Tony Pulis’ men hosted a Ronald Koeman side who were eager for maximum points to keep their top four hopes alive, but they knew it would be a tough test away from home at The Hawthorns.
West Brom hosted top four challengers Southampton, in an intriguing fixture between two sides with something to prove. The Baggies, under new maangement with Tony Pulis in charge, wanted to solidify a place in the top half of the Premier League table – with their new boss asking for consistency as he tries to get the best out of his players; including Saido Berahino – who has been heavily linked with moves to some top European clubs.
The young Englishman ironically broke the deadlock at The Hawthorns, with a rather powerful volley effort which flew past English goalkeeper Fraser Forster into the top corner of the net – after just 74 seconds on the clock. That was his 11th Premier League goal of the 2014-15 campaign, and it was a truly special one too.
The Saints were looking for an immediate response, which did not come. They dominated possession of the ball, and attempted to dictate play in midfield but were shut out effectively and efficiently by Pulis’ men whenever they got forward deep enough into West Brom’s defence. A few half-chances were squandered for either side before the break, with the half-time scoreline going in the hosts’ favour.
In the second-half, Nigerian striker Brown Ideye had a perfect chance to double the lead for the hosts after a super pass towards his path by midfielder Craig Gardner, but his hesitation to shoot in-front of goal cost him in the end, as Maya Yoshida tracked back fast enough to block and eventually clear the danger away.
Berahino was seen clutching his leg on the ground in discomfort on the receiving end of a painful-looking challenge; he was substituted off as a precautionary measure to avoid aggravating the injury problem – Youssouf Mulumbu coming on in his place; for his first appearance following his African Cup of Nations involvement.
Southampton lacked the cutting edge going forward, with Graziano Pellé missing a golden opportunity to level the scoring in the 67th minute. A teasing low delivery was fired into his path by left-back Ryan Bertrand, but the Italian striker failed to latch onto the ball and a last-ditch clearance away by defender Chris Brunt ensured West Brom kept hold of their lead.
French midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin was unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet after having two goal-bound efforts narrowly wide. His first was an inswinging free-kick, which swerved past all of the players in the area and trickled beyond the post. His second meanwhile, was a stinging drive which was well saved by Ben Foster, just minutes after the ‘keeper was booked for time-wasting and warned about his future actions.
The hosts were inches away from doubling the lead with ten minutes to play; former Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher had a half-chance from close range but his powerful effort fired wide over the bar and into the crowd behind the goal.
Pellé had another chance to end his goalscoring drought of four matches in all competitions with a goal-mouth scramble, the ball trickled towards his path but his follow-up was weak as Foster was able to smother the danger in the end. Ideye was seen hobbling painfully in the closing stages, and the physios treated him accordingly before he was replaced by Chris Baird to try and hold out for a 1-0 victory.
The fourth official signalled for four minutes of stoppage time to be added on, and The Saints continued to press attacking-wise; but West Brom held firm and secured a valuable three points in a hard-fought game despite a late charge seeing Eljero Elia‘s decent strike fired wide of Foster’s near post into the stands. The stats will have frustrated Ronald Koeman and his men no doubt, given the fact that they were heavily dominant but could not turn their dominance into goals in the match. 11 shots, just TWO on target and no goals. West Brom meanwhile had: seven shots, three on target and one goal, courtesy of Berahino’s stunning strike early on.
The result means Southampton lose ground in the top four race; staying in 5th place just a point above Liverpool and two above Tottenham – both of which have a game in hand over The Saints. Manchester United (50) and Arsenal (48) are above them in 3rd and 4th places respectively.