Commons strikes twice to put paid to Albion's hopes of title

Stoke City 4 West Bromwich Albion 1
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The Independent Football

Kris Commons scored twice after the break as Premiership-bound West Bromwich Albion were thrashed 4-1 at Stoke. Albion were utterly outclassed and consequently will finish as runners-up to Norwich.

Kris Commons scored twice after the break as Premiership-bound West Bromwich Albion were thrashed 4-1 at Stoke. Albion were utterly outclassed and consequently will finish as runners-up to Norwich.

The West Brom manager, Gary Megson, admitted he was at a loss to explain his team's toothless performance: "We've not thrown the championship away on purpose," he said.

"We said before kick-off we didn't want to come off having lost to Stoke only to find out Norwich had lost at Sunderland, but that's exactly what's happened. We've taken our foot off the gas since winning promotion, both during training and during matches."

Megson's counterpart at Stoke, Tony Pulis, said: "We had a lot of injury problems going into the game which meant we had to play a few youngsters but no one let us down."

It had been the visitors who made the early running with the Stoke goalkeeper Neil Cutler saving untidily at the far post after Darren Moore had risen highest to meet a Jason Koumas corner. Stoke attacked for the first time just short of the half-hour but John Halls was hopelessly wide with an ambitious set-piece effort from more than 30 yards out.

It was indecisive defending from West Brom in their own penalty area which led to Stoke's first. Darel Russell shot went through a thicket of defenders legs, left Russell Hoult wrong-footed on his line and crept home.

Albion produced more fluency after the break and they were back on terms through Scott Dobie's glancing header from another Koumas corner. But Albion found themselves behind once more when Commons struck a 63rd-minute free-kick low through the wall. Hoult appeared to have had the shot covered but as he stooped to collect, the ball squirmed out of his grasp and trickled over the line.

Stoke's third came when Russell passed to Halls on the right wing and he sent in a perfect centre which Commons side-footed home with aplomb.

Albion's humiliation was completed as Commons crossed for Gifton Noel-Williams to score at the back post with an easy header. The visitors misery was completed in the 87th minute when referee Keith Hill sent off Koumas following a clash with Russell.

Stoke City: Cutler; Wilkinson, Owen, Hill (Williams, 61), Halls, Russell, Henry, Svard (Neal, 57), Clarke, Commons, Noel-Williams. Substitutes not used: Palmer, Gunnarsson, Denny.

West Bromwich Albion: Hoult; Haas, Moore, Gaardsoe, Gregan, Robinson, Kinsella (Clement, 14), Koumas, Dyer, Dobie, Hughes (Sakiri, 72). Substitutes not used: Murphy, Chambers, OConnor.

Referee: K Hill (Hertfordshire).

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