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
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn