Deflected Diouf double downs Baggies
MAME Diouf’s brace consigned Albion to a cruel 2-0 defeat at Stoke in the Barclays Premier League this afternoon.
The Baggies enjoyed the better of the first half at the Britannia Stadium, going close on numerous occasions.
But they were punished six minutes after the break as Diouf converted from the centre of the penalty area via a slight deflection off Joleon Lescott.
Gareth McAuley soon struck the base of a post from close range before Albion were dealt a killer blow in the most unfortunate of circumstances just minutes later.
Diouf inadvertently got in the way of Marko Arnautovic’s hopeful long-range shot and sent a huge deflection past a helpless Ben Foster, leaving the Baggies to contemplate a third successive defeat.
History was not on Albion’s side going into the encounter having beaten the Potters just once in their last 15 meetings.
Captain Chris Brunt returned to the starting XI as one of four changes from Boxing Day, Graham Dorrans, Chris Baird and Brown Ideye also coming in.
And the latter, who broke his league duck against Manchester City, enjoyed a golden opportunity to test Asmir Begovic inside the opening minute but could only blast off target.
Referee Roger East waved away early penalty appeals following Craig Gardner’s challenge on Glenn Whelan.
Bojan whistled an effort narrowly wide of a post before Ideye was denied by Begovic at the end of a well-worked Baggies move amid an evenly-balanced opening quarter.
James Morrison was next to test Begovic from distance, while Brunt slammed a thunderbolt inches wide of the Stoke goalkeeper’s right-hand post as the visitors turned the screw.
Craig Gardner was then just as close from a similar distance in what was the last meaningful moment of a first half which would have pleased Albion more.
But the joy was short lived as Diouf put the hosts ahead just six minutes into the second half, receiving Erik Pieters’ left-wing cross, shifting his bodyweight and firing home via a deflection off Lescott.
Arnautovic headed wide under pressure from Chris Baird when well placed.
Alan Irvine brought Saido Berahino and Silvestre Varela off the bench and almost immediately drew level, McAuley hitting a post from close range after Begovic had parried Gardner’s effort.
And, with the margins so fine, Albion soon found themselves two-nil down in cruel fashion just minutes later.
Arnautovic tried his luck from distance and his effort deflected off Diouf and past a helpless Foster into the net.
Albion searched for a route back into the encounter but it was to no avail as Stoke ran out victors.
Albion: Foster, Wisdom, Lescott, McAuley, Baird, Gardner, Morrison (Berahino 63’), Brunt, Dorrans (Mulumbu 79’), Sessegnon (Varela 63’), Ideye.
Subs: Myhill, Gamboa, Dawson, Yacob.
BOOKED: Brunt (foul 67’), Baird (foul 76’)
Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Shawcross, Muniesa, Pieters; Nzonzi, Whelan (Wilson 85’); Diouf, Bojan (Adam 78’), Arnautovic; Crouch (Walters 63’).
Subs: Butland; Huth, Assaidi, Shenton.
GOALS: Diouf (61’, 66’)
Referee: Roger East (Wiltshire)
Attendance: 27,070 (2,467 away fans)
Albion star man: Chris Brunt