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West Brom up and running after narrow victory over Bournemouth

The Independent logo The Independent 4 days ago Ian Whittell
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Egyptian defender Ahmed Hegazi scored West Brom’s first home league goal since March as Tony Pulis’s side opened the new campaign with a victory that helped Albion supporters forget a frustrating summer in the transfer window.

Albion’s campaign fizzled out disappointingly last season and Hegazi’s first half opening goal was the first at The Hawthorns in 406 minutes, since a 3-1 win over Arsenal.

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Hegazi, who had an unsuccessful spell in Italy with Fiorentina earlier in his career before moving to play for leading Egyptian side Al Ahly, impressed along with his fellow newcomer, striker Jay Rodriguez.

And after 31 minutes he was on hand to sprint into the area and head a Chris Brunt free-kick past Bournemouth debutant Asmir Begovic from close range.

It was no more than Albion deserved as they opened a new season in which Pulis, fresh with a new two-year contract that he signed this week, will be under pressure to maintain their status as a solid mid-table Premier League side.

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Pulis has been open in his team’s limitations in the window to date, although reports yesterday suggested on-going interest in Barcelona’s former Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is moving closer.

But the two signings the Albion manager has made to date certainly look to have improved a squad that ended last season in desultory fashion, with two draws and seven defeats in their final nine games.

Rodriguez, picked up from Southampton for £12 million, looked like the player who won at England cap in 2013 before three, injury-ravaged seasons interrupted his progress.

After eight minutes, his intelligent touch set up a good opening for Matt Phillips which his team mate shot disappointingly off target.

And Rodriguez found himself on the end of four good chances over the next quarter of an hour, seeing two well saved by Begovic, heading over from a corner and curling a shot just wide of the far post.

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Just after his goal, the on-loan Hegazi might have doubled the lead, and made an even bigger impact on his Premier League debut, as his snap shot from the edge of the area flew just wide of Begovic’s goal.

The defender also flicked on a James McClean corner before the interval, presenting Claudio Yacob with a far-post chance which the midfielder flashed wide across the face of goal.

Bournemouth, whose major summer attacking investment Jermain Defoe was on the bench after struggling with a groin injury, were disappointing at the other end of the field.

A dangerous Ryan Fraser free-kick was headed behind superbly by Brunt, with Joshua King looming menacingly, but Ben Foster was rarely troubled and sprinted quickly from his line to save at King’s feet on the visitors’ only other meaningful first half attack.

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Eddie Howe brought on Jordan Ibe as a half-time substitute and Bournemouth managed to show improvement in holding onto the ball, if not in creating clear-cut chances.

Indeed, Albion had the first meaningful opportunity of the second half when Yacob rose well and headed a McClean corner into the side-netting.

By the 65th minute, Howe calculated that Defoe could survive the remainder of the game and brought on the England forward as the visitors finally began to enjoy extended periods of possession.

Opportunities were not forthcoming, however, with King being presented with a rare half-chance from an Ibe cross with which he could not make meaningful contact. Similarly, Nathan Ake met a Fraser free-kick but could only guide it at Foster.

Hal Robson-Kanu might have eased late Albion nerves when he took Jake Livermore’s assist on his chest and swivelled but his attempt just cleared the Bournemouth goal and substitute Salomon Rondon’s powerful run ended with a shot which Begovic turned around his post.

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