But boss 'proud' of players after they're cruelly denied historic win
STEVE Clarke was left ‘flabbergasted’ by the latest in a series of dubious penalty decisions he feels have cost Albion five points this season – after they had victory snatched from their grasp at Chelsea.
But the Baggies boss insisted he was proud of his ninth-placed team’s performance as they pushed Jose Mourinho’s title-challengers to the limit.
The Baggies were just seconds away from pulling off a historic first league win at Stamford Bridge for 35 years thanks to Shane Long and Stephane Sessegnon second-half goals overturning Samuel Eto’o’s opener just before the break.
But when Ramires went tumbling to the ground in stoppage time, following what looked like an innocuous collision with Steven Reid, referee Andre Marriner surprisingly pointed to the spot – and Eden Hazard stole a point for the hosts by converting the penalty.
“It’s very, very hard to take,” said Clarke.
“I’m very disappointed and sad for my team because they deserved to get three points.
“But I’m also proud of the team.
“We came here, we had a way we wanted to play and a plan to try and get three points.
“In the first half we did most of the plan right, where we frustrated Chelsea, but didn’t show enough ambition to go forward.
“We got mugged a little bit just on half-time when we lost a goal.
“But we responded great and in the second half we played with a lot more ambition.
“I thought for long periods in the second half we were the better team.
“We were in a good position in the game at the end, we had good control, and Chelsea had run out of ideas.
“They were lumping the ball into the box and hoping for a lucky break – and they got the lucky break with the decision.
“That was my reading of the last five minutes of the game."
Clarke believes his side were also denied a stonewall penalty in the goalless draw at Stoke when Youssouf Mulumbu was clipped by Charlie Adam.
And he insists Southampton should not have been awarded a spot-kick after Mulumbu was adjudged to have fouled Luke Shaw to give them a last-gasp victory.
“I’m just disappointed another decision has cost us two points,” he added.
“And that’s not the first time this season.
“In my opinion, three penalty decisions this season have cost us five points – and in the Premier League five points are hard to get.
“Hopefully it’s not too costly for us in the long run.
“I’m flabbergasted by the decision – I can’t believe he gave it but I can’t change it.
“I saw it at the time, I’ve played the game and have good experience, and I knew the player was already on the way down before there was anyone even near him.
“And the referee has to be 100 per cent sure it’s a penalty.
“How he can be 100 per cent sure in that instance is beyond me?!
“It’s not correct – it was a bad decision.
“I think he went down early before the contact.
“You guys can put a label on it if you want but the onus is on the referee to make the right decision –and he didn’t make it.
“It’s the kind of penalty that can be given when you’ve got a home crowd that shout for everything and put pressure on the referee.
“Referees are human; they make mistakes like everyone else.
“But for us today, the most galling fact is it should have been three points from Stamford Bridge which would have been a fantastic result for us.
“Instead of that it’s just a good result, it’s only a point.
“But the team were tremendous today and I’m really proud of the way they responded in the second half.”