Middlesbrough’s unbeaten return to the Premier League continued as they held West Brom to a 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns on Sunday.
Tony Pulis’ side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but barely troubled Brad Guzan in the Boro goal in the absence of striker Saido Berahino, who came off the bench only when fellow substitute Jonathan Leko was forced off injured.
James McClean threatened in the first half and Craig Dawson planted a header wide from a promising position, but West Brom lacked any real imagination in attack against a disciplined Boro defence marshalled by young captain Ben Gibson.
Aitor Karanka’s side showed little desire to go for more than a point, however, failing to register a shot on target until Christian Stuani’s tame effort in the 73rd minute.
The result means West Brom have four points from their first three games of the new season, one less than Boro, but more pertinent will be the speculation over Berahino’s future ahead of Wednesday’s transfer deadline.
McClean proved the biggest early threat to the visitors, causing panic in the Boro box with a run from deep before he brought a good block from Guzan at his near post following Darren Fletcher’s pass.
West Brom enjoyed plenty of possession, but lacked any real spark in attack, with Boro comfortable to sit deeper and attempt to exploit the counter-attack through Alvaro Negredo.
Brendan Galloway, making his first league start since joining on loan from Everton, brought a low save from Guzan after a good run and shot from 20 yards, but sections of the home support began to grow restless with a largely uninspiring display.
The pattern of play continued after the break, with a Dawson header from a corner that bounced just wide after 63 minutes the closest West Brom came to a breakthrough.
Pulis introduced teenager Leko from the bench, with Berahino looking stony-faced in the dugout, but the 23-year-old came on to a smattering of boos 18 minutes from time after his team-mate had to go off with an injury.
Ben Foster was at last called into action soon afterwards, with Stuani shooting tamely into his arms from inside the box after Antonio Barragan drove through the West Brom backline from the left.
Daniel Ayala hooked the ball straight at Foster after a Stewart Downing corner caused panic in the West Brom box, and the winger himself flashed a shot from the left narrowly wide of the far post, but there was to be no last-gasp winner.