Salomon Rondon’s second-half header gave West Brom a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday.
The Venezuela striker glanced in James McClean’s free-kick to hand all three points to the visitors and inflict an opening-day defeat on Palace that extends their poor run in 2016 to 13 defeats in 20 Premier League games.
West Brom, who had lost on just three of their last 13 visits to Selhurst Park in the top flight, came close to an early opener through Rondon, but looked content to sit deep and frustrate a below-par Palace side in a dreadful first half.
The hosts should have taken the lead early in the second period when Wilfried Zaha was denied one-on-one by Ben Foster and Alan Pardew’s side looked the most likely to break the deadlock as they continued to control possession.
That was until the 74th minute, however, when Rondon rose highest to glance substitute McClean’s free-kick beyond the reach of Wayne Hennessey and hand West Brom only a second win on opening day in 11 years.
Rondon gave Palace an unsettling opening 10 minutes, forcing an early mistake from Damien Delaney before steering a header goalwards that Hennessey had to palm clear.
The Baggies dealt comfortably with Palace’s efforts and Andros Townsend’s weak shot from distance was the sum total of the home side’s attacking threat during a scrappy first half desperately short on quality.
Pardew seemed to have injected some impetus into Palace at half-time, as they came close to breaking the deadlock just six minutes into the second period.
Having won the ball near the halfway line, Zaha was played through on goal by Lee Chung-yong, but he was denied by two superb sprawling saves from Foster before Jonny Evans cleared.
Foster held a fierce Jason Puncheon shot from the edge of the area after a good run by Townsend, before Jonas Olsson looped a header a fraction over the crossbar following Craig Gardner’s free-kick.
With frustrations building as Palace struggled for attacking inspiration, Rondon and Saido Berahino finally combined to give the former England youth striker striker a sight of goal from 20 yards, but Hennessey held on well to deny a half-chance on the rebound.
But Rondon at last made his mark with just over a quarter of an hour to play, rising highest to glance McClean’s fine delivery into the right-hand corner of Hennessey’s net from just outside the six-yard box to snatch maximum points for Pulis against his old club.
Key Opta Stats:
– Salomon Rondon has scored in each of his last three Premier League games, after failing to find the net in his previous seven appearances in the competition.
– Since Tony Pulis took charge in January last year, West Brom have kept 22 clean sheets in the top flight, a haul only Arsenal (26), Man City (23) and Man Utd (23) can better.
– West Brom’s last 11 Premier League wins have all been by a one-goal margin.
– Crystal Palace have now lost 13 Premier League games in 2016 (level with Norwich), a figure only Aston Villa (14) can better.
– The Baggies enjoyed their first win in their last 10 Premier League games (W1 D4 L5).