Match Report: West Brom march on to new heights as Martin O’Neill fails again

Sunderland 2 West Bromwich Albion 4: Steve Clarke's side prove far too powerful for Sunderland and seal a fourth win in succession

"And Fortuné has cut back and he's scored!" roared the radio reporter from the Midlands. "It's 4-2! West Bromwich Albion are third in the Premier League!"

He was not the only member of the travelling media at the Stadium of Light to get a bit excited. It felt thoroughly justified. West Brom have not started a season in the top division like this for 59 years. They have not won four top-flight games on the trot since 1980.

When Marc-Antoine Fortuné cut back, in the fifth minute of injury time, and produced the kind of finish that puts teams into the sort of esteemed company which inhabits the head of a division, the besuited Steve Clarke stood in his technical area, turned calmly to his bench and raised his fist. It was as animated as he got all afternoon.

He is keeping his head while others, understandably, are trying not to lose theirs. Such unexpected success can do that to people.

Clarke's manner certainly contrasted to the livewire, track-suited, jack-in-the-box figure five yards to his left. Martin O'Neill kicked every ball exactly where he wanted it to go. Unfortunately his team did not.

If there was a moment when the difference between a team with aspirations and a team fulfilling them was highlighted, it came in the 70th minute. Peter Odemwingie had, moments earlier, darted inside two Sunderland defenders and flashed a shot narrowly wide of Simon Mignolet's post. Shane Long had already scored a goal. But both players were removed from the game, replaced by Fortuné and the Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea. It was quality replacing quality. It is why West Bromwich Albion woke up this morning third in the Premier League table. Good activity in the transfer market gives such power to a manager's hand. Clarke admitted as much afterwards. He was asked if the start was beyond his wildest dreams.

"I don't dream too much," he said. "I'm a realist. I knew the squad of players I was taking over was a good squad. They had finished mid-table, mid-table, both seasons. We knew we'd added good players to the squad. We were hopeful we could have a good season.

"How do we keep it going? We stay grounded. We stay focused. We use the players wisely. We rotate the squad. We keep the players fresh.

"The players deserve every credit for what they get. In this league it is a big challenge to win four on the trot, even for the big teams. We have managed to do that and it tells everyone how good we are as a team. It would have been a travesty if we had not won it."

His team were ahead by the time he made the double substitution. Zoltan Gera scored a fine first after 30 minutes, bending a left-footed shot beyond Mignolet's outstretched arm after a mistake by Adam Johnson. The error was the goalkeeper's in the 44th minute, badly fumbling a Chris Brunt through-ball, allowing Long to tap into an empty net. Sunderland's first lifeline did not come until the 73rd minute, when Craig Gardner's 25-yard free-kick deflected off Fortuné, standing in the wall, to fly into the West Brom goal.

By then Lee Cattermole (knee) and John O'Shea (calf) had gone off. O'Shea will be out for at least a fortnight. With nine minutes remaining, Liam Ridgewell went down easily in the Sunderland penalty area under a needless challenge from Johnson. Mike Dean, unsighted, gave a penalty. O'Neill called it a non-penalty. Lukaku scored the non-penalty. At 3-1 Sunderland found a second lifeline, three minutes from the end of normal time, when Stéphane Sessègnon scored from close range after a Boaz Myhill save from Steven Fletcher. Under pressure, West Brom broke, their play was again incisive, and Fortuné put them third with their fourth.

"It was tough to take," said O'Neill. "We put in a big effort and there was a penalty that never was. I've come here and I try to give honest assessments. There was a lot to take out of the game. We looked like we can get a goal again now. That is very encouraging. It is a big game on Tuesday night against QPR."

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet; Bardsley, O'Shea (McClean, h-t), Cuéllar, Rose; Larsson, Colback (Saha, 73), Cattermole (Gardner, 35), Johnson; Sessègnon; Fletcher.

West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Morrison (Tamas, 90), Yacob; Odemwingie (Lukaku, 70), Gera, Brunt; Long (Fortuné, 70).

Referee: Mike Dean.

Man of the match: Brunt (West Brom)

Match rating: 5/10

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?