Monday, August 29, 2011

WBA 0-1 Stoke City F.C.

match text commentary

a friend of mine asked me how situations like this perpetuate themselves. for example, how does one team so completely dominate the results against another team of similar size and resource year after year, so as to become the nemesis of the other... a so-called "bogey" team, as it were?

is it the style and ethos of one club that is particularly successful against the style and ethos of the other? is it some inexplicable cosmic force at work, imposing a kind of astrological status quo? what is it?!? i had to think about it for awhile. the answer soon became obvious.

the fact is - and even in the world of modern football where players no longer spend entire careers at a single club - no matter what change in personnel has come to pass at the two respective clubs in the intervening time between one match and the next, there is always a couple of guys who were there the last time the two played each other. with the fixture comes a trepidation on one side, and an assured confidence on the other that becomes fixed, so that the failure of the one and the success of the other becomes a kind of inherited psychological pre-set. stoke city have now lost just one match and drawn 6 in the last 28 times the clubs have met. the albion must dread this fixture as much as any they have to play at this point.

oooooooh!!! stoke city... boogie boOGIE BOOGIE!!!

and so it was, once again. only seconds away from a draw - perhaps the best they could have hoped for after two goal-saving stops by stoke keeper, asmir begovic - when baggies' goalie, ben foster, was not quick enough in taking a long ball coming back at him on the edge of the box. baggies' centre-half, gabriel tamas, looked momentarily to be in two minds, but with foster shouting that he had it - and was indeed better positioned to take the ball and clear than tamas - all the romanian centre-half had to do was block out stoke substitute, ryan shotton, and shepherd the ball back for foster to take on the hop.

shotton got past tamas and foster's hesitation allowed for the stoke defender to literally nick the ball off the tips of foster's fingers and put it in an open goal. it was sunday league football stuff, and not the first time we've seen it at the hawthorns. but the gaffer was adamant that by today's standards, shotton's challenge was a foul and he came in with his leg high and his studs showing.

hodgson acknowledged that foster and tamas shouldn't have got themselves into such a mess at the back. truly - and while it probably was a foul - foster should have come more decisively for the ball, been a little more aggressive and risked taking a set of studs in the chest. at least there would have been no doubt about as to whether it was a foul or not. hodgson stated that he was particularly aggrieved after having seen the replay.

unlike playing against manchester united and chelsea, this game was thoroughly dominated by the baggies. they had the better of the possession, they created better chances, and they started and finished the stronger of the two teams. jonas olsson had kenwyn jones in his back pocket all day, and gabriel tamas played an intelligent and useful game, considering he was booked early in the first-half and played the remaining 83 minutes on a yellow card. the stoke goal was their only shot on target in the whole of the match while the baggies managed six.

the best scoring chance in the match came when somen tchoyi placed a perfect cross into the box which shane long headed powerfully at goal. while the final ball was pretty much straight at begovich, long had gotten enough power behind it that it required quick hands on the part of the stoke keeper to keep the baggies from going 1-0 up.

again, this was much better on TV than it was as audio commentary. particularly the second-half. it seemed as though the albion were resigned to meet the long ball tactics that stoke played throughout the first-half with the like. it made for a second-half that never really got going, and left the albion radio commentary team to lament the lack of flow and pace that characterized the first 30 minutes of the second period; and suggest that it may have been a tactical mistake on the gaffer's part.

the real story of this game, is that it brings home the immediacy of the premier league and seeing a possible nine points - of which the baggies should have taken at least three - as well as some good football go for nothing. the albion will need four points from the next six or they're going to find themselves in trouble and growing desperate for points with roughly 20% of the season gone. in the football league you could probably drop the first four or five games and still go on to win the division.

meanwhile, and with the summer transfer window closing, we have to start to worry a little about peter odemwingie. he played fifteen minutes against chelsea, and we certainly caught a glimpse of what he and shane long might be like in a forward pairing. but he was out of the line-up (and not even on the bench) this week due to continued problems with his ankle. in truth, this has been bothering him in varying degrees since he got to the club, and i would now start to be concerned that it might be something from which he may never fully recover and will hinder his last few years in professional football.

