Match Reports

Albion stunned by Benteke's stoppage-time winner

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Late goal sees Palace steal all three points at the Amex.

By Bruce Talbot • 22 February 2021

By Paul Hazlewood
Joel Veltman got Albion deservedly back on level terms ten minutes after the restart.
  • Albion 1 Crystal Palace 2

Albion were hit by a stoppage-time sucker punch as they suffered their first Premier League defeat in seven.

Trailing to Jean-Phillipe Mateta's first-half goal, Graham Potter changed to 4-4-2 in the second half and within ten minutes of the restart Joel Veltman equalised with his first goal for the club.

Albion dominated the rest of the game. They had 74% possession and 29 shots with five on target, but Danny Welbeck, Leandro Trossard, Adam Lallana and Neal Maupay all missed opportunities to claim the second goal and in the fifth minute of stoppage time substitute Christian Benteke stunned the home side when he volleyed home Jordan Ayew's cross.

As befitting a team unbeaten in six, Albion made a sprightly start with Steven Alzate and Veltman operating high up the pitch from the start and Alzate had the first chance when he cut in from the left in the eighth minute, but Joel Ward blocked his shot.

It soon became evident that Albion would need patience. Palace were happy to sit deep and let the hosts dominate possession with the giant Mateta operating on his own up front and Palace get numbers in support of him when they turned over possession.

Albion were playing well but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock in the 28th minute with a fine goal by Mateta, who is on loan from German club Mainz.

By Paul Hazlewood
Jean-Philipe Mateta celebrates putting the visitors in front.

Jordan Ayew made it with a run down the right as he got the better of Dan Burn before firing in a low cross which Mateta, with his back to goal, audaciously backheeled through both Ben White and Robert Sanchez’s legs.

Veltman curled a shot from 20 yards wide of goal after being teed up by Lewis Dunk, and Alexis Mac Allister's daisy-cutter was deflected just wide for a corner but Palace had comfortably protected their advantage before half-time.

Graham Potter responded by bringing on Danny Welbeck for Alzate and changing to 4-4-2 for the second half and the striker went close in the 47th minute when he helped on Veltman's volley but his right-foot shot was a yard wide of Vicente Guaita's goal.

By Paul Hazlewood
Joel Veltman grabbed a first goal in an Albion shirt to bring the score level.

The change had galvanised Albion though and they levelled in the 55th minute. Pascal Gross' shot from the edge of the box found its way to Veltman via touches from Welbeck and Tyrick Mitchell and the defender whipped a left-foot shot inside the post, his first goal since April 2019 when he was an Ajax player.

Albion sensed blood. Burn popped up on the right to find Trossard with a cross and the Belgian was twice denied by Guaita with Welbeck's follow-up effort cannoning off a defender. Gary Cahill then slid in when Welbeck pulled the trigger from 15 yards and deflected the ball over.

By Paul Hazlewood
Alexis Mac Allister looks to make inroads against Palace.

Palace were hanging on as Adam Lallana replaced Mac Allister and the former Liverpool man nearly made an immediate impact when Trossard dummied Burn's cross and the midfielder swept a shot from ten yards over the bar. He had another great opening in the 75th minute when Veltman's cross found him in space but Lallana scooped his shot disappointingly over.

Benteke drove over from 20 yards but it was a rare moment of alarm for Albion who brought on Alireza Jahanbakhsh for the last ten minutes to try and find a winner. The Iranian had an effort deflected wide but in the final minute of stoppage time Albion were floored. Townsend's deep cross from the left picked out Benteke on the corner of the six-yard box and his volley flew into the opposite corner. A real sickener for Albion.

Defence breached

By Paul Hazlewood
Ben White fights for possession.

Mateta's goal was the first Albion had conceded at home for 344 minutes, since Ruben Neves' penalty in the 3-3 draw against Wolves on January 2, and only the second they had let in in the last 614 minutes.

Level pegging

Going behind doesn't bode well for Albion. It's now 12 games – the 2-1 win over Arsenal last June – since they won a Premier League game having conceded first. Palace hadn't lost any of their last 22 when in front at the break, so when Christian Benteke stunned Albion deep into stoppage time it wasn't, perhaps, that much of a surprise.

The line-up

Albion: Sanchez, Veltman, White, Dunk, Burn, Alzate (Welbeck 45), Bissouma, Gross (Jahanbakhsh 80), Mac Allister (Lallana 67), Trossard, Maupay.

Subs: Steele, Connolly, Moder, Tau, Propper, Zeqiri.

Booked: Burn, Veltman

Referee: Kevin Friend