Albion rack up 11th league clean sheet
SAIDO Berahino’s 17th goal of the season secured an impressive 1-0 victory for Albion against Barclays Premier League high-fliers Southampton at The Hawthorns.
The England striker bagged the only goal of the game in just the second minute, lashing home a superb half-volley into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Berahino’s goal sealed the points but Albion will rightly take just as many plaudits for their united defensive strength, which saw them keep yet another clean sheet – their fourth in a row in all competitions.
It proved to be their 11th league shut out of the season – bettered only by Saints and leaders Chelsea – and seventh in ten games under Tony Pulis, who has still tasted just one defeat since taking charge.
Victory takes Albion on to 30 points and extends their unbeaten run to five matches heading into next week’s crunch double-header at Aston Villa.
Yet there will be some concern for Pulis heading into the two local derbies, with strikers Berahino and Brown Ideye both hobbling off due to injury in the second half.
Albion named an unchanged matchday 18 for the encounter, Pulis sticking with the same starting XI who battled to a 0-0 draw at Sunderland last weekend.
Yet there was to be no repeat of the stalemate as Berahino handed the hosts a dream start after just two minutes.
Chris Brunt’s long cross-field free-kick was met in the air by Craig Dawson and Saints left-back Maya Yoshida, who appeared to get the final touch, and the ball fell invitingly for Berahino to slam into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Ideye and Craig Gardner got in each other’s way at the end of a flowing attacking move amid a blistering opening 20 minutes from the Baggies.
Dawson’s header brought a routine save from Fraser Forster before the visitors made an early substitution and switched systems in a bid to try and get a foothold on the game.
Sadio Mane blazed over when well placed before Gardner, under pressure from Jose Fonte, came close to a second for the Baggies.
Saints, utilising their new shape, gained a grip on the game over the second quarter but it was the home side who retained their lead at the interval.
Referee Phil Dowd was replaced at half-time due to a knee injury, Graham Scott stepping into the middle.
Goalscorer Berahino was next to be forced off due to injury in the 56th minute, Youssouf Mulumbu stepping into the fray.
Saints passed up a golden opportunity to equalise in the 68th minute when Graziano Pelle, with an open goal, failed to connect with Ryan Bertrand’s cross from three yards and the ball deflected off Brunt and fell narrowly the right side of the far post.
Darren Fletcher drilled over in the 80th minute after the ball had broken invitingly for him.
Pelle wasted another decent chance at the other end as the clock ticked down, and it was Ben Foster who was left celebrating his 11th clean sheet of the campaign to date at the final whistle.
Albion: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Lescott, Brunt, Morrison (Sessegnon 72’), Yacob, Fletcher, Gardner, Ideye (Baird 87’), Berahino (Mulumbu 56’).
Subs: Myhill, Wisdom, Olsson, McManaman.
GOAL: Berahino 2’
BOOKED: Foster (time wasting 62’), Sessegnon (simulation 82’)
Saints: Forster, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Gardos (Elia 24’), Bertrand, Wanyama (S Davis 45’), Schneiderlin, Tadić (Long 74’), Mané, Pellè.
Subs: K Davis, Djuričić, Ward-Prowse, Targett.
BOOKED: Wanyama (foul 29’)
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire) (Graham Scott 45’)
Albion star man: Craig Dawson