whatever the case, i have an ultimate faith in roy hodgson, and individual technical errors aside, he has managed to put together a much more stern and disciplined defence within the structure of a 4-4-2 set up. we can only hope that this somewhat deflating result won't erode any of the team's essential confidence this early in the season.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chelsea F.C. 2-1 WBA

match text commentary

this is the kind of match that makes me want to declare and testify to the worst and most egregious of blasphemies: sometimes, i hate the premier league and wish that...

don't get me wrong. i mean, i was perfectly thrilled when we beat arsenal at the emirates. i jumped out of my seat singing psalm 23 at the top of my lungs when simon cox equalized at white-hart lane, putting the baggies on 40 points and all but beyond any fears of relegation.

i travelled three-thousand miles and was witness to the most important goal of the season at the hawthorns, when carlos vela equalized in injury time against wolves to set the albion on an eight game unbeaten run that ultimately lead to their survival, and a respectable mid-table finish in the all mighty, bloody barclay's premier league.

for the baggies this was the best league finish in nearly 30 years and certainly gives us a reason to start dreaming a little of european nights returning to the hawthorns with all the glamour and glory that that entails.

not to mention, i get to see my beloved baggies every week on TV - if not live, then at least in repeat at sometime over the course of the following week.

however, the financial gap at the top of the league is just too much of a weight to bear in order to be competitive, and the re-structuring of a successful team in the football league to one that can survive for more than five years in the premiership is often an out and out gamble - sometimes with the very existence of the club.

this was the second week in a row that the albion have had to play champions league opposition, the second week in a row that they have lost a close game late on by a score of 2-1, and the second week in a row where they did not get some calls from the referee that they really should have... frustrating stuff. especially when you consider that the margin of skill between a team like west bromwich albion and the big clubs is marginal, while the cost of maintaining that margin is so exorbitant as to be preposterous. fernando torres cost more than 3 times as much as the entire albion starting eleven. that's 20 times what peter odemwingie cost the baggies when he signed initially.

will a modest or large community based club ever win the league again? never in your life. in the mid-1970s, clubs like derby county, norwich city, west brom, nottingham forest and QPR were all variously competitive top 5 clubs, and english football still produced surprises and miracles. nowadays, the premier league has pretty much outlawed miracles. it's just not good business.

last week was a disappointment at home, this week it was away.

the baggies took the lead against chelsea in the 4th minute on shane long's second goal in as many games, and while chelsea had the bulk of possession, it was the albion who were dictating the pace of the game and making good use of the break. long worked tirelessly up front, along with colourful striker, somen tchoyi, and the baggies could well have been another goal ahead at the break.

roy hodgson went with the same starting eleven, and the same tactical set-up as he had played against manchester united at the hawthorns. the gaffer seems very much committed to a two striker system - and it looks that he intends to use this system both home and away.

while the home side had the better of the possession - and especially for large chunks of the second half - the baggies were the better and more organized side throughout the first 45-minutes.

chris brunt has adapted to hodgson's style of football, and is no longer distracted by having taken the captaincy. with two defensive midfielders, in the pairing of paul scharner and youssouf mulumbu - and with brunt and james morrison covering the wings - the gaffer has instituted a form of 4-4-2 that is able to maintain a good defensive shape and compete successfully with teams playing 4-5-1, who would tend to have the advantage in midfield.

the baggies were creating all the early chances and it was brunt moving into a central attacking position that was making it happen. paul scharner got on the end of a brilliant through ball from brunt, forcing chelsea goalie, hilario, into making a sharp save at the near post. brunt then played in a ball that put shane long and somen tchoyi in behind the chelsea back four, and it would have been 2-0 save for long's poor final ball.

while they won't have been the first team to come to stamford bridge and spend long periods of defending in the second-half, the baggies were unlucky - just as they had been against manchester united - not to have hung on for the point. they did create several opportunities to equalize, as well, the best chance falling to peter odemwingie. however, his well struck volley on a ball played to the far post was solidly dealt with by hilario.

while there were questions to be asked about the two chelsea goals as far as the baggies defenders were concerned, these were isolated passages of football in what was otherwise a really good defensive performance overall.

early on after the restart, nickey shorey got caught out and and lost the ball to ramires inside the baggies half. carrying the play into the west brom penalty area, and with the baggies defenders now on the back foot, the brazilian midfielder played a ball which eventually fell for nicolas anelka, who squeezed in an effort at the far post after taking an unfortunate deflection off jonas olsson and leaving ben foster no chance to make the save.

