Berahino strike secures derby spoils
SAIDO Berahino struck a 39th-minute matchwinner to give Albion a fully-deserved derby victory at Villa Park.
The Baggies delivered their performance of the season to date to avenge that double-defeat nightmare against Aston Villa in March.
And for Berahino it was a particularly sweet moment as he ended any doubts about his rehabilitation, leaving the pitch with a beaming smile, captain Darren Fletcher on his back and having thrown his match shirt to delighted Baggies fans.
Fletcher was our official man of the match but the 2,870 Baggies faithful who watched this superbly-executed victory will spend the weekend enjoying that particular debate because of there was no shortage of contenders.
Jonny Evans was again magnificent in defence, Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley not far behind while the unheralded James McClean produced a hugely effective performance too. But there was not a weak link in the chain as Head Coach Tony Pulis watched his team fulfil his pre-match promise that they were now coming to the boil.
All that was missing was more goals which Albion certainly deserved. They bossed the opening half with real authority and but for two top-notch saves from Brad Guzan would have enjoyed a bigger interval lead.
His first came after just 75 seconds when a wonderful Brunt cross was met by a Salomon Rondon header from point-blank range which Guzan palmed over.
The Villa keeper also excelled diving to keep out a 30th-minute drive from Fletcher while Berahino might have opened his account earlier but failed to get enough on a sidestep volley from Craig Dawson’s cross.
A 26th-minute block by Claudio Yacob was painful for the Argentinian but vital for the team in shutting out Villa’s only real effort of the half, from Carlos Gil, but there was no denying the merit of Albion’s lead when it came.
Dawson won a terrific challenge on the edge of Villa’s area, McClean’s cross was teed up by Rondon for Morrison on the edge of the area and Berahino applied an instinctive deflection to his shot leave Guzan wrong-footed.
Villa threw on Rudy Gestede for the second half but Albion’s fourth clean sheet of the season was rarely in doubt. Not until the 90th minute did they concede any kind of a chance to Villa with Gestede heading over Leandro Bacuna cross.
The Baggies always carried a threat with Rondon twice testing Guzan again, the first from a wonderful turn and shot which left his old team-mate Joleon Lescott trailing.
Albion saw out the game comfortably enough much to the delight of their fans and, having produced some stylish football to match the defensive solidity, will head for their autumn programme in great spirits.
Villa: Guzan; Hutton, Richards, Lescott, Amavi; Sanchez (Veretout,81), Gil (Bacuna 76), Westwood, Grealish, Agbonlahor, Sinclair (Gestede 46).
Subs: Bunn, Clark,Cole, Ayew.
Bookings: Gil (foul, 62); Amavi (foul 82);
Albion: Myhill, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Brunt, Morrison, Fletcher (c), Yacob, McClean (Olsson 90 +3) Berahino (Gardner 67), Rondon (Lambert 90) Subs: Lindegaard, Chester, Gardner, McManaman, Gnabry.
Goal: Berahino 39
Bookings: Brunt (foul, 21); Morrison (foul 34); Yacob (foul 76)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Riding).
Albion Man of the Match: Darren Fletcher.