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Mar 16, 2014

Mel grabs first win thanks to two moments of magic


It was a long time coming, but West Brom finally picked up a win under manager Pepe Mel, as they came from behind to win 2-1 against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. - Report: Swansea 1-2 West Brom - Report: Mel delighted with first win Mel has faced another tough week at the helm, with reports suggesting he was close to being sacked and then striker Nicolas Anelka announcing that he had terminated his contract at West Brom, followed by the club stating it was they who had terminated his contract. It was more unwanted and unnecessary controversy at a time when the whole club should be pulling together to try and escape relegation. There was real signs of that on Saturday, with Albion's travelling support bringing a mass of Spanish flags to show their support for Mel and backing the team vociferously throughout. Further evidence of a new found unity came in Mel's celebrations with the players at the end of the game. For players who are reported to dislike his style of play and training, they certainly seemed delighted for him. It is perhaps ironic that with all of the pre-game the focus being on Anelka, it was one of his best friends at the club, Youssouf Mulumbu, who grabbed a vital late winner for The Baggies as they secured their first victory since New Year's Day. Both of Albion's goals on the day were right out of the top drawer and they will need more moments of quality like that if they are to escape relegation. This wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination; in fact the first half was probably the worst 45 minutes of the season. The Baggies were a goal down inside two minutes and looked fragile at the back every time Swansea came forward, while offering very little themselves going forward. The players seemed to be having trouble with Mel's 3-5-2 formation, with Steven Reid and Liam Ridgewell struggling with the unfamiliar and probably unsuitable wing back roles in which they were playing. That West Brom only went in at halftime 1-0 down was through a combination of poor finishing and good work from goalkeeper Ben Foster. However, Mel does seem to have a penchant for managing to turn things around for the second half and it must have been one amazing team talk as Albion looked a totally different side after the break. They looked like the type of side that Mel wants, passing the ball sharply and incisively, winning the ball back quickly and pressing high up the pitch. Reid and Ridgewell got themselves further up the pitch and performed far better in the second half, both even having half chances in the box. While Mel is good at turning things around at halftime, one of the problems in his previous games in charge was that the equalising goal had come too late for Albion to exert any real pressure and go for the win. A moment of magic from Stephane Sessegnon early in the second half meant that The Baggies could really push for the victory they so desperately needed. Sessegnon has been very poor in front of goal; he now has three goals this season but should really be sitting on at least double that with some of the chances he has missed. His finish for his goal on Saturday was nothing short of superb though, as he rifled the ball into the bottom corner from 25 yards out, giving Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm no chance. It is moments like these that make me believe Sessegnon can be a big weapon for West Brom in their battle against the drop. He is inconsistent and he can be infuriating to watch as he does make some poor decisions, but he is capable of producing moments like the one he did against Swansea, conjuring a goal or a chance out of nothing. It is that kind of creativity and individual quality that Albion are going to need. He performed well at the end of last season for Sunderland when they beat the drop. Mel will be hoping he can repeat that influence for West Brom. While Sessegnon's goal was all about power, Mulumbu's was about precision. He dribbled the ball past a couple of Swansea players before nonchalantly side-footing the ball in off the foot of the post from a full 20 yards out. Mulumbu isn't really known for his goal-scoring prowess, but that was a finish of a top striker, not a midfield player who rarely scores. His celebrations after the goal was another example of how everyone does finally seem to be pulling together, as he celebrated in front of Albion's away following before he was quickly mobbed by not only his team-mates on the pitch but also West Brom's remaining substitutes! What West Brom must do now is use this as a springboard, rather than let it be a one-off result. Albion's next three games are against Hull(A), Cardiff(H) and Norwich(A); these are, quite simply, massive games. If West Brom can re-produce their second half performance in these three games, their chances of survival will increase massively.