the winning goal came late on and just when it looked as though the baggies had weathered the worst of it and ridden out a full-on chelsea onslaught for a solid fifteen-twenty minutes, and were looking good to hang on for the draw.

however, a momentary lapse and some indecisive defending allowed jose bosingwa to carry the ball into a dangerous area down the right flank and put a low, hard cross in to the box. florent malouda met the ball at the far post to knock it home and put the blues in the lead for the first time in the match.

peter odemwingie, last year's top-scorer at the hawthorns, came on with 15 minutes left in the game. the nigerian striker not only came close to scoring, but also had a shout for what looked a stonewall penalty, when he was flagrantly hauled over in front of the londoners' goal with just seconds of injury time left to play.

the baggies have now put in two quality performances against champions league opposition, and deserve better than to be left with no points. however, a rough start like this might be the tonic needed to inspire more competitive performances against their mid-table contemporaries. last season, the baggies beat arsenal at the emirates, liverpool at home and were the only team in the league to take any points from old trafford. however, they lost twice to blackburn rovers, and were unable to take more than a single point each from bolton, wigan, stoke and wolves. while sets of home and away draws was all they could manage against the likes of west ham and tottenham.

while there is little doubt that striker, shane long, and goalie, ben foster, have brought added quality to the team, the pundits will be forgiving of the baggies this year in the name of "second-season-syndrome". however, they have managed to keep the core squad together once again and there has been much to take heart from in these two opening performances. the albion faithful, no doubt, will be hoping for a little bit more than just survival in the top-flight.

as these first two matches have been good performances with poor results, it's essential that the baggies shrug it off and get at least a point next week against stoke city. the premier league can be an unforgiving environment. there are no easy games and it's all too quick and easy to fall into a rut, not get results and just get stuck. at this point, the quicker the baggies get their first point (or points), the better.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

WBA 1-2 Manchester United F.C.

match text commentary

this was the same scoreline as the last time these two met on albion's home turf, and so too was it a game of similar and familiar fortune. i had a sense that i'd seen the plot unfold a thousand times before. manchester united have always won matches that they don't necessarily deserve to - and i've been watching it all my life!

for the baggies there were plenty of positives and i don't think any west brom supporter can be too disappointed that they didn't manage to hang on for the draw or produce a late equalizer. although they wouldn't be unjustified in being so today.

the red devils started the match in high style and the baggies were under heavy pressure for the first 20 minutes while the champions showed their superior ability in terms of holding on to the ball, passing and scoring goals.

conceding after just 11 minutes, the albion needed to play their way back in to this one. without their talismanic striker, peter odemwingie - who is currently reported as being injured - the baggies had to rely on the ever entertaining somen tchoyi to lead the line; while the club's latest signing, striker, shane long, played in a slightly withdrawn position and it was quite clear that the gaffer was indeed employing a two striker system.

there is no doubt that this is an improved baggies side once again, and well in line with chairman, jeremy peace's, vision of incremental improvement year to year. ben foster is arguably the best goalie the baggies have had since russell hoult, and it appears that gabriel tamas has tightened up his game and earned the starting centre-half position, playing next to defensive linchpin, jonas olsson. while nicky shorey remains at left-back - and one of the most consistent players on the team - the albion are still in need of a right back and are most vulnerable to attacks down the opposition's left wing.

so it was in this match, as manchester united left winger, ashley young, was the key man in the red devils attack. it was the space that he kept finding down the baggies right that lead to both goals, and he had the beating of his cover all afternoon. in fact, it was a hopeful ball that the ex-villa man put across the face of the baggies' goal that took a couple of deflections - the final one off albion's right back, stephen reid - and went on the score sheet as an own goal, that won the match.

it isn't unjustified to say that the baggies were unlucky in this case.

the albion's success story on opening day was the debut of shane long. he did well enough, putting himself about and pressing up front. he also showed that he's not short on confidence, whacking a 25 yard shot several yards wide as his first offering to the baggies' attack. the 24-year old irish international also scored his first goal in west brom colours.

on a ball played outside to him by chris brunt, long cut inside his marker on the edge of the box and his low, rolling, accurate finish beat united goalie, david de gea, at the far post. it was well directed from a sharp angle, nevertheless de gea should have had it and a very basic mistake left the teams on equal terms at the break.

going in at the half with the score at 1-1, the albion had to be the happier of the two teams, and they came back to dominate the game for long periods in the second half.

