West Brom vs Hull match report: Saido Berahino saves Baggies once again to give Tony Pulis a winning start in the league

West Brom 1 Hull 0: Striker strengthened his credentials once more to give Pulis his second straight victory

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So far, so good for Tony Pulis, who had taken his first steps as West Bromwich Albion manager with a trouncing of non-League opposition in the FA Cup and now has a winning start under his belt in the competition that inevitably matters more.

Given that Hull are one of the teams destined to be fighting a relegation battle for what remains of the season, this win looks doubly important.

Yet it came with a warning from the new manager not to take survival for granted, not to assume that his success in organising Crystal Palace’s escape from the drop last season will automatically be repeated.

“People have to realise how tough this is going to be,” Pulis said. “I’m happy with the result but there is a lot of work to be done. Just have a look at the Championship and see how many teams there are that spent years in the Premier League.

“The reason they are in the Championship is that people got complacent, people took their foot off the pedal and almost took it for granted that they would remain in the Premier League. As soon as you do that you’ll get relegated.

“People at this club have got to understand that this is going to be a real dogfight.  For us to stay in this division, everyone has to pull together - that’s my message to everyone.”

It sounded like a message also to Steve Bruce, his opposite number, who had suggested in the lead-up to the match that Albion’s decision to remove Alan Irvine and hire Pulis had made life tougher for everyone else at the wrong end of the table.  Mind games are not the preserve of the title-chasers, as Pulis knows only too well.

He may be playing mind games, too, with Saido Berahino, who scored his sixth goal in three matches to settle the outcome 12 minutes from time. Pulis has been vocal in giving the young striker his support so far, which seems to have had an invigorating effect, but he declined the chance to add more praise. “He scored the goal so he will get the headlines,” Pulis said, but little more.

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Saido Berahino scores to give West Brom a 1-0 win over Hull

The result pushes Albion up to 14th in the table, although they  remain only two points clear of the bottom three.  Nonetheless, they will feel better there than do Hull, who are now setting a real test of Bruce’s conviction that he would finish the season with more points than last year’s 37.

This time, the Hull manager’s dismay was mostly due to the errors that made the decisive goal possible.

First came a misunderstanding  between Ahmed Elmohamady and Allan McGregor in which the  defender make a short backpass that the goalkeeper picked up, conceding an indirect free kick inside the box, eight yards from goal.

Then, after Victor Anichebe had taken the necessary touch, Hull’s defensive wall spilt chaotically and Berahino’s shot found a way through, taking a slight deflection that made McGregor’s chance of saving it more difficult still.

“It was a misunderstanding and that made it a cruel way to lose the game after we had not looked like conceding a goal,” Bruce said.

Even so, the best chances had fallen to the home side. Brown Ideye, the £10 million former Dynamo Kiev striker who was a surprise choice by Pulis after starting only five Premier League matches under Irvine, squandered the most inviting of those. Played in superbly by Berahino and clean through just before half-time with only Allan McGregor to beat, he managed to scuff his shot and drag the ball tamely wide.

Playing behind Ideye in a 4-2-3-1, it was Berahino who looked the  biggest threat. He also dragged the ball wide with the first opening of the game in the 19th minute, but his combination with Stéphane Sessègnon to create the chance was a nice piece of work, as was the way he threw off his marker in the 32nd minute before drawing a save  from McGregor at the foot of the left-hand post.

Hull’s cause was not helped by the loss of both strikers to injuries in the space of six minutes before half-time.

Already short on firepower, Bruce had to replace both Nikica Jelavic and Abel Hernandez, and with no genuine front man on the bench, Hull had to manage with substitutes Robbie Brady and Tom Ince up front for the remainder of the match.

Apart from one instance when Brady, beating Joleon Lescott on the left, forced Ben Foster to tip a pow erfully struck left-foot shot over the bar, Hull offered little going forward. 

West Bromwich Albion: (4-2-3-1) Foster; Wisdom, McAuley, Lescott, Baird; Morrison, Yacob; Brunt, Berahino, Sessegnon (Gardner, 76); Ideye (Anichebe, 73).

Hull City: (4-4-2) McGregor; Chester, Bruce, Davies, Figueroa; Elmohamady, Meyler, Livermore, Quinn (Huddlestone, 79); Jelavic (Brady, 33), Hernandez (Ince, 39).

Referee: Neil Swarbrick.

Man of the match: Morrison (West Bromwich).

Match rating: 6/10.

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