Berahino double earns Baggies a deserved point
SAIDO Berahino picked up from where he left off last season with a deadly double to earn Albion a draw on the opening day of the Barclays Premier League campaign.
The England Under-21 international – who finished as last term’s nine-goal top scorer for the club – showed nerves of steel to cancel out Lee Cattermole’s fifth-minute rocket from the penalty spot.
Berahino thought he had secured the first victory of Alan Irvine’s Hawthorns reign when he volleyed home on 74.
But Sebastian Larsson had other ideas as he snatched a point for the Black Cats with a leveller five minutes from time.
Irvine handed debuts to three of his summer signings. Andre Wisdom and Sebastien Pocognoli were both named in defence, while fellow new recruit Craig Gardner started against the club he left in the summer.
The Baggies started brightly and, following good work by Graham Dorrans in the third minute, Berahino was only denied a sight of goal in the box after a last-ditch challenge by Cattermole.
But the hosts found themselves behind just two minutes later.
Larsson delivered a long diagonal free-kick from the right to the back post where Wes Brown’s header across goal was cleared by Jonas Olsson. The ball dropped to Cattermole, who controlled first time before unleashing a 25-yard bullet into the right top corner of the net despite Ben Foster’s despairing touch.
Pocognoli surprised everyone in the 23rd minute with an audacious 35-yard effort that flew just wide of Vito Mannone’s goal.
Two minutes later, Gardner found Victor Anichebe in the box and he found Berahino in a promising position on the right-hand side of the penalty area. The Academy graduate struck a fierce 15-yard effort – but could only find the side-netting.
Just past the half-hour mark, Valentin Roberge was allowed to steal in on Larsson’s free-kick at the back post and came within inches of doubling the visitors’ lead.
Chris Brunt then came within a whisker of equalising with a sensational 30-yard strike on 36 after being fed by Dorrans.
Gardner made space for himself in the 40th minute and unleashed a dipping 20-yard shot that Mannone did well to tip over.
The former Black Cat was in the thick of the action again two minutes later as he stormed forward and fed Anichebe in the box.
The big Nigerian spun but was prevented from getting a shot away as he was tugged back by Roberge. Referee Neil Swarbrick pointed to the spot and Berahino stepped up to despatch the penalty to level the scores.
A minute before the break, Anichebe held the ball up well on the edge of the area and teed up Berahino, whose left-foot strike was held comfortably by Mannone.
Three minutes into the second half, Albion were applying the pressure again.
Mannone could only punch Dorrans’ left-wing cross into the air and Craig Dawson’s header was cleared from under the bar by John O’Shea, as Lancashire official Swarbrick blew his whistle for what looked a harsh foul. The Goal Decision System showed the ball had crossed the line.
The Mackems remained a threat from set-pieces and on 52 Connor Wickham out-muscled Wisdom at the back post to volley Larsson’s left-wing corner a fraction wide.
Anichebe was giving Roberge a torrid time and three minutes later he spun the Sunderland centre-half again from Dorrans' pass and dragged his shot wide.
Wisdom did well to block Wickham’s goalbound volley in the box on 58 and when Steven Fletcher had the ball in the net seconds later, but it was correctly chalked off for off-side.
Gus Poyet made a change nine minutes later as Jack Rodwell made way for fellow summer signing Jordi Gomez.
And he followed that with a second change on 73 with new recruit Will Buckley coming on for Adam Johnson.
Despite the Black Cats’ changes, it was Albion still pressing and on 74 Mannone could only parry Dorrans’ well-struck 25-yard drive. Gardner was quick to the rebound and calmly crossed to the back post where Berahino caught Patrick van Aanholt napping to volley home his second of the game and snatch the lead.
Irvine made his first switch on 76 by bringing on Chris Baird for his competitive debut in place of skipper Brunt.
Irvine made a double change on 84 as Stephane Sessegnon and Claudio Yacob came on for Dorrans and Gardner respectively.
But the visitors found a way through a minute later as van Aanholt pulled the ball back from the left for Larsson to slot home.
The Baggies peppered the Sunderland box at the death – but could not find the winner they deserved.
ALBION: Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Olsson, Pocognoli, Mulumbu, Gardner (Yacob 84), Dorrans (Sessegnon 84), Berahino, Brunt (c) (Baird 76), Anichebe. Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Ideye, Davidson, O’Neil.
SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Roberge, van Aanholt, Brown (Altidore 81), O'Shea (c), Cattermole, Larsson, Rodwell (Gomez 67), Johnson (Buckley 73), Wickham, Fletcher. Subs not used: Pantilimon (gk), Bridcutt, Mavrias, Graham.
GOALS: ALBION – Berahino (42 pen, 74); SUNDERLAND – Cattermole (5), Larsson (85).
BOOKINGS: ALBION – Dawson (foul 10), Dorrans (foul 30), Olsson (time wasting 32); SUNDERLAND – Roberge (foul 42).
REFEREE: N Swarbrick (Lancashire).
ALBION STARMAN: Craig Gardner.