MATCH REPORT: West Bromwich Albion 1 Bournemouth 0
A tale of two styles was present on the opening day of the new Premier League season at the Hawthorns, where Bournemouth failed to make the most of their dominant possession against a predictably solid West Brom side.
The Baggies started the game with more intensity than their South Coast counterparts, with a handful of chances for Jay Rodriguez testing Asmir Begovic early on. Bournemouth struggled to get into the rhythm of the game which allowed Albion; particularly Rodriguez, to keep breaching the Cherries back line and test the Bosnian keeper.
Bournemouth did have their share of chances in the early exchanges, however the organised wall of blue and white jerseys meant that these were mostly limited to speculative long-range efforts.
Bournemouth were having more than their fair share of possession, however it was the Baggies who were looking more likely to score. While Rodriguez continued to cause problems with his movement, it was fellow debutant Ahmed Hegazy who stole the headlines.
Hegazy nodded home from a characteristically smart Chris Brunt free kick and scoring the Baggies first goal on home turf in five matches just past the half hour mark. Not the debutant many were predicting to score, but a fine finish nonetheless.
After the goal West Brom sat back and invited pressure onto themselves, allowing Bournemouth to take control of the fixture. Barely five minutes after the Baggies took the lead, Benik Afobe headed just wide of the post from a lovely curling ball delivered by Ryan Fraser, who continued to threaten down the flanks and create chances for his teammates for the rest of the half.
Bournemouth made a change at half time, bringing Jordon Ibe into the fray in place of Marc Pugh. Ibe could have been accused of neglecting his defensive duties which left gaps for Alan Nyom and Matt Phillips to exploit down the right hand side, leaving Nathan Ake to clean up, which he did on numerous occasions without issue.
The Albion back line was dropping deeper as time advanced, with Bournemouth in total control of possession by the 50 minute mark; Benik Afobe continued to threaten before being withdrawn on 64 minutes for Jermain Defoe, who received warm applause from both sets of supporters.
As the final whistle approached, the two sides continued to battle for a result, with the introduction of Welshman Hal Robson-Kanu giving the Cherries defence something to think about. Ben Foster was tested late on by Nathan Ake in what proved to be their only shot on target of the game in the 83rd minute.
Solomon Rondon’s brief cameo almost resulted in a goal in extra time with a powerful solo run which Begovic did well to parry down to his left. The Black Country side saw the game out with a satisfying degree of professionalism, but the Cherries will feel they could have done more to test Ben Foster and on another day could have left with all three points.
Overall, a solid performance for Tony Pulis’ men who were only denied a more comfortable victory by the gloves of Begovic. Eddie Howe will be concerned by his sides inability to capitalise on their possession in the final third, but will take positives from the way they controlled large periods of the game.
Man of the match: Ahmed Hegazy. An impressive debut from the imposing Egyptian international, scoring the winning goal and more than playing his part in keeping a well-deserved clean sheet.
Written by George Bates.