Manchester United's title hopes hang by the thinnest of threads.
It all started so well for United against an Albion team who came to Old Trafford dizzyingly high up the table. And for a side that has been the yo-yo club of the last decade it is telling that it is United fans with that sinking feeling.
The United fans probably hadn't all settled into their seats when Chicharito opened his premier league account. The United team certainly hadn't settled into the game yet. Hernandez did well to shield the ball and win a free kick 25 metres from goal and did even better when Carson parried Nani's excellent dipping free kick. Chicharito as he is known was, in typical poachers style, in the right place to left foot the ball into the net.
It's usually the best thing for the overall quality of the match when a goal goes in early. But both teams took some time to settle after the early marker. Anderson in particular was wasteful in possession and should have done much better in the 8th minute. Anderson was galloping into acres of space when he picked the correct ball. But instead of sliding Hernandez through on goal the Brazilian's ball was behind Hernandez who couldn't control cleanly allowing Albion to clear.
Scott Carson did well to win a foot race with Nani as United looked to counter from an Albion corner. United failed to take advantage of some slack Albion defending and it was Roberto Di Matteo's side who came close next. In fact they should have scored. Albion sprung United's offside trap and Fortune laid a ball onto a plate for Brunt. But Rafael somehow managed to get his boot in and poke the ball clear.
Rafael's wonderful bit of defending while facing his own goal was almost magnified even more when Berba picked up the ball moments later on the edge of the Albion box and fired wide. He just couldn't get the curve on the ball that he needed.
United were now well and truly on the front foot. Giggs won, and took, a free kick but the wall did its job. Moments later it was Nani, United's key man in the first half, who put in a decent ball from the right that was too far in front of Hernandez. The Little Pea had a free header moments later but couldn't get the ball down.
United were guilty of over playing at times in the forward third and when they did create chances they were wasteful. No one was more guilty than Berbatov who looked like the Berba of the last two seasons when he was set up by Carrick who had made a good run through the Albion defence. Berba had the freedom of the WBA box but with time and space the talented Bulgarian could only fire tamely wide.
It was fortune that favored United for the second goal. Shorey slips over right in front of Nani which allows the little winger to run all the way into the Albion box, play a neat little one-two with Berbatov and fire home. The Portuguese side foots a tidy finish and United's dominance is reflected on the scoreboard.
United seemed content to see out the first half as Albion saw a little more of the ball. It was a short day for Giggs as he limped off late in the half to be replaced by Gibson. Nani was able to create a few half chances but both teams looked to be playing out the half.
Fortune had favoured United in the first half but it abandoned them in the second. Almost right from the second half kick off Nani puts in another deep cross which Hernandez does well to turn into a corner. It's wasteful from Nani but the ball comes right back to him and he finds the head of Nemanja Vidic. The towering Serbian stoops to head the ball off the post. Carson was stranded and could only watch in the Albion net as the ball rebounded back into the area only to be cleared.
And suddenly everything was going Albion's way. Anderson gave away a needless free kick for shirt pulling. It appeared to be 6 of one but the ref blows in favour of Albion. The free kick from Blunt is poor but rattles off the legs of Evra and past Van Der Sar.
United responded well to the goal as Evra did well down the left and found Berbatov with his cut back. But the Bulgarian wanted too much time in the box when he could have shot first time. Instead he controls and tries to open up the angle only to see his shot blocked well by Albion.
It will be Van Der Sar in the United goal who takes the blame and rightly so for the Albion equalizer. But it has to be said that United were guilty of over playing in their own area. The ball should have been hacked clear as United were on the back foot. Instead Ferdinand tried to play his way out of defence. It didn't work. The ball comes out to the left and the ensuing cross is dropped by VDS. A horrendous blunder gifts Somen Tchoyi the equalizer.
Ironically on the day I ran out of left over Turkey from last weekend's Canadian Thanksgiving it was United who had the stuffing knocked out of them. Albion looked comfortable after equalizing with United rarely threatening. Anderson put in a good shot in the 70th minute and Carson was fortunate to gather the rebound after parrying the ball back into the mix. Hernandez was right on top of the former England keeper but the breaks were all going Albion's way now.
The introductions of Scholes and Rooney did little to lift the play of United who were well and truly off the boil in the second half. No one more so than the talented pair of Nani and Berbatov who had run the show in the first half. They had disappeared by this point. A ten minute lull followed the United subs as Albion were able to let a little of the air out of the ball.
The Ref did his best to spark United to life blowing up for a back pass when it seemed he was the only one who thought Jara was intentionally playing the ball to his keeper. United worked the indirect free kick well but Rooney's shot was blocked on its way to goal. Albion with everyone back and on the line were able to see out the danger.
And that was it really. United's passing was poor and their control had deserted them much the way the fans were deserting, scampering towards the exits despite United's long history of late shows. You could just see it wasn't on the card this time. Another two points dropped from a winning position against weaker opposition. This time at Old Trafford though. Still no losses on the season for United but they are a long way adrift of Chelsea so early in the season and nothing kills a title challenge faster than dropping points to weaker sides.