West Bromwich Albion 1 - Bournemouth 0
Despite the negativism in some quarters surrounding the lack of transfer activity (so far), there were positives to take away from today's game besides the most important - the win.
The two new boys played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. J-Rod will surely score on a regular basis if he stays fit. Hegazi is a horse and looks like a really shrewd pickup. Do we really need to break the bank for Ben Gibson, even if he would come?
Pulis was not afraid to play Sam Field and bring Harper on, whilst sitting primadonna, Chadli. I would like to see Leko get some game time, though. Maybe he has to go out on loan if he is just going to sit on the bench here.
A clean sheet without Evans and Gmac would have been unthinkable last year but we looked untroubled at the back (ok, I know it was Bournemouth). I know we need strengthening, but the Albion are right not to throw silly money at name players who don't want to play here anyway. If Swansea want Chadli, I say get rid.
Let's give Albion management a chance to see out the transfer window before we dump on them. Nice to see Megson here. Better Meggo and Pulis than Alan Irvine or Pepe Mel.
Managed to catch the whole game from a bar run by an Albion fan in Lanzarote. The last time I missed an opening game due to holiday we beat Liverpool 3-0 so I was confident we'd get the victory.
The performance, first half especially, surpassed my expectations as I was concerned us missing Evans would be a loss to great to overcome. I thought JRod set the tone for us with his early chasing, excellent link up play, ability to win and keep the ball when isolated high up the pitch and his urgency to not let any forward move end without an attempt at goal. I'm one of the few still in the Rondon appreciation society but he can take forever to shoot - JRod needed half a sniff to have a go.
Everything about the game was classic Pulis - start fast, press high, disrupt tempo, be physical, score from set piece, begin the slow territorial retreat that ends with most players in our defensive 3rd, threaten late goals on the counter and take every opportunity to run the clock down. I'm sure he spent Saturday night toasting the sort of victory he lives for and fair play to him - this was a win made in the hills of Austria.
I was glad to see Field and Harper get minutes and I don't think we missed Fletcher at all. I thought all the subs contributed but I'm sure Pulis was also playing a bit of his own political games of 3D chess with Chadli, the board and the owners.
Dream start for the Dream Team
Just over 25,000 dreamers witnessed an almost perfect performance of the Pulis plan setting the stage for the rest of the season, although how much of the credit, for any fine-tuning of last season's lone striker approach into this sub-30-percent possession, centre-back scores from a first-half set-piece, showcase, can go to go to the re-introduction of a past-manager (albeit a past-master of the "my players can only play one way" way) was hard to discern.
Most surprisingly though, given the degree of execution of the plan, is that there is clearly room for improvement, not least in that the unavailability of Evans saw Albion being forced to start with a right-footed right-back at right-back, whilst Phillips and McClean also started on the correct sides, for their footedness, of the midfield five, ahead of Nyom and Brunt, the latter starting at left back. We also even started the season starting an on-loan player, Hegazi getting the kind of early run-out for us, alongside makeshift centre-back Dawson, that previous on-loan players have had to wait weeks, if not months, for.
Despite claims in the press that he's desperate to get some new signings in, the manager was still able to name a bench that included once club-record transfer-fee breaker Nacer Chadli, and two lone striker replacements, HRK and Rondon, by choosing to give starts to our third lone striker, Rodriguez, up front, and in putting Sam Field in alongside Yacob and Livermore in the middle three.
When you consider the two other players not making the opening matchday squad but who might be expected to be regular starters, Morrison and MacAuley, it's perhaps a little unclear as to where any new signings might fit in, although the precedent set by the signing of a player who we then immediately loaned out, suggests that there's some room for manoeuver there.
Albion pretty much picked up where they left off last season, albeit the point of last season where they reached forty points, in easily keeping Bournemouth's patient probing well away from Foster's net for most of the first half, whilst giving Rodriguez enough ball to try and make an impression at the other end, with the new man looking much better when receiving the ball to a standing start, from where he was able to jink and get off a couple of shots that troubled Begovic, than when being asked to run onto balls, when he was often eased away from threatening the goal by the Bournemouth defenders.
Half-an-hour in and Albion's free-kick expertise came to the fore, with a routine that saw Hegazi run free of the retreating backline to head home, unchallenged, inside the six-yard box, from a Brunt free-kick that Begovic probably wished he'd dealt with himself rather than assuming one of his defenders would put some semblance of a challenge, or attempted clearance, on to.
Once the Albion had gone ahead from the free-kick, they controlled the game, and limited Bournemouth to two shots on target, neither of which caused much alarm for Foster.
The second half saw Albion make three substitutions: Harper for Field on 70 minutes; HRK for Phillips, in a move that saw lone striker Rodriguez move to the right flank a minute later, whilst Rondon got a two-minutes plus stoppage time run-out, with lone striker for 17 minutes, HRK, also swapped out to the right flank.
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