however, this is manchester united, and no matter who you are, they will find a way to beat you. even if it's something fluky, it all comes from the extra edge of depth and talent they have in their squad.

still - and as an albion fan - we almost always play well against man united and we have for a long time. one of these days - and we're going to have the opportunity for the next few years, i think - we'll beat them 3-0 at old trafford. yeah, one of these days... anyway, it's not like i wasn't half expecting it.

roy hodgson was seen losing his cool late on the match. but i think it was probably more his team's shape and tactics (or lack thereof) causing him to blow his stack rather than any perceived injustice or misfortune that the baggies had suffered. chris brunt gave paul scharner a good rollicking on a couple of occasions, with captain and manager seemingly on the same wave-length.

it appears as though roy hodgson has come up with a formation whereby the team defends without a central midfielder. this allows for the back four and two defensive midfielders to cover behind two wingers. the strikers are free to press the play up front but can always find space to drop back and defend from the central midfield as the ball comes forward at them.

in attack, one of the wingers comes into a central position and one of the holding players go wide. simple. the only problem is in getting it right as to whose responsibility is what. it seemed as though brunt was designated to come into the central position in attack and scharner who was supposed to go wide on the right. all too often, though, neither scharner on the right, nor morrison on the left were switching position quickly enough. this left the baggies getting caught defending with a narrow box shape in the midfield that was giving far too much space to the united backs and wingers, most notably, ashley young. and that, of course, was the difference on the day.

in fact with a lot of the best football in the match contested in the middle of the park this was a good game on television, but a bit flat in the medium of audio commentary.

as for the fan reaction, most baggies supporters were happy with the performance, and uncharacteristically positive about their team's potential for the year. by the end of the BBC WM football phone-in show on sunday, it was pretty clear that no one - not even the big-time pundits - are too worried about the albion and nobody is really expecting them to struggle this year.

there is definitely a positive buzz in the baggies' camp and an opening day loss to the champions did nothing to dampen that spirit. however, you can bet that roy hodgson will be working out what to do in the case of any and all eventualities.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Striker, Striker Burning Bright...

we all pretty much knew it was going to happen, but the wait is finally over. reading striker, shane long, has finally signed with the baggies for what is almost as much as the club have ever paid for anyone, anywhere at anytime: £4.5million. iglesias borja-valero is still the club's most expensive signing at £4.7million.

while borja-valero came highly touted by then-baggies manager, tony mowbray, the spanish international produced only 3 assists in his 31 starts for the albion, and never generally worked out. in fact, he has spent most of time at the albion out on loan with several different top clubs in his native spain.

shane long comes to the hawthorns as the most highly touted player since roy hodgson took over and the gaffer is expecting big things from his young signing. last year in the championship the 24-year-old striker scored 25 times in 51 starts. that's an impressive record in any league and hodgson believes that long has what it takes to be competitive in the top-flight and become a bona fide baggies' legend, along with names like clark, regis, taylor, and phillips.

at the same time, it looked like ishmael miller was going to nottingham forest, and was scheduled for the routine medical on monday. however, forest have since reported that they are close to signing matt derbyshire from blackburn rovers leaving us all wondering where that puts the miller transfer. news stories from yesterday, including a statement from forest manager, steve maclaren, suggest that miller is perhaps a second choice to another target signing.

this has revived speculation that miller might be set for a transfer to middlesbrough, and a reunion with ex-baggies manager, tony mowbray, who has always been one of miller's greatest proponents.

whatever else is happening - and with reports that peter odemwingie is going to be out of the side that will be opening the season at home to league champions, manchester united on sunday - long is probably going to find himself thrown in at the deep end with an opportunity to make his mark in a big premier league fixture almost immediately.

it was long who scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 win for the royals that put west brom out of the FA cup last year.

despite being a near record signing, this was the only significant money the baggies have had to spend on what looks to have been a really successful transfer market. billy jones, gareth macauley, martin fulop and zoltan gera all signed on free transfers; while high-profile goalkeeper, ben foster, came on a loan deal from cash-strapped local rivals, birmingham city. long is the sixth deal of the transfer window and there is still a single loan spot left should west brom need to use it.

so, while there is still room and time to make one or two more deals, the baggies do not feel pressured on the issue, and with shane long's signing, both roy hodgson and dan ashworth feel they've got a complete side and are ready to begin the new top-flight campaign.

