New recruit Odemwingie passes muster

West Bromwich Albion 1 Sunderland 0
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The Independent Football

Peter Odemwingie, a Nigerian international born in Uzbekistan and based for the last four years in Moscow, has wasted no time acquiring hero status in the Black Country. Having arrived in the Midlands late on Thursday night, the £2m 29-year-old striker wiped the sleep from his eyes, made amends for an early miss and slid in West Bromwich Albion's winner nine minutes from time.

Match sharpness is hardly a problem. Odemwingie, below, has been playing regularly in the Russian League for Lokomotiv Moscow since his two World Cup finals appearances and scored for his country 11 days ago.

There was much aplomb about the way he controlled James Morrison's through ball with his left foot and toe-poked it past the advancing Simon Mignolet with his right to leave Sunderland in familiar away-day despair. With more time at his disposal in the eighth minute, he side-footed wide when played clear by Chris Brunt.

"It was a gamble throwing him in after only one training session," said Albion's manager Roberto Di Matteo, who has also signed the Cameroon international midfielder Somen Tchoyi from Salzburg. "But he is a quality player and a team player who we have been tracking for some time."

For Albion, it was mainly a question of restoring belief following their annihilation at Chelsea and they could have done worse than look at their first Hawthorns opponents for reassurance that opening-day results need not shape a season. Sunderland won at Bolton last August but had to wait until late April to again take maximum points away.

This game suggested they will hardly be daunting visitors this time either and their manager, Steve Bruce, admitted: "We were 10 yards off it in the first half. Unless we change our mentality there are going to be more afternoons like this. It shouldn't take me ranting and raving at half-time to get us into Premier League games."

Sunderland did not fashion a chance until stand-in captain Darren Bent nodded wide from Jordan Henderson's near-post free-kick just after half-time. Nedum Onuoha's header then brought an easy save from Scott Carson but it was hard to recall much else other than a mixed bag of 25-yard free-kicks.

Albion were bright enough through the promptings of Brunt, Morrison and Graham Dorrans. Brunt sent a terrific overhead kick a yard too high after Dorrans freed Marek Cech on the left and took the ball off Jerome Thomas's head following outstanding work by Morrison.

Morrison was well dispossessed by Titus Bramble when dallying over a second-half through ball by Brunt, who also tested Mignolet with a header before rattling his bar with a stunning 30-yarder in the dying minutes. Albion were deserving victors.

Attendance: 23,624

Referee: Kevin Friend

Man of the match: Brunt

Match rating: 6/10

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