West Brom's quality shines through

Posted by Matthew Evans

Steve Bardens/Getty ImagesSaido Berahino continues to impress with each passing week at West Brom.

West Brom's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday was a turgid affair in appalling weather conditions that was briefly lit up by two moments of quality from The Baggies.

- Report: West Brom 2-0 Crystal Palace

The first of these moments of quality came from Saido Berahino, whose star continues to rise. After receiving the ball from Stephane Sessegnon just inside the box, the England U21 international controlled the ball with his left foot before rifling the ball into the bottom corner on the volley. It was the kind of finish that returning West Brom fan favourite Kevin Phillips would have been proud of.

Berahino's composure in front of goal is one of his stand-out qualities, along with an impressive first touch and great pace. There has been talk in the papers of Berahino being called up by Roy Hodgson for the forthcoming friendlies against Germany and Chile. Despite his good form for West Brom this season, it is perhaps a bit too soon for the youngster, particularly if he is called up as a central striker. Considering Berahino has yet to start a game for The Baggies in his favoured position, I struggle to see how he can be picked in that position for the senior national side.

However, that could change soon if Berahino continues to score for Albion and their other strikers fail in front of goal. It was Berahino's sixth of the season and he showed the kind of calmness and composure in front of goal that all of The Baggies other forward options haven't this season. Although Steve Clarke doesn't want to rush Berahino, quite rightly so, he can only ignore his goal-scoring form for so long before he simply has to be given at least a couple of games in his preferred position.

Despite their lack of goals, Clarke still has the luxury of plenty of strikers to choose from, thus he can afford to play Berahino in a couple of games before giving him a rest. It's not like West Brom will be reliant upon for him the whole season.

Albion's head coach must take great credit for the introduction of Berahino, bringing him on for Billy Jones when the right back went down with a hamstring injury. It would have been easy for Clarke to have brought another defender on, albeit they'd have been out of position. But he decided to take the attack to Crystal Palace, shifting Morgan Amalfitano to right back. While Amalfitano gave Albion fans a few heart-in-mouth moments by attempting tricks around his own box, on a whole he was solid defensively and he also gave West Brom a two-pronged threat down the right hand side, linking up well with Berahino.

The second moment of quality came late on in the game, through a combination of Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley. Brunt's chipped corner was placed perfectly for McAuley to run onto the ball and power a header into the net for his second goal of the season, making him West Brom's joint highest scorer in the Premier League this season! McAuley does seem to have developed a happy knack of finding the net at good times, such as the late equaliser against Fulham this season and the first goal against Liverpool last season which also came late on.

It was also Brunt who provided the corner for McAuley's first goal of the season and the Northern Ireland duo seem to have developed a good understanding in these situations. Brunt comes in for some criticism from Albion fans, but yesterday he did show why he is still an important player for West Brom. Brunt possesses fantastic quality on the ball, from both dead ball and open play. His quality on the ball means that Albion often retain possession far more effectively when he plays.

Brunt might not provide the pace and trickery of a Scott Sinclar, Sessegnon or Amalfitano, but he arguably has the best final ball of any of The Baggies midfield players. He didn't really get to demonstrate that yesterday from open play, especially in the second half when he was moved to a more central role, but his delivery from corners and free kicks was spot on nine times out of 10. He might not be the vital cog he once was, but the club captain remains a great asset for Clarke.

Although West Brom weren't at their best, it is always considered the sign of a good side if they win when playing badly. This was a game a few seasons back that Albion would have drawn or even lost, but they now possess a greater amount of quality than in those last few seasons. It is not the kind of display you want to see too often, but it is oddly encouraging to see a team play below par and still win.

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