Stoke City had two players sent off in the first half of a fiery encounter with West Brom as Salomon Rondon netted his first Premier League goal to give Tony Pulis a 1-0 win on his first return to the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
Pulis could hardly have asked for more assistance from the side he managed for nearly a decade across two spells, with two moments of ill-discipline allowing West Brom to dominate the match.
The hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 25th minute when Ibrahim Afellay was shown a straight red card for slapping Craig Gardner.
Midfielder Charlie Adam – brought into the side in place of Marko Arnautovic by Mark Hughes – was then giving his marching orders six minutes later for appearing to stamp on Craig Dawson.
Unsurprisingly, West Brom, who had seen the build-up to the game dominated by the transfer saga surrounding Saido Berahino, found what proved to be the decisive goal just before half-time through club-record signing Rondon.
The Venezuelan netted following superb work from Rickie Lambert and, despite failing to score a second, West Brom had no difficulty in holding on for their first league victory of the season.
West Brom were the first to really test either goalkeeper, Jack Butland forced into action to keep out a vicious low drive from James Morrison.
The game then took a spectacular turn in the visitors’ favour courtesy of two quickfire dismissals.
Afellay paid the price for striking Gardner – who came into the starting XI along with Joleon Lescott as part of two changes by Pulis – after he had been fouled by the West Brom midfielder.
And he was quickly followed down the tunnel by Adam, who was ruled to have pressed his foot down on Dawson’s leg in a seemingly innocuous coming together between the two.
Pulis threw on Lambert for Claudio Yacob in a bid to capitalise on his side’s numerical advantage and the former Liverpool striker stung the palms of Butland in the 40th minute with an ambitious effort from 30 yards.
West Brom finally made their extra numbers count in first-half injury time when Rondon turned Lambert’s well-placed far-post cross home with a header across goal and into the bottom-right corner.
Gardner was brought off and replaced by Callum McManaman after the interval, and the change almost paid instant dividends as Rondon powered the former Wigan Athletic midfielder’s right-wing delivery narrowly over the crossbar.
Darren Fletcher then saw an effort deflected just wide before Stoke suffered a further setback as defender Glen Johnson limped off and was replaced by Marc Wilson.
Stoke did stem the tide somewhat in the closing stages, but they never looked like crafting an equaliser, ensuring Pulis’ return ended happily.