Pepe Mel finally has his first win as West Bromwich boss after Youssouf Mulumbu’s late winner saw off Swansea and potentially saved the Spaniard from the sack.
Mel’s position has been under scrutiny in recent weeks and, having failed to win any of his previous seven games in charge, he appeared to be heading through the exit door when Roland Lamah gave Swansea the lead in just the second minute.
But a vastly improved second-half display, in the wake of some stern words from Mel, saw the game turned around as Stéphane Sessègnon and Mulumbu struck to move the Baggies three points clear of the drop zone, and just one behind their hosts.
Mel insisted the pressure was nothing new to him, but his relief was palpable.
He said: “The pressure is the same everywhere. In Spain, England or Germany. This work is dangerous, it is a difficult job but the players are the most important people. I can only help them. I am pleased for the fans and players, we needed to win and in football confidence is everything. Now things will be different I hope.
“We talked about our problems at half-time, about the future, face-to-face. We only had 45 minutes and it had to change. We needed these three points and I believe we will stay up.”
The future had not looked so bright for the former Real Betis boss when Lamah scored the opener.
The Belgian was freed down the left where he checked inside Steven Reid to beat Ben Foster with a low shot that he placed neatly inside the far post.
Swansea should have gone on from there but, despite having the better of the game, they rarely threatened to hit their stride and fully punish West Brom’s lethargy during the opening 45 minutes.
Not that they were without opportunities to do so, with Foster getting in the way of Wilfried Bony’s point-blank effort, and Ashley Williams directing a free header into the ground and over the bar. Those spurned chances would come back to haunt Swansea as a rejuvenated West Brom came out of the blocks with considerably more vigour at the start of the second half.
They were level within seven minutes. James Morrison worked the ball to Sessègnon, who emphatically dispatched it into the bottom corner.
Swansea were rattled, struggling to find their rhythm, and Victor Anichebe should have done better when he dragged his shot wide, having worked a yard of space inside the box. But Mel’s men had to survive a strong penalty shout themselves on the hour. Jonathan De Guzman’s attempted volley struck Gareth McAuley’s raised hand only for referee Martin Atkinson to wave away the appeals.
Swans head coach Garry Monk sent on the talismanic Michu for a first appearance since December 15 in an effort to change the game and lift his side. But instead the Spaniard’s failure to find Leon Britton with a short pass led to Mulumbu (pictured being congratulated by Olsson) seizing the loose ball to drive home the winner.
Monk said: “If you have them on the ropes and don’t knock them out you give them a chance of coming back and they did.
“That was a team scrapping for their lives and we have to match that. You can forget about tactics or style. We need that before we can implement anything else. This was a wake-up call.”
West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Rangel, Amat, Williams, Davies; Britton (Emnes, 87), Canas (Michu, 62); De Guzman, Routledge, Lamah (Hernandez, 77); Bony.
Swansea (5-4-1): Foster; Reid, Olsson, Dawson, McAuley, Ridgewell; Dorrans (Gera, 75), Mulumbu, Sessègnon (Bifouma, 79), Morrison; Anichebe (O’Neil, 89).
Referee: Martin Atkinson.
Man of the match: Foster (West Bromwich)
Match rating: 6/10