Anelka hits first Baggies hat-trick in Ireland
NICOLAS Anelka bagged his first Albion hat-trick as Steve Clarke's side hit the League of Ireland Premier side for six.
The summer signing made it six goals in as many pre-season friendlies by netting in the 25th, 47th & 63rd minutes, with his second the pick of the bunch.
Graham Dorrans has also been among the goals and he bagged a brace to double his summer tally to four.
Republic of Ireland forward Shane Long also fittingly opened his pre-season account on his homecoming.
Albion were well worth their 2-0 half-time lead and underlined their Barclays Premier League standing after the break by adding a further four goals.
Former Cork striker Long captained Albion on his return to Turner’s Cross as Clarke made five changes to the side which faced Genoa last Thursday.
Long, who made just one sub appearance for the Leesiders before joining Reading in 2005, was afforded a warm welcome by all four sides of the ground when his name was read out before kick-off.
Long was recalled alongside Ben Foster, Craig Dawson, Chris Brunt and ex-Republic of Ireland international Steven Reid. The men to make way were Jonas Olsson and Gabriel Tamas – who did not travel to Ireland – plus Luke Daniels, Kemar Roofe and Markus Rosenberg.
Having played competitive fixtures on Friday and the previous evening, Cork understandably employed a squad rotation policy for the visit of the Baggies.
The hosts pressed Albion all over the park but it was the visitors who created the first clear opening in the tenth minute.
Anelka mesmerised left-back Ray Lally before picking out Youssouf Mulumbu but the DR Congo international directed a free header inches wide from 12 yards.
Foster had his first save to make on 13 when he comfortably held Ciaran Kilduff’s shot from just inside the penalty area.
There was a nice ebb and flow to this friendly in South West Ireland and Dawson was the next to go close when he towered in the box to header a Brunt corner into a crowded six-yard box – but straight at keeper Dave Ryan.
Cork midfielder Liam Kearney was far less accurate with a shooting opportunity in the 19th minute, firing well wide from 20 yards.
The League of Ireland Premier Division side went much closer on 22 when Kilduff came within a whisker of sliding home John Kavanagh’s wicked right-wing centre.
Albion broke with purpose on 24 and Brunt did well to pick out Dorrans on the edge of the box, only for the Scotland international to shoot a couple of yards wide.
But the Baggies had stepped up a gear and got their noses in front a minute later. Anelka, who had also been warmly applauded when his name was read out pre-match, ghosted in between two defenders to force home Dorrans’ sublime centre with his chest.
Two minutes later, Dorrans turned provider but Long was less clinical than his strike partner, heading straight at Ryan from ten yards.
Albion created two more gilt-edged chances – both in the 31st minute.
Mulumbu directed another free header wide from Goran Popov’s pinpoint centre before Anelka shot the wrong side of the near post from Dorrans’ clever ball into the box.
Anelka was impressing yet again and, from his slide-rule pass into the box, Dorrans saw a snapshot fly wide.
On 41, Long went close again when his near-post flick from Reid’s right-wing cross looped inches past the far upright.
But the Baggies had two massive let-offs in the 43rd minute. Foster was relieved to see Andy O’Connell direct a free header from Daryl Horgan’s right-wing cross straight at him. The Albion No.1 then inexplicably conceded possession to Kilduff in the box but the Cork striker could not make the most of the gift, firing over from 15 yards.
Albion made the most of their escape by surging 2-0 up a minute before the break. Dorrans was given time and space to let fly from the edge of the area and he curled a sublime left-footed effort into the far-bottom corner of Ryan’s net.
Clarke made a change at the break, replacing Claudio Yacob with James Morrison.
Within three minutes of the re-start, the friendly was over as a contest.
Morrison spread the ball to Anelka who beat Ryan all ends up with a 20-yard curler which nestled in the top right-hand corner of the net.
Within a minute, Long finally got his first goal at Turner’s Cross, powering into the box before slamming the ball home from 15 yards.
It was almost 5-0 in the 50th minute when Anelka was denied at point-blank range by Ryan’s reflexes from Brunt’s low cross.
But the former Juventus man wasn’t to be denied his hat-trick. On 63, he strode onto Long’s through-pass and calmly placed the ball past Ryan.
Cork should have pulled a goal back on 67 when Goran Popov was penalised for upending sub Rob Lehane in the box. However, O’Connell wasted the spot-kick, firing well over sub keeper Boaz Myhill’s goal.
Six minutes later, Dorrans helped himself to a second. Anelka was clearly offside as Morrison played the ball down the middle. But the referee’s assistant did not flag, deeming the striker was not interfering with play, and while the Cork defence waited for a whistle that did not come, Dorrans powered through, rounded Ryan and slotted home.
CORK (4-4-2): Ryan; E Murphy, Kavanagh (A Browne 65), Spillane, Lally (Forde 73); Horgan (Kenny 56), Lenihan (Morrissey 85), Healy (c) (Duggan HT, D Murphy 77), Kearney (Abbott 73); O’Connell (McAlavey, 77), Kilduff (Lehane 56). Subs not used: D Browne.
ALBION (4-4-2): Foster (Myhill 65); Reid, McAuley (Ridgewell 65), Dawson, Popov; Dorrans (Roofe 77), Mulumbu, Yacob (Morrison HT), Brunt (Rosenberg 65); Anelka (Jones 77), Long (c) (Berahino 65).
GOALS: ALBION – Anelka (25, 47 & 63), Dorrans (44 & 73), Long 48).
REFEREE: A Buttimer.
ALBION STARMAN: Nicolas Anelka.