Balis Penalty Still Sending Shivers 10 Years Later
Penalties. Love or loathe them, they often can be the most important moments in a team’s season. You’ve had countless finals and games decided by them, but ask any Albion fan about what a decisive penalty is and they will tell you one game, one date and one man. Bradford City away, ten years ago today. 13 April 2002 and Igor Balis. The penultimate game of the 2001/2002 season.
For the uneducated, here’s what happened a decade ago. We were sitting in second place in Division One (as it was called then), just one point ahead of Black Country rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers, who were playing Wimbledon the day later.
The game at Valley Parade was poised to be a 0-0 draw until the first minute of injury time when Andy Myers brought down ‘Super Bob’ Taylor in the box and the ref pointed to the spot. Albion fans erupted. Here it was, slot this away and whatever happened promotion would be in our hands. Some fans couldn’t watch. This could only happen to the Albion in one of the greatest seasons in recent history.
The only problem was that we had not got a good record from penalties that season. We had taken 11 all season and missed 8. Slovakian Igor Balis stepped up, with Bradford keeper Alan Combe diving the right way, but was still beaten by Balis’ perfect penalty.
Cue wild celebrations for the Albion across the bench and the stadium. Fans ran on the pitch, the dugout went wild. Whatever happened the day after with Wolves, it would be in our hands come the final game of the season. The day later Wolves did win (1-0 for the record), but as you know it was the Albion who were promoted, beating Crystal Palace the week after with Wolves failing miserably in the end with a draw at Hillsborough on the final day. To rub more salt into Wolves wounds we were 11 points behind them with eight games to go and still ended up promoted. Not that our Staffordshire neighbours need reminding at all…
Many fans remember the game at Bradford being one of the most decisive of recent years and watching videos of it still sends a chill down my spine. The game at Valley Parade was watched by thousands of Albion fans scattered across the ground due to a low allocation of tickets for us. Unfortunately, I was not one of them, but remember vividly following the game on Final Score and jumping up and down my front room when I heard that Balis had sent the ball into the back of the net.
Ten years later, Balis is now a scout for Spartak Trnava and is still regarded as a true cult hero for West Bromwich Albion. If you were at the game, leave your comments below as every Albion fan I speak to has some recollection of the game.
Boing Boing !