The "Great Escape" of 2004-05 is seared into the psyche of West Bromwich Albion supporters. As Roberto Di Matteo's class of 2010-11 demonstrated with this emphatic defeat of Newcastle United – Albion's first in 18 league meetings with the Tyneside team since Boxing Day 1984 – promoted sides can aspire to more than mere survival.
In that fabled season under Bryan Robson, Albion stayed up after scraping together six wins and 34 points. Yesterday's victory was their sixth in 16 matches. It might have been stamped "Made in Africa", having been set up by Cameroon midfielder Somen Tchoyi's fine first-half goal and topped off by two clinical finishes by Nigeria's Peter Odemwingie in the final 20 minutes.
Chris Hughton, the Newcastle manager, was clearly perturbed by a supine display, which left them with two points from the last 15. He kept the players in the dressing-room for a 90-minute "inquest", emerging to explain: "Some of it is about venting anger and some of it about getting answers. I thought we contributed to our own downfall by giving away poor goals."
Albion thus moved up to within a point of the top six, their position all the sweeter given the struggles of neighbouring Aston Villa and Wolves, their next two opponents. The way they picked Newcastle apart, relentlessly going forward with sharp movement and crisp, ground-level passing, augurs well for the derbies.
Newcastle, who came up from the Championship ahead of Albion, never showed comparable fluency, having to wait until stoppage time before Peter Lovenkrands' goal spoiled Di Matteo's hopes of a first clean sheet in 15 games. Sol Campbell, in particular, struggled against Albion's mobility and had nothing to show for his 500th top-flight appearance but a yellow card.
Di Matteo, who styles himself "head coach", praised a "brilliant performance". The Italian was justifiably pleased by the contribution of the 6ft 3in Tchoyi, a big unit for a winger, and Odemwingie, who had scored only once in six matches. He also singled out midfielder Graham Dorrans, who added ball-winning to his playmaking skills, and to Paul Scharner for the way he subdued Andy Carroll.
"We scored some great goals and had the majority of the game," said Di Matteo. "Our game is to keep possession of the ball and move it, which we did very well. We had a little dip in results, but that happens to bigger clubs than us. People forget we haven't got a big squad."
For Albion's breakthrough, Tchoyi still had work to do when the ball reached him via Chris Brunt. Until that moment Jose Enrique had contained his powerful surges, but this time the Spaniard stood off and allowed him to switch the ball on to his favoured, left foot before curling it through a congested penalty area and beyond goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Scott Carson denied Newcastle an equaliser by tipping over Steven Taylor's 51st-minute header, while Marek Cech athletically cleared off the line from Jonas Gutierrez on the hour. Albion soon re-established their ascendancy. Danny Guthrie, stretching for the ball and injuring an ankle in the process, gifted possession to Odemwingie, who shook off Taylor and Campbell before angling the ball home.
Albion's joy was complete when Cech's long pass saw the same player race between the centre-backs before rounding Krul and slotting in his sixth goal since he and Tchoyi signed on the same summer's day. Lovenkrands' hooked reply was scant consolation.Reuse content