teamers on from the bench, if the game had gone to extra time we would have feared the worst.

However, Steve Bruce’s luck carried yet again as some individual brilliance and a bit of luck won it for Newcastle United. With Chelsea, Arsenal & Sheffield United already through and Man City, Man Utd, Tottenham and Leicester all looking set to follow, it will need a far bigger helping of luck if Newcastle are to make a semi-final at Wembley.

For now though, the dream continues, within the nightmare that is a club owned by Mike Ashley.

Slaven Bilic:

“The league is the priority.

“We wanted both but some of the players needed a rest, they needed the break considering the league situation we are in.

“The players that played deserved their chance and I am not disappointed with anyone. 

“We are not a club that should ever be happy or proud or in a good mood after a defeat but this was one of those games…

“I am very disappointed with the result but very happy with the performance, especially in the second-half.

“We started the game by giving them way too much respect, especially their midfield players.

“With the pace and quality they have up front, those midfield players had too much time to feed the three or four up front.

“After their first goal we had a really good spell and we were really unlucky to concede the second one, at half-time it wasn’t a 2-0 game.

“Then the second half started in the worst possible way, conceding a third but the reaction afterwards was magnificent.

“We had more than enough chances.

“We had enough chances to score the first one earlier.

“We had more than enough chances to score the second way earlier but unfortunately we scored the second one too late and ran out of time.

“We shouldn’t be proud or happy when we lose a game but the character and quality we showed was excellent.

“We are very disappointed to lose but at the same time, this will give us a boost for the crucial remainder of the season.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

West Brom 2 Newcastle 3  – Tuesday 3 March 2020 8pm


West Brom:

Phillips 74, Zohore 90+3


Almiron 33, 45+1, Lazaro 47

Possession was WBA 48% Newcastle 52%

Total shots were WBA 18 Newcastle 15

Shots on target were WBA 7 Newcastle 7

Corners were WBA 6 Newcastle 2

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Newcastle United:

Darlow, Manquillo, Schar, Lascelles, Rose, Sean Longstaff, Bentaleb, Lazaro (Lejeune 90+1), Almiron (Shelvey 71), Joelinton, Saint-Maximim (Gayle 80)

Unused Subs:

Elliot, Yedlin, Ritchie, Matty Longstaff

Crowd: (NUFC 5,050)

(West Brom 2 Newcastle 3 – Watch official match highlights in 5 goal thriller and plenty other chances – Watch HERE)

(Steve Bruce reacts to West Brom 2 Newcastle 3 – “It must be something in our DNA” – Read HERE)

(West Brom 2 Newcastle 3 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Tuesday’s FA Cup 5th round win – Read HERE)


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