Saido Berahino’s second minute goal was enough to see off a blunt Southampton and send West Bromwich Albion eight points clear of the relegation zone.
With just 72 seconds on the clock, a free kick from the left by Chris Brunt was headed into the box by Craig Dawson and the England striker finished smartly from 18 yards with his left foot. The early goal spurred the Baggies to arguably their best performance of the season so far.
Baggies boss Tony Pulis was full of praise for his young in-form forward: “It was a wonderful strike, there’s no questioning his (Berahino’s) talent... he works so hard... he’s the icing on the cake, the bit of quality every team is looking for.”
And all of this despite Berahino having spent the week on the sidelines and requiring an injection before the game. Unfortunately, he only lasted 10 minutes of the second half before being substituted.
Southampton decided to play with three central defenders but that system was unpicked immediately with the early goal from West Brom which forced them to revert to a traditional centre back pairing in manager Ronald Koeman’s attempts to get back into the game. But their best opportunities were blazed over the crossbar by Sadio Mane and Morgan Schneiderlin.
The second half followed the same course as the first. Saints’ best chance fell to out of form striker Graziano Pelle. A cross from the left hand side eluded Baggies ‘keeper Ben Foster and from two yards, with an open goal at his mercy, the Italian managed to miss the ball completely and a deflection from an unaware Chris Brunt took it closer than Pelle’s effort.
For every attack the Saint’s threw at them, West Brom resisted and held their own brilliantly in what can only be classed as a Tony Pulis masterclass with solid performances from Darren Fletcher, James Morrison and Craig Dawson. The man with the Midas touch has helped West Brom to six clean sheets in his 10 games in control.
The result means that high flying Southampton haven’t scored in their previous three matches and see their attempts of a top four finish, slowly slipping away. After the match boss Koeman said the best team won.
“West Brom were tough to break down. We had one or two chances to score but they deserved to win,” he said.
“The total performance of the team in quality is a little bit low from the beginning of the season but we have to go and believe in the next win. Next Tuesday against Crystal Palace we have to win, as we need those points.”