Joint No.2 deflated but sees positives in close cup encounter
KEVIN Keen insisted Albion should never have let their Capital One Cup third-round tie get to penalties as they suffered a gut-wrenching shoot-out exit at the hands of Arsenal.
Thomas Eisfeld snatched the lead for the Gunners just past the hour-mark but second-round hat-trick hero Saido Berahino deservedly levelled within ten minutes to make it 1-1 after 90.
The Baggies had the better of extra-time, with Markus Rosenberg seeing an effort cleared off the goalline and fellow substitute Morgan Amalfitano crashing an effort against the crossbar.
But, with no-one able to break the deadlock, the match headed to penalties and the latter’s spot-kick miss on the back of Craig Dawson also missing the target in the shoot-out presented Nacho Monreal with the opportunity to win it for the visitors – and set up a last-16 home encounter with Chelsea.
Keen said: “I think over the 90 minutes we probably just about shaded it and over the 120 we definitely shaded it.
“So to come away without going through to the next round is rather deflating – and the lads are disappointed.
“We have to pick ourselves up and get ready for Old Trafford on Saturday.
“But overall we’re disappointed because we’re out of the League Cup for another season.
“The damaging part of extra-time for me was that we had a couple of really, really good chances that on another day you’re finishing every time.
“They were chances to win the game but instead we went to penalties and ended up losing the game.
“I think on the night we were the better team.”
It is the second successive season Steve Clarke’s men have gone out at the third-round stage in the League Cup, after losing to Liverpool 2-1 at The Hawthorns last term.
But Keen was also determined to see the positives from a starting line-up that saw eight changes from Saturday’s 3-0 Barclays Premier League win over Sunderland.
“It’s really frustrating we can’t get a cup run going,” Keen added.
“We were poor last season against Liverpool in this round and went out.
“We came past Newport comfortably this season and put on a performance tonight that deserved to win the game.
“You have to give Arsenal a little bit of credit for their resilience throughout.
“But if you look at the saves Luke [Daniels] had to make there weren’t too many.
“So, yes, it’s disappointing because we have got a squad that being in the League Cup is where it should be.
“There were some fantastic performances tonight that are a big, big plus.
“I think if you look at the back-four there are some players who have not played that many games – and I thought they were magnificent.
“Shane certainly showed he wants to be a big part of this club and his effort and running was a typical Shane Long performance.
“Saido getting another goal was absolutely magnificent.
“There were some big, big pluses.”
Keen went on to explain how Clarke picked his penalty takers, who were put to the test in front of the Brummie Road End.
“There was a little bit of a discussion with the head coach and he went round and saw who wanted to take one,” he said.
“I don’t think there was anyone who turned the head coach down, so Steve decided.”
And Clarke’s joint No.2 also revealed he felt Isaac Hayden was fortunate to stay on the pitch after an early challenge on Stephane Sessegnon and a crunching tackle on Youssouf Mulumbu on 33.
“It was a really strong challenge – a little bit off the floor,” Keen added.
“I think the speed of it was pretty frightening and the noise of it was pretty frightening.
“It was possibly a red card but I didn’t think it definitely was.
“The same player should have been booked for a tackle on Sessegnon in the first five minutes.
“I don’t want to see people getting sent-off – but it certainly was a very strong challenge.
“Mulumbu played to 90 minutes and is okay – but he has a big bruise!”