as well, there are also three or four top academy players at the hawthorns - in the likes of sam mantom, george thorne and craig dawson - which will not impact on the 25-man team roster that the gaffer will soon have to decide on. the albion have made it clear that there is still room for another defensive player should the right opportunity present itself.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

WBA 1-1 Parma F.C.

it's hard to write about pre-season friendlies. especially involving teams with which you are completely unfamiliar. the prime difficulty being that there is no text commentary available. none of the regular sources - like the BBC or the club website - report any of statistics, and you usually can't even find a team-sheet until after the match. what can you talk about with no statistics and not even knowing the oppositions names and numbers?

it is, however, the time of year that fringe players, and players just coming into the club, get some time on the pitch in competitive fixtures and one can begin to make evaluations and read into the manager's intentions somewhat. it's the time of year for speculation and hope. although, and especially with a club like the baggies, who buy carefully and very often don't make their most important signings until the end of the transfer window, things aren't always clear until opening day and sometimes beyond.

for example, peter odemwingie came into the side on the friday before the second match of the season last year. the nigerian striker scored a late winner against sunderland at the hawthorns without even having had enough time at the club to get his name in the match-day programme.

one thing that was clear from this year's pre-season, which included a 3-game tour of the western US, was that the baggies have done things right and will be taking an even stronger team into this season's premier league than last year's squad which managed to achieve a creditable 11th place in the league.

while we may not be able to repeat the same thing next year, we're looking less and less like a team that will struggle, and there is a phenomenal amount of confidence and belief within the environment of the playing squad at the moment.

while there are always the regular grumblings from premier league "purists" who insist the jeremy peace doesn't do enough in terms of "splashing the cash" to ensure continued and future success in the top-flight, but the baggies major coup over the summer was managing to hang on to their best and most important players. despite concerns that a hungry club with money would come calling for odemwingie, or rumours that have persisted for almost a year now linking chris brunt with a move to liverpool, everyone has pretty much stayed, while both brunt and youssouf mulumbu having signed improved contracts recently.

with peter odemwingie staying on as well, and ben foster coming to the club from a troubled birmingham city side, the albion have been able to keep to their long term schedule for building a successful side in a way that jeremy peace has always envisioned for the baggies: constant and incremental improvement from year to year. it may not be the most exciting or flamboyant management style, but last season's mid-table finish should have gone a long way in vindication of the chairman's conservative approach to spending.

as of yesterday, martin fulop signed with west brom, filling the vacant goalkeeper spot left by the departure of boaz myhill to blues and the search for regular football. so the baggies are now left with only the singular problem of finding a striker.

they are also left with the prospect of needing to sell one or two of the veteran squad members. ishmael miller looks like he'll be going to nottingham forest and is scheduled for a medical there within a few hours. hodgson has said that the deal will be a permanent move for the baggies' striker.

i feel badly for miller. i was very hopeful for him as youngster having to meet the challenges of playing a single-striker set-up in the premier league. but just as he was beginning to show his potential and look like a top-flight player, and on the back of several really good goals, he was injured in a collision with then-pompey goalkeeper, david james, and the albion were ultimately relegated. miller came back to score in his first start in 14 months against blackpool, and then got another important goal three days later in a vital win at swansea.

it was a comeback that was never to be, though, as niggling injuries and increasing difficulty getting into the side under roberto di matteo saw him go out on a loan spell at QPR where he really never featured and only scored once - coming on as a substitute - in his half-season at loftus road.

the sad fact is that the club has evolved, and a player like miller needs to be in the first team somewhere and getting regular starts. the albion can no longer really offer him this, as he would be taking his place in the queue behind peter odemwingie, marc-antoine fortuné, somen tchoyi, simon cox and probably even roman bednar. the club has moved on and developed without him.

another face that was conspicuous through absence on the bench for this one was marek cech. while he was a useful player last term in a utility role - playing for nicky shorey and paul scharner when injured - but like miller is a player who probably needs to be in the starting XI and might do well for his career to move on rather than remain at the hawthorns.

with this coming weekend's opener at home to league champions, manchester united, the baggies are just a striker short of where they aim to be. last year - and on the eve of an opening day thrashing at the hands of chelsea - the albion had yet to sign peter odemwingie, paul scharner and somen tchoyi.

