Post by Football News on Dec 31, 2016 18:13:57 GMT
Southampton 1 - 2 West Brom
Hal Robson-Kanu’s touch of class fires West Brom past Southampton
Home team scorers Shane Long 41
Away team scorers Matt Phillips 43 Hal Robson-Kanu 50
At least Hal Robson-Kanu will remember 2016 fondly. The Welshman scored one of the goals of Euro 2016 during his country’s run to the semi-finals and he struck again at St Mary’s with an absolute rocket to claim three points in his first start for West Bromwich Albion.
After receiving a thrashing at the hands of Tottenham, Southampton’s Christmas is not going well, with two home defeats on the bounce. Questions will now surely be asked of the manager, Claude Puel, after he chose to rest three of his first-choice back four for this match. The only name that remained was Virgil van Dijk, who was sent off in the final knockings off the match.
It’s one of the abiding seasonal traditions that a manager will play an unrecognisable team in the second festive fixture. Puel made six changes to the side that had been so outplayed three days earlier. Ever the grouch, however, Tony Pulis made just a solitary change, and that was to draft in Robson-Kanu.
Perhaps also to be expected was that this match would be a physical affair, and the opening half hour saw neither side willing to give the other an inch. Puel would have been pleased with the way his side went into every challenge on the front foot, led by skipper for the day, Van Dijk. The Dutchman has been the subject of endless transfer speculation before the January window has even opened but looked composed on the ball and in the challenge. Even a yellow card on the half hour appeared well-judged, bringing Matt Phillips down to stop a promising Baggies’ counter attack.
The deadlock was broken in the 41st minute and sparked a short spell of footballing fancy dress. With Saints having little joy in working their passing triangles around West Brom’s compact defence, they instead took a leaf out of their visitors’ playbook and scored from a set piece. Crowd favourite Dusan Tadic whipped in a wonderful corner to the near post, which Shane Long met with a decisive header. It was the Irishman’s first league goal of the season and came against one of his old clubs.
The crowd were jubilant, but before they had even had a chance to finish their celebrations West Brom were level with a intricate goal from open play. Darren Fletcher won possession in the middle of the park and swept the ball crossfield to Chris Brunt. The Northern Irishman played a one-touch pass round his marker to Robson-Kanu who, in turn, poked it to Phillips. Cool as required, Phillips stepped inside Maya Yoshida and fired low past Fraser Forster.
All square at half-time then, but it turned out Robson-Kanu had just been warming up. Just like he did for Wales during those summer nights in France, he pulled a world-class finish out of nowhere to decide the game for the Baggies. Another physical contest was won decisively by Claude Yacob in the centre circle. He spirited the ball to Phillips, who slid a first-time pass to his forward. Robson-Kanu may have been faced with Van Dijk and been 25 yards out, but the Welshman paid little heed to the Dutchman or the distance and smashed a rocket of a shot beyond both him and Forster and into the roof of the net.
Saints went two up top almost immediately, with Jay Rodriguez replacing Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg. Puel made further assertive substitutions as the game entered its final stages, too. But such gestures were only an invitation for West Brom to do what they do best. The closest Saints got to a shot on target was when Ben Foster cleared the ball into an onrushing Rodriguez. The ball rolled out for goal kick. With the game about to enter added time, Van Dijk earned his second yellow card, once again for stopping a Baggies counter. As he walked off the pitch, he ripped off his armband in disgust at himself.