West Brom moved into third place in the Barclays Premier League with a resounding 4-2 win at Sunderland as their fine start to the season continues.
Following Albion’s victory over European champions Chelsea, Steve Clarke this week quietly played down talk of his side qualifying for Europe.
These are exciting times for Albion fans – not since 1953/1954 have they started a season so well.
The Baggies were gunning for a fourth straight win in the league having recently secured victories over Chelsea, Wigan and Southampton. Their opponents Sunderland were boosted by their win at Fulham last weekend, which eased the pressure on Martin O’Neill.
Once again Steve Clarke showed he isn’t afraid to make changes to his side with fit again Gareth McAuley replacing the unfortunate Gabriel Tamas and club captain Chris Brunt replacing the injured Youssouf Mulumbu.
Albion dominated possession in the early stages and Claudio Yacob missed a glorious chance to give his side the lead when he headed over from a Chris Brunt corner.
Sunderland responded with Stephane Sessegnon firing a volley goalwards which Boaz Myhill spilled and luckily turned behind for a corner.
On the half hour mark the Baggies deservedly took the lead with Zoltan Gera’s third goal of the season. The Hungarian found space just outside the area and fired a stunning effort into the top corner after good work by Peter Odemwingie.
Sunderland were always in the game and Martin O’Neill’s men came closer to an equaliser when John O’Shea fired inches wide after a poor clearance by Jonas Olsson.
A minute before the break it was 0-2 after Belgian international Simon Mignolet inexplicably fumbled a Chris Brunt through ball giving Shane Long a chance he could barley miss.
After the break
Steve Clarke’s side were fastest out of the blocks in the second half and it could have been 3-0 as Shane Long was slipped in by James Morrison, but this time Mignolet thwarted the Irishman with a fine block.
Albion sensed blood and Odemwingie was inches away from adding a third when he fired a 20 yard bullet just wide after evading two challenges.
However, Sunderland halved the deficit with sixteen minutes to go when Craig Gardner’s free-kick deflected off Marc-Antoine Fortune’s head in the Albion wall giving Myhill no chance as the ball looped into the top corner.
Eight minutes later Albion were given a great chance to seal the points when referee Mike Dean awarded them a penalty after defender Liam Ridgewell was upended by Adam Johnson. Romelu Lukaku, on-loan from Chelsea, was cool as a cucumber as he sent Mignolet the wrong way to make it 3-1.
Incredibly the game wasn’t finished there as Sessegnon fired home from close range after Albion failed to clear the danger from a corner.
Sunderland were now throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at Albion and Claudio Yacob did brilliantly to rob James Mclean of possession to set up a counter attack. The Argentine fed Lukaku who raced down the wing before unselfishly squaring for Fortune who finished with aplomb.
Steve Clarke quite rightly will keep his players grounded but if West Brom can stay clear of injuries there is every possibility the Baggies will be competing for a place in Europe come the end of the season.
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