with striker shane long from championship side, reading f.c., as their identified target, west brom are miles ahead of where they were this time last year. i can't help feeling that this all bodes well for the coming season.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Cometh the Transfers - Cometh the Season

with the start of this year's football league competitions just a little over 24 hours away, and the premier league proper ready to go a week from tomorrow, i find myself scrambling to get this article written so that i'm at least up to date before hull and blackpool kick-off tomorrow evening.

i look forward to the prospect of a fourth season blogging about the baggies, digital multi-media, trans-atlantic trips to the hawthorns and televised football from the perspective of supporting a large community based club from overseas.

unless you happen to support manchester city, the talk on message-boards, fan forums and chat-rooms is almost exclusively preoccupied with rumours from the transfer market, ranting and lamenting that your club has not spent enough money or brought in the players so desperately needed to achieve whatever relative success will be on immediate demand.

for the millions who support manchester united, they will be worrying about a lack of depth to compete successfully in both the premier league, uefa champions league, and will be expected to win at least one of the two major domestic cup competitions as well. they will also be contesting the charity shield game against cross-town rivals and current fa cup holders, manchester city this sunday.

fans of both liverpool and chelsea will have similar expectations, while arsenal, tottenham and manchester city will be expecting nothing less than a top-four finish. newcomers norwich, QPR and swansea city will join most of the rest of the league in targeting survival and little else.

of course, if you support an established mid-table premier league side (if indeed, such a thing truly exists), you might also entertain the prospect of a cup run; just as long it doesn't come at the expense of, or create any distraction from getting the necessary results in the league.

whatever the situation, the complaints will always be roughly the same and most supporters will believe their club not to have been aggressive enough about "splashing the cash" in order to obtain what are very often unrealistic signings and expectations.

with manchester city being the one notable and consistent exception to the rule, sunderland has been the one truly aggressive club since the outset of the summer tranfer window. they signed everybody they could, it seemed, and they did it early on. this is no doubt reaction to the drastic drop in form the black cats suffered during the second-half of last season.

as for west bromwich albion, they've done OK. the baggies signed defenders gareth mcauley and billy jones right at the outset - and before their tour of the western US - and action was relatively slow for another week or so while talk of owen hargreaves coming to the hawthorns started to flag a bit. however, they were then successful in their quest for a number one goalie in taking ben foster from cash-strapped and on the rocks birmingham city; while zoltan gera re-signed with the albion and is expected to start playing in september, after serving a three-game ban for a red-card incurred playing for fulham on the final day of last season.

it is no secret that west brom still need another goalie, with boaz myhill having gone to blues, and are also looking for a striker. even with a new stiker - the current target being reading's shane long - i think that hodgson has a few surprises up his sleeve.

for example, he brought roman bednar back for the pre-season, along with a fit ishmael miller, and gave them both regular playing time on the american trip, as well as two friendlies back on english soil - against rochdale and southampton respectively. the two veteran baggies' frontmen were generally rotated in partnership with simon cox and somen tchoyi. peter odemwingie did not make the trip, taking some deserved recuperation time following what was ostensibly two years straight football without a break.

whether he's got another striker coming or not, the gaffer is hedging his bets and looking to maintain his resources in order to manage the inevitable injury problems that will occur at some point in the season.

it won't be the same as last year, and new heroes will have to take on new responsibilities if the baggies are going to see continued success in the premier league. however, things are looking good: graham dorrans will no doubt get a chance to leave his mark on the top-flight, and we could very well see some of the mowbray-era veterans like ishmael miller, roman bednar and zoltan gera getting some time in the side.

with the baggies continuing their off-season with a match away to bristol city, hodgson started to show more-or-less what the starting team is going to look like for the beginning of the season. while ben foster didn't have much to do in his first outing in albion colours, you could sense his quality and the improvement he's going to add between the posts.

stephen reid, gabriel tamas, jonas olsson and nicky shorey made up the back-line. paul scharner and youssouf mulumbu continued their partnership defending in the midfield; while chris brunt and jerome thomas played wide behind a two striker set-up of peter odemwingie and somen tchoyi - a very solid looking albion side.

after squandering their initial opportunities and having a massive edge in possession, the baggies finally prevailed 1-0 on a late goal by substitute craig dawson.

right now the baggies have got one of the best managers in the business and an improved team from last year. it should be another good year in the premier league for west bromwich albion.