West Brom vs Sunderland match report: Sebastian Larsson denies Alan Irvine a winning debut as Sunderland fight back

West Brom 2 Sunderland 2: West Brom will lament spurning a number of chances as they weren't able to hold out for the win

The Hawthorns

These two teams will need to stretch their survival instincts to the limit if they are to stay in the Premier League. Their being locked together near the foot of the table for the rest of the season looks highly probable.

Gus Poyet admitted afterwards he is looking to strengthen his Sunderland squad, which might raise his sights somewhat higher but he knows he faces a battle to hang on to the strikers Steve Fletcher and Connor Wickham before the transfer window shuts.

Albion have done their spending – mostly on the £10 million club record signing, striker Bown Ideye, who was on the bench because he is not yet match fit. But they do have Saido Berahino, their England Under 21 striker, as their main weapon. His two goals yesterday looked to be enough for victory until Seb Larsson score an 85th minute equaliser.

Poyet was furious about the penalty that gave Berahino his first goal but more pleased with the mental strength of his team. He said: “Last year we would have collapsed after conceding the second goal. There is now a stronger mentality in the team and that pleases me. We should be talking about football and here we are talking about a referee’s decision. Everyone could see it was not a penalty.”

 

The uncertainty which has hung over West Bromwich since the start of last season was the backdrop to the new campaign. The loss of key players and lack of significant replacements, the sacking of Steve Clarke, the former manager, and the delayed appointment of his successor Pepe Mel was accompanied by dressing room unrest.

Albion clawed their way to survival and replaced Mel with Alan Irvine – a move greeted with major indifference by a huge section of supporters. Even the choice of a new strip, a non-traditional pin stripe was roundly condemned.

Jeremy Peace, the club chairman, said in his programme notes: “I freely admit that I was among those who got things wrong and as chairman that weighs heavily with me. I said that lessons had had been learned and we would regroup and reboot the club.”

Sunderland had no need to reboot. They continued the momentum that took them into 14th place at the end of last season when they picked up 13 points from their last six games.

Lee Cattermole hit a stunning 25 yarder in the fifth minute to put the visitors in front and they were good value for their lead until Neil Swarbrick gave Albion a dubious penalty just before the interval. Valentin Roberge leaned on Victor Anichebe whose tumble convinced the official to point to the spot. Berahino tucked home the spotkick.

Irvine admitted he didn’t want the half-time whistle to arrive with his team in the ascendancy. But they sustained their impetus after the break and Berahino volleyed them into the lead from as cross by Craig Gardner who was highly impressive against his former club.

It was looking like the perfect debut as a Premier League manager for Irvine until Larsson side -footed home Patrick Van Aanholkte’s centre.

Irvine admitted the penalty award was “soft.” He said: “It didn’t have me jumping out of my seat claiming it was a penalty. But this was a special day for me. I have managed in the Championship but to do it in the Premier League is different. I’m told that last year we never came back from going behind so that was pleasing.”

Line-ups:

West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Olsson, Pocognoli, Mulumbu, Gardner, Dorrans, Berahino, Brunt, Anichebe. Subs: Myhill, Ideye, Davidson, O’Neil, Sessegnon, Yacob, Baird.

Sunderland (4-1-4-1): Mannone, Brown, Roberge, O’Shea, Van Aanholt, Cattermole, Johnson, Larsson, Rodwell, Wickham, Fletcher. Subs: Pantilimon, Bridcutt, Gomez, Altidore, Mavrias, Graham, Buckley.

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

Man of the match: Craig Gardner (West Bromwich)

Match rating: 6/10

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