Super sub Carlos Vela came to West Bromwich Albion’s rescue with a late equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw against Stoke City on Monday.
Vela’s late intervention lifts the strugglers out of the bottom three after Rory Delap’s second goal of the season seemed set to give Stoke another home win.
Having saved the Baggies’ blushes with an injury time leveler against Wolves last week, on loan Arsenal striker Vela seized on Stephen Reid’s through ball to beat Asmir Begovic with three minutes left.
Delap’s notorious long throws were a constant menace throughout the opening half but it was his 53rd minute near post header that again exposed Albion’s fragile defence – the worst in the English Premier League.
The anticipated aerial bombardment from Delap was soon in full swing with Albion’s rearguard scrambling a series of his long throws to safety before the recalled Scott Carson confidently palmed Jermaine Pennant’s rasping 25-yard free-kick around his left hand post.
The visitors at Britannia Stadium were not shy in venturing forward themselves with Graham Dorrans and Marc-Antoine Fortune both forcing good blocks out of Stoke goalkeeper Begovic.
Pennant was again unlucky to see his sublime curling free kick skim the top of West Brom’s bar.
Having played the part of provider so often throughout his Stoke career Delap stepped forward to head his side ahead on 53 minutes.
The midfielder stole a yard off the shoulder of his marker Dorrans to power the ball home at the near post from Pennant’s left wing corner.
Keen to make amends, Dorrans soon saw his close range header blocked by the legs of Begovic before Vela’s timely intervention three minutes from time.
And after Somen Tchoyi had been denied from the edge of the area, Mexican maestro Vela nearly delivered a winning goal deep into injury time as Albion finished with a flourish to claim a welcome point in their battle to beat the drop.