Berahino strike hands Baggies vital win
SAIDO Berahino returned to the starting XI with a bang to deliver the first home win of Pepe Mel’s reign – and give Albion’s survival hopes a huge shot in the arm.
The result could have been more convincing for the Baggies as a host of golden opportunities came and went in what was their first victory at The Hawthorns since beating Newcastle 1-0 on New Year’s Day – when Academy product Berahino also netted.
But the three points were really built on a superb rearguard display that saw Albion’s defence repel the aerial threat of Andy Carroll & Co time and time again.
Ben Foster also had to be at his best to record a second shut-out in four games and fortune shone on the Baggies when giant Geordie Carroll thundered a free header against the crossbar on 71.
Berahino was handed his first start in eight games while Steven Reid returned in defence, with Billy Jones moving to left-back.
Sam Allardyce replaced the benched Pablo Armero with Guy Demel at right-back in the Hammers’ starting XI.
The first threat on goal came in the sixth minute when Carroll nodded Mark Noble’s corner down to Kevin Nolan and he returned the ball for the targetman to unleash a low drive that Foster blocked at his near post.
Two minutes later, Jones made a vital interception inside the six-yard box to prevent Stewart Downing getting on the end of Matt Jarvis’ centre – and Jonas Olsson cleared the danger.
But it was the Baggies who took the lead on 11 as the recalled Berahino converted Morgan Amalfitano’s cross-cum-shot from close range, under pressure from Guy Demel. The goal resulted from combative play by Youssouf Mulumbu in the middle of the park as he robbed Carroll before setting Stephane Sessegnon off on a powerful run.
Foster came to the rescue for the hosts in the 19th minute as Carroll headed Mohamed Diame’s back-post cross goalwards and the England goalkeeper did well to fling himself to his right and claw it out with one hand.
Sessegnon was threatening again on 24 as he drove towards the penalty box before seeing his goalbound shot blocked by Winston Reid.
Moments later, Chris Brunt’s whipped-in ball flew across the face of goal and was retrieved by Amalfitano in the right-hand corner. The France international delivered a delightful cross that Jones flung himself at – but could not direct on target from seven yards.
On the half-hour mark, Demel swivelled in the box and Foster was again needed to stand firm to beat out his shot at the near post.
Albion were looking dangerous on the counter-attack and the game instantly moved to the other end as Sessegnon picked out Graham Dorrans’ run.
The Scot controlled well to make space as he came up against James Tomkins but dragged his 18-yard left-foot shot just wide of the right-hand post.
Allardyce was forced into a change on 33 as the injured Tomkins made way for James Collins.
And Collins needed to be alert on 36 as he blocked Sessegnon’s attempted shot after good work by Berahino and Amalfitano.
Jarvis was causing problems for the Baggies down the left and, five minutes before the break, he sent in a cross that Nolan volleyed well over from 15 yards.
Mel was forced into a change at the end of the first half as Reid limped out of the action. It prompted a reshuffle in the Albion line-up as James Morrison came on in central midfield, Dorrans moved to the left wing, Brunt dropped to left-back and Jones switched to right-back.
Dorrans slid Berahino into a dangerous position in the fifth minute of the second half – and the England Under-21 international was unfortunate to see his shot cannon off Collins and out for a corner.
Moments later, another Baggies break resulted in Sessegnon firing into the side-netting from 12 yards.
Jones, now in his more familiar right-back role, dropped the shoulder on George McCartney in the 55th minute and let fly with a low left-foot shot that Adrian just managed to turn around his left-hand post.
Albion were presented with three great opportunities to score a second in the 62nd minute. Berahino first stumbled on the ball from Sessegnon’s pass, with the goal at his mercy. Sessegnon retrieved the ball and again found Berahino, who this time saw his first-time shot from eight yards saved by Adrian, before Dorrans nodded the rebound for Sessegnon to volley over from 12 yards.
Allardyce made his second change on 67 with Joe Cole coming on for Downing.
The hosts breathed a huge sigh of relief four minutes later as Carroll lost his man in the box and thundered Jarvis’ left-wing corner off the crossbar and out for a goal-kick.
At the opposite end, Olsson’s header found the feet of Sessegnon and his 18-yard strike was just saved by Adrian as he swooped low to his right.
The visitors sent on Carlton Cole for Jarvis in the 79th minute in their quest for an equaliser.
That was quickly followed by Mel replacing Sessegnon with Victor Anichebe.
And the former Everton man was just what the doctor ordered as he saw the Baggies over the line by retaining the ball for long spells in the corners.
ALBION (4-4-1-1): Foster; S Reid (Morrison 45), Dawson, Olsson, Jones; Amalfitano, Mulumbu, Dorrans, Brunt; Sessegnon (Anichebe 81); Berahino (Yacob 90). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Thievy, Vydra, Lugano.
WEST HAM (4-4-1-1): Adrian; Demel, Tomkins (Collins 33), W Reid, McCartney; Downing (J Cole 67), Noble, Diame, Jarvis (C Cole 79); Nolan; Carroll. Subs not used: Jaaskelainen (gk), Armero, Vaz Te, Nocerino.
GOALS: ALBION – Berahino (11).
BOOKINGS: WEST HAM - Collins (foul 90+2).
REFEREE: M Dean (Wirral).
ALBION STARMAN: Stephane Sessegnon.