Rondon gets first run-out for Albion
AN opening point for the campaign and a first glimpse of record signing Salomon Rondon were the main features of a hard fought goalless draw at Watford.
And both will be welcome.
The Baggies are up and running for the season after executing a game-plan designed to get their Barclays Premier League campaign off the ground following the chastening Hawthorns opener against Manchester.
Rondon, meanwhile, showed enough presence and power for the Baggies faithful – 2,100 made their way to Vicarage Road – to believe that there is much more to come from the Venezuelan international.
Head Coach Tony Pulis responded to Monday’s defeat by City by making three changes as Jonas Olsson, Gareth McCauley and Claudio Yacob all started with Joleon Lescott, James Chester and James McClean reverting to the bench.
And there was a boost for Albion with the red tape holding up Rondon’s clearance finally disentangling for the Venezuelan to take a place among the substitutes. Albion’s other most recent newcomer, Serge Gnabry, is still a week or two away from full fitness and was not considered for selection.
Albion were quite happy to reach the interval having focused their first half plans on quietening a noisy and excited home crowd naturally celebrating the return of Premier League football to Vicarage Road.
Watford poured forward at every opportunity but Boaz Myhill’s most challenging effort came from the home side’s gamble of leaving three players on the half-way line when Albion won a corner.
When they sprang out from the second, Allan Nyom ran 60yds against a retreating Albion defence before powering in a shot Myhill was happy to beat away.
Otherwise, Albion’s defence did its job and from their other corner there might well have been an opening goal for the club for Ricky Lambert. He met Craig Gardner’s service ahead of his marker but mis-directed a downwards header wide of the target.
With Olsson and McAuley back in a familiar return at the centre and Chris Brunt outstanding at left back, the Baggies were content to draw the Hornets’ sting before Rondon’s appearance on the hour added something a little extra to their front-liner.
He almost enjoyed a sensational start. From his very first touch, collecting a Craig Dawson service and running at Watford’s stretched back-line, he worked space and a chance on to his left foot but struck his effort over the top.
But Albion finished stronger and might have snatched a victory with a snap header from Saido Berahino which he steered wide after McAuley had met a cross from Brunt.
A point, however, was a fair reward for both teams and gives the Baggies a platform from which to build.
Watford: Gomes; Nyom, Cathcart, Prödl, Anya; Behrami, Capoue; Ighalo, Jurado (Berguis 83)), Layun (Abdi 55); Deeney. Subs: Gilmartin (GK), Angella, Holebas, Watson, Berghuis, Abdi, Vydra.
Booking: Nyom (foul 90)
Albion: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt, Gardner (Rondon 60), Fletcher (c), Yacob, Morrison, Berahino (McManaman 90), Lambert (McClean 68). Subs: Rose, Chester, Lescott, McManaman, Anichebe.
Bookings: Olsson (foul 33); Lambert (65 foul);
Referee: Paul Tierney
Albion Man of the Match: Chris Brunt