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West Brom 1 Bournemouth 0 - Report and pictures

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Albion haven't done much business so far this summer, but based on today the two players they have signed look like shrewd acquisitions.

Jay Rodriguez and Ahmed Hegazi shone for the Baggies in their 1-0 win over Bournemouth, and it was the big Egyptian centre-back on loan from Al Ahly who scored the all-important winner, rising highest at the back post to head in a Chris Brunt free-kick.

Hegazi, who was also brilliant at the back during the second-half, looks every inch a Pulis player, a 6ft 5in colossus willing to head balls all day long in all day box.

But it is the hunger and ability of Rodriguez that will excite the fans more and has the potential to add a new dimension to this team.

The former Southampton forward came flying out of the blocks on his Albion debut and peppered Asmir Begovic's goal for the opening 15 minutes.

Although he was unable to keep up that tempo for the whole game, with him in the team, the Baggies look far more likely to score from open play.

But this was no two-man victory. Albion's pace on the wings threatened Bournemouth, with both Matt Phillips and James McClean impressing.

Stand-in captain Jake Livermore stayed solid in midfield accompanied by the guile of Claudio Yacob, while Craig Dawson stood up to the task at centre-back following Jonny Evans's injury to his hamstring.

Albion were electric in the first half, although their visitors lacked any cutting edge and misplaced too many passes.

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They weren't quite as dominant in the second period, but this was still a well-deserved victory that should have been by a wider margin.

The encouraging thing is that it was all done with some notable omissions from the team.

Club captain Evans was removed from the squad in the morning after tweaking the same hamstring problem that ruled him out the Deportivo La Coruna friendly.

Nacer Chadli and Salomon Rondon were both named on the bench, although neither were injured.

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Rondon, who has only scored one Albion goal in 2017, was dropped in favour of Rodriguez, who led the line on his Baggies debut.

And there was no place for Chadli in the starting line-up amid interest from Swansea following his refusal to go to Pulis's Austrian training camp in the summer.

Evans's absence meant loan signing Hegazi made his competitive debut alongside Craig Dawson at the heart of defence.

But fortunately for those two, there was no place for sharp-shooting Jermain Defoe in the Bournemouth line-up.

Only Wayne Rooney has more opening-day Premier League goals than the 34-year-old, and nobody still playing has scored more league goals against Albion than Defoe.

Pulis, however, was rewarded for throwing his new forward straight in, because Rodriguez started the season like a runaway freight train, forcing Asmir Begovic into three saves in the opening quarter of an hour.

It took just two minutes for the former Southampton man had the first shot of the game, powering a rising shot from wide left that Begovic easily gathered.

Eight minutes later he forced the Cherries keeper into a sharp near-post save after latching onto Jake Livermore's knock-down from six yards out, and then soon after that he thundered another effort goalwards that Begovic palmed behind.

The £12million signing looked determined to score. He headed a corner over the bar, and was only denied a one-on-one by a brilliant sliding tackle from Steve Cook.

Then he went even closer, latching on to Chris Brunt's clipped ball down the line, Rodriguez check back inside and curled a delicious shot inches wide of the far post.

Bournemouth had plenty of the ball in the first half, but they weren't threatening nearly as much as the Baggies, who looked dangerous every time they counter-attacked.

But even though Rodriguez added a much-needed threat from open play, this Pulis team remain set-piece specialists.

So when Josh King fouled Allan Nyom in a dangerous position on the right wing, the home crowd lifted the noise levels as Brunt wandered over to the ball.

His delivery was as reliably pin-point as usual, and ghosting in at the back post was all six foot five inches of Hegazi.

The Egyptian centre-back nudged Benik Afobe forward just before Brunt delivered the ball to buy himself some space and then nodded home a towering header through Begovic's legs before wheeling away towards the Birmingham Road End in delight.

For half an hour it looked like one debutant was going to score, and then all of a sudden, the other one did.

The game sparked into life after that. Afobe went close with a header for Bournemouth before Yacob somehow missed a glorious opportunity from a Brunt corner.

Hegazi rose highest again, but he could only glance it to the back post, where Yacob was steaming in. Somehow, the midfielder skewed his shot across goal from a few yards out.

Foster was then required to sprint off his line to tackle King after Brunt and Hegazi misjudged a ball down the line, but that was a rare sight of goal for Eddie Howe's team.

Albion started the second half in a similar vein to the first, threatening from open play through the pace on the wings and looking dangerous from every set piece they took.

But there were not as many clear cut chances as the first period, and as the game wore on, Bournemouth grew in confidence.

Although they tightened up their sloppy passing, the Cherries struggled to get in behind the Baggies, and more often than not they misplaced their final ball.

Howe, who had thrown Jordon Ibe at half-time, then played his trump card, bringing on Defoe for Afobe.

Pulis's own changes spoke volumes about his squad. Sam Field, who grew into the game as it wore on, was replaced by exciting 17-year-old debutant Rekeem Harper while Chadli stayed on the bench and then Robson-Kanu was brought on for Phillips instead of Rondon.

Albion might have had a penalty soon after, when Cook mistimed his jump in the box and the ball brushed his arm, but even though the crowd wanted a spot-kick, referee Bobby Madley waved on play.

After that, Bournemouth probed and probed without really threatening, while the Baggies looked more dangerous tearing away on the counter attack.

Rondon was eventually introduced for Rodriguez with a few minutes left, and the Venezuelan forced Begovic into a full-stretch save following good work from young Harper.

But even though Albion couldn't find the second goal, it didn't matter, and when Ryan Fraser curled a tame effort into Foster's hands on the whistle, the game was done.

It's been a frustrating summer in the transfer market, but there are early signs that on the pitch, Pulis can replicate last season's campaign.

Add three or four more signings as shrewd as these two to the mix, and things could be looking very rosy indeed.

Man of the match

Ahmed Hegazi - Scored the winner on debut, and was superb at the back in the second half, when he cleared his lines on several occasions.

Teams

Albion (4-1-4-1): Foster; Nyom, Dawson, Hegazi, Brunt; Yacob; Phillips (Robson-Kanu 70), Field (Harper 69), Livermore (c), McClean; Rodriguez (Rondon 89). Unused subs: Myhill, Wilson, Leko, Chadli.

Bournemouth (4-4-1-1): Begovic; Daniels, Ake, Cook, Francis (Smith 81); Pugh (Ibe 45), Arter, Surman, Fraser; King; Afobe (Defoe 65). Unused subs: Boruc, Mings, Gosling, Mousset.

Referee: Bobby Madley

Attendance: 25,011 (22,522 home, 2,489 away)

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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