Saints travelled to the Black Country with a dire opening day Premier League record. Only one victory in 14 years left us wondering how we would fare but a last minute penalty from Rickie Lambert helped secure a vital three points for Saints.
The team selected for Saints showed many more changes than we might have expected after the Real Sociedad match. Calum Chambers came in for his first Premier League start. Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren did as well but their inclusion was expected.
Rickie Lambert capped a fine week with the deciding goal right at the death. A typical coolly taken penalty on 90 minutes to go with his sublime header for England on Wednesday evening.
The game began with Saints high pressing game throwing a spanner in the works as far as West Brom were concerned. They were being pushed back and were given no time to settle from the start.
With Saints dominating the proceedings from the off they quickly won two corners. It quickly became obvious that James Ward-Prowse was on set piece duty as he began sending corners and free kicks into the Baggies penalty area.
Saints continued to dictate play with Wanyama catching the eye in midfield as part of an extremely powerful and energetic performance. The speedy breaks forward were typified in the eighth minute by Luke Shaw`s powerful run which took him down the left and into the area, where his cross was almost diverted past Ben Foster by defender Gareth McAuley.
West Brom finally made an attempt on Saints goal when when a corner was cleared as far as midfielder James Morrison. He tried an ambitious volley which seemed to catch Artur Boruc by off guard as e fumbled and it ended up going out for a corner.
JWP then took aim from distance and he saw Foster have to make a worthwhile save from his dipping shot. Then from another JWP set piece both Lambert and Lallana saw shots blocked before the ball was scrambled clear.
As the half wore on West Brom slowly gained a foothold in play. Saints though had what looked a good goal disallowed in the 33rd minute after a great cross from Chambers was headed down for Lallana to tap home. The effort was disallowed for offside though who it was that was offside is debatable.
Graham Dorrans took a free kick from 25 yards out and his shot landed on the roof of Saints’ goal. Rodriguez nearly got onto the end of a through ball and then Lallana found Shaw who let fly with Foster doing well to turn the shot round for a corner.
The second half began in much the same fashion as the first with Saints holding the upper hand. Rodriguez won a corner after another of his bursts and Lambert saw his header smothered by the keeper from the corner. Rodriguez then received the ball from Lallana in the 52nd minute before striking a glorious shot which unluckily clipped the bar and then went out to safety.
West Brom began to come more into the game as they began pushing further up the pitch to try to combat Saints style. Some of the power transfer though may simply have been due to Saints beginning to feel the strain from their own exertions from the pressure game.
A Liam Ridgewell cross was nearly back heeled cheekily into the net by Shane Long but the ball slid narrowly wide of the post. Lambert then so nearly fed Rodriguez a great chance but Foster was alert and thwarted the pair.
Dejan Lovren then made perhaps the tackle of the game though their were a few more to be made as the game drew ever closer to the end. Nicolas Anelka must have thought he was about to score as he cocked his leg ready to blast the ball goal-wards. Lovren though slid in perfectly to make a great sliding tackle to deny him the opportunity.
Saints were coming under more and more pressure but it was the Baggies players that was catching the unwanted attention of the referee. A total of four cards were issued and all four yellows went to West Brom players. The unluckiest was perhaps Mulumbu but he was mightily relieved when he brought Luke Shaw down in the penalty area not to get a second.
Needless to say Rickie Lambert took the penalty and needless to say he smashed the ball into the net. The goal was on the stroke of full time and extra time was very eventful. Before the penalty the game had become more end to end which was good for the watching fans.
West Brom restarted with four minutes remaining and this led to non stop desperate Baggies pressure and they came so very close to scoring. Only a world class save by Artur Boruc from Billy Jones keeping our clean sheet safe and sound.
Overall I think Saints deserved the win so I doubt Baggies fans have any real complaints about the score.
Mauricio Pochettino – sprang some surprises today but every one of his players fought for him and he gets an 8.
Steve Clarke was out manoeuvred and came a clear second in this contest. 6
Only the second time in 14 years that Saints have managed an open day Premier League success. Saints fans will be rejoicing.