Robert Koren, who will captain Slovenia against England in South Africa, delighted an English crowd in the less exotic setting of The Hawthorns last night. Just when it seemed West Bromwich Albion would be frustrated, Koren broke Sheffield Wednesday's resistance with a stunning late strike.
The 29-year-old Koren, on as a substitute, supplied the coup de grâce after a move that began deep in Albion's half, cutting in from the right flank before burying a left-footed angled drive beyond Lee Grant from 25 yards. His fourth goal in six games lifted Albion above Nottingham Forest and into second place, while leaving Wednesday in the relegation zone.
The Albion manager Roberto Di Matteo said: "We made a change at half-time and it worked. It was a great goal and we probably needed one like that to win this game."
Alan Irvine, who ended up at Hillsborough after reputedly spurning Albion to stay at Preston last summer, said his side were undone "by a moment of brilliance from a top-quality player in this division". Wednesday's manager added: "We're bitterly disappointed, but if we go about our jobs like that between now and the end of the season, we'll be fine."
Wednesday had the best first-half opportunity but, in the second half, the previously underworked Grant made fine saves to keep out headers by Jonas Olsson and James Morrison, but he was powerless to deny Koren.
West Bromwich Albion (4-1-4-1): Carson; Reid, Tamas, Olsson, Cech; Mulumbu; Brunt, Morrison (Barnes, 83), Dorrans, Thomas (Koren, h-t); Moore (I Miller, 58). Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Meite, Watson, Cox.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Grant; Nolan, Purse, Beevers, Spurr; T Miller, Potter. O'Connor (Jeffers, 84), Johnson (Soares, 73); Clarke, Varney. Substitutes not used: O'Donnell (gk), Hinds, McAllister, Simek, Gray.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).