West Brom vs Southampton match report: Saido Berahino strikes early as Saints slip up in quest for a top-four finish

West Brom 1 Southampton 0: Berahino's goal in the second minute was enough for the Baggies to continue their revitalised run of form under Tony Pulis

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Southampton’s Champions League hopes are beginning to slide and on the evidence of their latest setback at the Hawthorns yesterday, it is not hard to see why. Ronaldo Koeman’s team would have climbed back into the top four with a victory but they seldom looked like scoring after falling behind to Saido Berahino’s second-minute goal and their attacking impotence was summed up by a glaring Graziano Pelle miss.

The Italian is without a Premier League goal since 20 December but he will not have had a better chance in that time than the one that Ryan Bertrand served up with a ball across the six-yard box after 67 minutes; Pelle only needed to make contact, but let the ball roll under his foot. As a consequence, Southampton have scored once in their last five matches.

Koeman refused to blame Pelle, saying: “I don’t like to talk about one player. The whole team performance is a little bit down compared with the beginning of the season.”

The Dutchman admitted there was “less confidence” in the camp and suggested a lack of sharpness was another factor. Southampton’s front three yesterday are all new to the Premier League and Koeman noted: “If you are used to having a break during winter and you don’t have one then maybe there will come a moment you are not so sharp as before.”

West Brom players celebrate Saido Berahino's goal

With their attack misfiring, Southampton have been reliant on the top flight’s meanest defence but it was breached inside 70 seconds yesterday. Maya Yoshida, under pressure from Craig Dawson, headed a free-kick into the path of Berahino who sent a sweet  volley flying into the top corner from 15 yards.

It was Berahino’s 16th goal of the campaign and ninth since New Year’s Day. “It is a wonderful strike,” said Albion manager Tony Pulis, who described Berahino as “the icing on the cake” for his impressively organised side. Berahino and his strike partner Ideye Brown had injections to play, Pulis revealed, but while both limped off in the second half, it failed to dampen the mood of the home crowd.

Graziano Pelle reacts after missing a late chance for Southampton

With Albion climbing into the relative safety of 13th place, the cry around the Hawthorns was “Aston Villa, we’re coming for you” ahead of the upcoming League and cup double-header against their neighbours.

Albion have lost just one of 10 games since Pulis took over, and kept seven clean sheets in that time. Koeman admitted that conceding so early made Southampton’s task all the harder and though he made an early tactical switch – changing from three central defenders to a more customary back four by replacing Florin Gardos with Eljero Elia – there was no way through.

Gardner, Yakub and Fletcher applaud the home fans at the full-time whistle

West Brom (4-4-2): Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Lescott, Brunt; Morrison (Sessègnon, 72), Yacob, Fletcher, Gardner; Ideye (Baird, 88), Berahino (Mulumbu, 56).

Southampton (3-4-1-2): Forster; Gardos (Elia, 25), Fonte, Yoshida; Clyne, Wanyama (S Davis, 45), Schneiderlin, Bertrand; Tadic (Long, 74); Mane, Pelle.

Referee: Phil Dowd

Man of the match: Gardner (West Bromwich)

Match rating: 5/10