West Bromwich Albion’s English-born Welsh striker Hal Robson-Kanu (2R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and West Bromwich Albion at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on December 31, 2016. PHOTO: Glyn KIRK / AFP
West Bromwich Albion forward Hal Robson-Kanu ended his long goal drought with a brilliant strike to seal a 2-1 win against Southampton on Saturday.
Robson-Kanu marked his first Premier League start for Albion with his first goal since his memorable effort for Wales in their shock Euro 2016 quarter-final win over Belgium.
Having joined Albion on a free transfer after his heroics with Wales, Robson-Kanu had failed to convince Baggies boss Tony Pulis that he was deserving of a single league start until the trip to St Mary’s.
But he made up for lost time after 13 substitute appearances with a superb long-range finish in the second half after Matt Phillips had cancelled out Shane Long’s opener for Southampton.
Southampton’s Virgil van Dijk sent off was sent off in the closing moments as his team slumped to a second successive home defeat.
Just three days after watching his side thrashed 4-1 by Tottenham, Saints boss Claude Puel made six changes, including dropping three defenders, but the changes brought little improvement.
Sofiane Boufal will be leaving Southampton to play in the Africa Cup of Nations for Morocco shortly and he looked in the mood to bow out on a high.
He was a constant menace, firing narrowly over from long-range and then set up Dusan Tadic for a volley that raced wide.
Boufal went close again when he whipped over a cross that curled just past the far post and the hosts’ pressure was finally rewarded in the 41st minute.
Tadic swung in a corner that picked out Long at the near post and the Irish striker’s header was too powerful for Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster.
Yet in virtually their first incisive move of the half Albion equalised two minutes later.
Claudio Yacob fed Chris Brunt and his first-time pass was flicked on by Robson-Kanu to Phillips, who took a touch before side-footing into the bottom corner.
Albion doubled down on their shock response with a second goal five minutes after half-time.
Robson-Kanu’s brilliant ‘Cruyff turn’ and cool finish against Belgium is likely to remain the highlight of his career whatever else he does, but his first goal for Albion in his first Premier League start in over three years was pretty memorable as well.
Running onto a Phillips pass, Robson-Kanu set his sights from an angle 18 yards from goal and unleashed a stunning left footed strike that flashed into the top corner.
A dispiriting day for Southampton ended on a suitably downbeat note when centre-back van Dijk was dismissed for hauling down Salomon Rondon in the 89th minute.