Saido Berahino showed why West Brom stood so firm to hang onto him this summer after scoring the winner in Albion’s 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at Villa Park.
The England Under-21 striker was linked to a move to Tottenham in the summer transfer window, and threatened to go on strike after Albion rejected several bids for him.
Tony Pulis brought him back into the squad last weekend, but on Saturday he started in the West Midlands derby – and proved to be the match-winner for the visitors.
Berahino opened the scoring on 39 minutes when he deflected a shot from James Morrison past Brad Guzan, and was replaced by Craig Gardner on 67 minutes.
Albion sat back on their lead but were breathing a sigh of relief when the referee disallowed a second-half headed goal from Micah Richards, awarding Villa a free-kick following a foul in the build-up.
The Baggies started the game on the front foot and could have scored in the first minute, when Salomon Rondon’s header was clawed away by Villa number one Guzan.
Jonny Evans headed a chance over the crossbar as Albion dominated the early stages, with Brunt being booked before Darren Fletcher’s 20-yard drive was tipped over by Guzan.
Villa finally got a foothold in the game around the half-hour mark, when Ashley Westwood blazed a shot over from 25 yards and Carles Gil’s goalbound shot was blocked bravely by Claudio Yacob.
The only goal of the game came six minutes before the break, though, when Morrison let fly from 18 yards out, only for Berahino’s deft touch to wrongfoot Guzan and send the ball into the net.
Tim Sherwood read the riot act during the interval and took off winger Scott Sinclair, sending on the aerial threat of striker Rudy Gestede.
That change galvanised the hosts and Boaz Myhill made his first save of the game on 54 minutes, when he kept our Carlos Sanchez’s 18-yard strike.
Gil steered a free-kick straight at the Albion keeper, while at the other end Guzan recovered well after fumbling a fierce shot from the lively Rondon.
There was some controversy on 65 when Berahino was penalised for a handball just outside the Albion box – Alan Hutton’s cross actually hit the striker’s side, but it was inside the penalty area.
And there was more frustration for the home fans seven minutes later when Richards headed home a fine cross from Jack Grealish, only to see the referee call play back for a Villa free-kick following a foul on the midfielder.
The result leave Sherwood’s Villans just above the relegation zone on four points, while Albion’s win sees them move up to 10th place in the Premier League table.