Hal Robson-Kanu marked his first Premier League start of the season in style as West Brom came from behind to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Southampton, who had Virgil van Dijk sent off late on.
Wales forward Kanu, who has made a string of substitute appearances for Tony Pulis’ side since his arrival at The Hawthorns in August, blasted in a spectacular maiden West Brom goal 50 minutes into a lively encounter at St. Mary’s Stadium.
Shane Long’s first league goal since May had put Claude Puel’s side ahead five minutes before the interval, only for Matt Phillips to cancel out Southampton’s lead moments later.
Southampton, hammered 4-1 by Tottenham in their last home outing, pressed hard for a leveller as the game wore on, though they had to rely on Fraser Forster to keep them in the contest with a fine stop to deny James Morrison.
1:47 – There was just 1:47 between Shane Long’s goal for Southampton and Matt Phillips’ equaliser for WBA. Backlash.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2016
But for all their possession, the hosts mustered little as they slumped to a second successive home defeat, Van Dijk’s 89th-minute dismissal capping off a miserable day for Puel’s men.
The victory means that West Brom will end 2016 in the top eight, while Southampton will hope to return to winning ways when they face Everton – and former manager Ronald Koeman – on Monday.
Southampton wasted no time in taking the lead against Spurs last time out, but Puel’s side were restricted to little of note in the early stages of Saturday’s encounter, with Sofiane Boufal’s hopeful long-range strike the highlight of a scrappy opening.
Boufal continued to represent Southampton’s greatest threat and the Moroccan playmaker went close again 20 minutes in, lashing a low cross-cum-shot agonisingly wide.
For all Boufal’s endeavour, though, it was Dusan Tadic who provided a moment of quality to open the scoring – the Serbian delivering a fantastic corner that Long duly headed home.
However, West Brom were back on level terms within two minutes, Phillips making no mistake with a neat finish after getting the better of Maya Yoshida.
West Brom were fortunate not to go into half-time a man down when Allan Nyom lunged in recklessly on Long as the match finally sparked into life, but the full-back escaped a second booking, with Ben Foster forced into an instinctive save to deny Van Dijk from the resulting free-kick.
Pulis took no risks at the interval, James McClean coming on in place of Nyom, with Chris Brunt shifting to left-back.
West Brom were quick to capitalise on Southampton’s sluggish start to the second half, Phillips turning provider as his throughball freed Robson-Kanu, who thumped a venomous effort into the top-left corner.
Southampton responded with an audacious attempt of their own – Boufal’s strike whistling just over before, at the other end, Forster did well to parry away Morrison’s header.
Robson-Kanu was removed from the fray shortly after, Salomon Rondon his replacement.
And Rondon duly impacted proceedings late on when he was hauled down by Van Dijk, who was quickly shown a second yellow card as West Brom held firm to return to winning ways following successive defeats to Manchester United and Arsenal.
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