Controversial penalty swings game Tigers' way
A CONTROVERSIAL first-half penalty proved critical in ensuring this KC Stadium encounter swung Hull’s way.
An evenly-fought contest exploded into life on the half-hour mark when Shane Long went down under Craig Dawson’s challenge and referee Chris Foy awarded a spot-kick.
TV replays showed there was little contact as the former Baggies striker went to ground - but Liam Rosenior headed home the rebound after Ben Foster had saved Nikica Jelavic’s penalty.
Clearly rattled by events, the visitors found themselves 2-0 down at the break following Long’s 38th-minute goal.
Although Albion dominated possession in the second half, they could not find a way past Tigers stopper Allan McGregor and his backline.
Both bosses made one change to their teams as Pepe Mel brought in Thievy for the suspended Jonas Olsson and switched from a 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-2-1 line-up.
Steve Bruce replaced the benched Maynor Figueroa with Sone Aluko in his starting XI.
The Baggies started brightly, in particular Stephane Sessegnon, who was playing in the hole behind front duo Victor Anichebe and Thievy.
The first shot of the game came from the Benin international in the third minute as he drove towards the edge of the box before firing a foot over the bar.
At the other end, Albion struggled to clear Ahmed Elmohamady’s right-wing corner in the 16th minute and the ball fell kindly for Curtis Davies. The former Baggies centre-half thought he had opened the scoring – but Youssouf Mulumbu was alert to the danger and cleared inside the six-yard box.
Two minutes later, good work by Thievy on the left-hand side of the penalty area saw him find Graham Dorrans inside. The Scotland international wasted little time in unleashing a volley that international team-mate Allan McGregor had to dive to his left to beat out.
Moments later, Anichebe chased onto Thievy’s pass in the box but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Davies slid in to block the ball.
The Tigers should have taken the lead on 27 as James Chester stole in at the back from Tom Huddlestone’s left-wing corner but somehow headed inches wide of the right-hand post when it seemed easier to score.
Then came the big talking point. On the half-hour mark, Long chased down the ball on the right-hand side of the box and as Dawson challenged him, the Ireland international appeared to go to ground easily.
Referee Foy looked to have let play go on, only to belatedly point for a penalty.
To compound Albion’s misfortune, Foster swooped to his right to palm out Jelavic’s spot-kick but the rebound looped straight to Rosenior who headed past his despairing dive.
Six minutes later, Albion were further behind. Jake Livermore hooked a half-cleared corner back into the Baggies box and Chester rose highest to nudge the ball in the direction of Long eight yards out. The Hull No.21 swivelled sharply and saw his first-time volley find the far bottom corner of the net.
Hull almost added to their lead seven minutes into the second half as Aluko broke down the right and cut the ball back for Jelavic, whose first-time volley flew just wide of the near post.
Anichebe came close to pulling one back for the visitors a minute later but saw McGregor just manage to keep out his back-post header from Dorrans’ left-wing corner.
Mel and Brunce both made changes on 61 as Matej Vydra replaced Thievy for Albion and former Baggie Robert Koren came on for Aluko for Hull.
Albion were the side doing the pressing in the second half but a Tigers counter-attack saw Long fire in a curling 20-yard effort that beat Foster and rattled the frame of the goal.
The action switched quickly to the other end where Reid’s goalbound header from Dorrans’ cross was easily dealt with by McGregor.
Albion's penalty agony was compounded on 71. Reid drilled the ball into the box and Morrison was tripped by Livermore, but Foy waved away the Baggies' spot-kick appeals.
Mel made another change five minutes later as Saido Berahino came on for Anichebe.
With 12 minutes to go, Long departed the action and was replaced by Stephen Quinn.
Moments later, skipper Gareth McAuley hobbled off and was replaced by Scott Sinclair. Reid took the captain’s armband and the Baggies switched to three at the back.
But there were to be no heroics from Mel's side in the closing stages.
HULL (4-3-1-2): McGregor; Elmohamady, Chester, Davies, Rosenior; Meyler, Huddlestone, Livermore; Aluko (Koren 61); Jelavic (Sagbo 84), Long (Quinn 78). Subs not used: Harper (gk), Figueroa, Bruce, Fryatt.
ALBION (4-3-1-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley (Sinclair 79), Dawson, Ridgewell; Morrison, Mulumbu, Dorrans; Sessegnon; Anichebe (Berahino 76), Thievy (Vydra 61). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), D Daniels, O’Neil, Gera.
GOALS: HULL – Rosenior (32), Long (38).
BOOKINGS: HULL – Aluko (foul 58), Meyler (foul 72).
REFEREE: C Foy (Merseyside).
ALBION STARMAN: Graham Dorrans.