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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
00:00 22nd June 2012

Baggies earn historic victory

JAMES Morrison and Zoltan Gera grabbed their second goals of the season to fire Albion to a historic-but-nervy-victory. 

Scotland international Morrison headed the Baggies in front after only five minutes and Gera added a second on 22 to set Steve Clarke’s men on their way to a fourth successive home league win. 

Youssouf Mulumbu made the points safe with his first of the season five minutes from the end. 

It is the first time in a staggering 93 years that the Baggies have won their opening four top-flight matches – but this victory was by no means straight forward. 

Adel Taarabt threw QPR a lifeline by pulling a goal back on 35 and Albion, who were less fluent after the break in a classic game of two halves, had to dig in to see out the win. 

Esteban Granero again reduced Albion's two-goal advantage when he curled home in second-half stoppage time. 

However, few would deny the Baggies, who have further cemented their position among the early pace-setters, deserved this victory following a rampant first-half performance which could have put them out of sight. 

Sixth entertained 20th at The Hawthorns as the bottom-placed club arrived hunting their first win of the season. 

Peter Odemwingie was handed an immediate recall after a three-match ban in one of two enforced changes. Gabriel Tamas also made his first league start of the season as Chris Brunt (hamstring) and Billy Jones (knee) missed out. 

Mark Hughes made three changes from the West Ham defeat, with Jose Bosingwa, Anton Ferdinand and Taarabt coming in for benched trio Djibril Cisse, Alejandro Faurlin and Nedum Onuoha. 

When the team line-ups were read out before kick-off, Jonas Olsson received a rapturous welcome when it was announced that the Sweden defender signed a four-year deal on Friday night. 

Both teams sized themselves up during a cagey opening – before Albion broke the deadlock with the first chance of the game. 

Shane Long collected Youssouf Mulumbu’s pass and outstripped Clint Hill down the right before planting an inch-perfect cross on the advancing Morrison’s head, who nodded past Julio Cesar from eight yards. Great goal, great start. 

Rangers took a while to get going and did not record their first serious effort on goal until 14, when Esteban Granero saw a 20-yard free-kick clip the Baggies wall and curl wide of the right-hand post. 

Albion should have been 2-0 up a minute later – from the visitors’ corner! 

Long’s headed clearance was hunted down by Odemwingie, who fed Morrison down the right. Long displayed incredible energy to get from one box to the other but shot wastefully wide after being picked out by Morrison’s terrific centre. 

The Baggies looked confident and composed and Cesar looked momentarily troubled by Gera’s 25-yard shot which looped awkwardly off Anton Ferdinand, but the Rs keeper back-tracked to save on his goalline. 

Gera didn’t have to wait too much longer for a goal, though. On 22, Ferdinand made a hash of clearing the lively Morrison’s right-wing centre and Gera swept home the loose ball from 14 yards. 

Albion took complete control for a long spell – but had their lead halved ten minutes before the break. Taarabt ghosted onto Granero’s lofted ball and after controlling with his chest, he smashed an unstoppable volley past Ben Foster from 15 yards – the first league goal the Baggies have conceded at home this term. 

Normal service was soon restored, though, and after great link-up play between Morrison and Long, Mulumbu side-footed just wide from 20 yards. 

QPR had a mini-spell of pressure in the dying seconds of the half but the closest they came was a wayward 20-yard effort from Taarabt. 

But it was Albion who almost capped a terrific first-half performance with another goal. 

In stoppage time, Odemwingie fed Gera with a glorious angled pass but Cesar spread himself superbly to push wide the Hungarian’s ten-yard effort. 

Moments later, Goran Popov, making his Hawthorns debut, smashed a 25-yard effort just over. 

Clarke rang a change during the interval, replacing Tamas with Gonzalo Jara Reyes – but the Chilean made a poor start at right-back. With his first touch, he got dispossessed by Taarabt as he tried to beat him and the Rangers dangerman advanced into the penalty area before shooting tamely at Foster from a tight angle. 

Albion were guilty of gifting QPR possession on several occasions during the opening stages, which gave the struggling visitors hope. 

Shaun Wright-Phillips was extremely wasteful on 53, though, when he shot into the side-netting from an acute angle after racing onto Taarabt’s raking pass. 

The Baggies gradually regained their composure and Morrison saw a goalbound effort blocked by Ryan Nelsen in the box after neat play by Odemwingie. 

Clarke made his final changes on 62, with Romelu Lukaku and Markus Rosenberg replacing Long and Odemwingie. 

QPR were much-improved from the first half but Granero passed up a presentable chance, firing high and wide from Taarabt’s lay-off on the edge of the Baggies box. 

The game became descended into a nervy, scrappy affair as time ticked on but Morrison almost wrapped up the points with a 30-yard pile-driver which whistled just wide of the far post on 80. 

But it WAS all over on 85. A stunning move from left to right culminated in Mulumbu coolly sweeping home Jara Reyes’ pull-back from 12 yards. 

Granero once-again reduced the deficit with a fine strike from outside the box in stoppage time - but Albion held on. 

ALBION (4-2-3-1): Foster; Tamas (Jara Reyes 45), McAuley, Olsson, Popov; Yacob, Mulumbu; Gera, Morrison, Odemwingie (Rosenberg 62); Long (Lukaku 62). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Dorrans, Dawson, Fortune. 

QPR (4-4-1-1): Cesar; Bosingwa, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hill (Traore HT); Wright-Phillips (Mackie 59), Park, Mbia (Hoilett 70), Granero; Taarabt; Zamora. Subs not used: Green (gk), Faurlin, Cisse, Onuoha. 

GOALS: ALBION – Morrison (5), Gera (22), Mulumbu (85). QPR – Taarabt (35), Granero (90+2). 

BOOKINGS: ALBION – Tamas (persistent fouling 25), Mulumbu (time-wasting 90+3). QPR – Park (foul 45+1), Mackie (foul 89). 

REFEREE: M Jones (Cheshire). 

ATTENDANCE: 23,987. 

ALBION STARMAN: Zoltan Gera.

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