Stephane Sessegnon's quality comes through for West Brom vs. Stoke
West Brom recorded their second consecutive home win, and did the double over Stoke City in the process, with a 2-1 victory over Tony Pulis' former side, taking them to within three points of the top half of the table.
It was another encouraging performance from West Brom, who seem to have found a style that works in home games. Like the 1-0 win over Newcastle in their previous home fixture, WBA played higher up the pitch, and with Stephane Sessegnon in fine form, they had an attacking threat from open play as well as set pieces.
West Brom's fortunes in this fixture have seen a remarkable turnaround since Pulis took charge at The Hawthorns, having been the scourge of various West Brom head coaches in his time in charge at Stoke, where he only lost one game against his current employers.
It is not just the results of this fixture that have seen a role reversal, but also the style of play. West Brom are now the side with the bigger physical presence, constantly pressing the opposition and getting the ball forward quickly, not through the long-ball stereotype always attributed to Pulis' sides, but by winning the ball high-up the pitch and counterattacking through the likes of Sessegnon and James Morrison.
This is in contrast to Stoke who have won plaudits for their intricate attacking play in recent weeks, with impressive wins over the likes of both Manchester clubs and Everton. Yet on Saturday they were shut down superbly by Pulis' well-drilled lineup. Stoke played in nice patterns without posing any real threat until the more physically-imposing Joselu and Jon Walters came on to match up with West Brom's defence.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Boaz Myhill, 7 -- Made a couple of good saves in the first half and a commanding punch as West Brom held on at the end of the game. However, could have done better with Stoke's equaliser.
DF Craig Dawson, 6 -- Another solid defensive performance from the right-back, both in terms of his one-on-one defending and making one vital clearing header at the back post. Needs to improve on his use of the ball going forward.
DF Gareth McAuley, 7 -- Unsurprisingly dominated Bojan physically throughout, and was another who made several towering defensive headers. Looked more confident with Jonny Evans alongside him.
DF Jonny Evans, 8 -- Was yet again superb at the heart of West Brom's defence. Composed on the ball, excellent reading of the game and a real threat from set plays, deserved to score the winning goal.
DF Chris Brunt, 6 -- Continues to do an admirable job out of position. One lapse in concentration nearly proved costly, but did well defensively overall. Delivery from open play and set pieces was again a mixed bag of quality.
MF Stephane Sessegnon, 9 -- A constant threat with the ball at his feet, allows West Brom to counterattack at speed and showed quality in the final third with his finish into the roof of the net for the opening goal.
MF James Morrison, 8 -- At the heart of West Brom's best moves throughout, finding space and using the ball well, none more so than when providing the assist for Sessegnon's goal. Tired towards the end.
MF Claudio Yacob, 7 -- Broke up play excellently with his positioning and tackling but his distribution was poor. Over the top reaction to Geoff Cameron's push to the head, although the red card was warranted.
MF Darren Fletcher, 7 -- Upturn in form continued with another tenacious display in the middle of the park. Constantly harrying the opposition, including winning the ball back in his own half and instigating the attack that led to West Brom's opener.
MF Craig Gardner, 7 -- Not an exciting selection but another reliable performer who did a good job in supporting Brunt against the twin threat of Glen Johnson and Xherdan Shaquri. Better quality of delivery from set plays than Brunt.
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FW Rickie Lambert, 6 -- Lacked mobility and let down by a poor first touch when through on the goal. Held the ball-up well and clever passer of the ball, but doesn't have the speed to then get into the box to take advantage.
MF Callum McManaman, NR -- On for Gardner in 90th minute. Beat his man from a short corner to provide the cross that led to Evans' winner.
FW Saido Berahino, NR -- Joined Lambert up front after Cameron's red card as West Brom chased a goal, showed some decent movement but had little time to influence the game.
Matthew Evans is a lifelong West Brom fan and season-ticket holder. You can follow him on Twitter @MattEvansWBA.