Ahmed Hegazi described scoring on his Premier League debut as “a fantastic feeling” as he helped West Brom beat Bournemouth in a tepid encounter at The Hawthorns.
Bournemouth had the majority of possession but failed to capitalise, and there was a sense of inevitability as a Baggies free-kick was safely nodded in by the Egyptian defender.
The Cherries had only one effort on target and that came in the final moments of the game as Nathan Ake headed a corner tamely into Ben Foster’s arms.
Tony Pulis’ summer signings performed well, with another debutant Jay Rodriguez twice coming close, and it was a tidy opening day performance for the Baggies.
“It is a very important thing that the team is winning,” added Hegazi. “I know before, we had fantastic defenders in our team and we tried to do more.”
Baggies’ new boys perform well on debut
West Brom rounded off their home campaign last season with four 1-0 defeats – but Pulis’ summer acquisitions gave his side the edge over Bournemouth, where he began his managerial career 25 years ago.
Striker Rodriguez, who joined from Southampton for £12m, set the tempo from the off and was well supported by Hegazi, who nearly added a second goal with an attempt from the edge of the box.
Prior to arriving at West Brom, the centre-back had struggled with injury, but he put that behind him with a strong showing, twice beating Joshua King for pace as the Cherries attempted to defend set-pieces.
The main concern for Pulis will be his side’s finishing. Rodriguez frequently found himself in good positions but curled consecutive attempts wide, and Chris Brunt sliced an effort across goal, despite being handed plenty of space by Bournemouth.
“How we never scored more than one, I just don’t know. We had the most shots on goal and the most corners,” Pulis reflected.
“But we need to get some players in, and quickly. They have to be players that will improve us and we have to work hard over the next two weeks.”
When Bournemouth did attack, West Brom did what they have done best over the past few seasons – defending stoutly to frustrate their opponents and keep themselves in front.
Deja vu for Bournemouth
There was a sense of inevitability about West Brom’s strike – having scored 49% of their goals last season from set-pieces, they continued that run with the aid of some poor Bournemouth defending.
The Cherries looked unsure from the opening moments, struggling to deal with two early Albion throws, and five Cherries shirts were rooted to the spot as Hegazi rounded them and nodded the ball beyond Asmir Begovic.
Bournemouth have now conceded goals from set-pieces on three successive visits to The Hawthorns, and only West Brom’s poor finishing prevented a heavier defeat, with Rodriguez twice curling the ball beyond the near post.
The visitors’ defensive frailties could have been worse had it not been for keeper Begovic – making his second Cherries debut after a loan spell in 2007 – who moved sharply throughout the match, getting down low to block a close-range Rodriguez shot and parrying Salomon Rondon’s attempt from distance in stoppage time.
Bournemouth ended the match with two-thirds of the possession but only that one shot on target – a hint of the work that manager Eddie Howe has in front of him this season.
“It is unlike us to have so much possession and to not create chances is the most disappointing thing,” Howe said. “We controlled the game but we have to be a lot more efficient with the possession.”
Man of the match – Jay Rodriguez (West Brom)
Cherries’ opening day struggles continue – the stats you need to know
- West Brom have won successive opening league fixtures for the first time since 1992.
- Bournemouth have lost all three of their opening day fixtures in the Premier League, going down 1-0 to Aston Villa in 2015, 3-1 to Manchester United last year and now WBA.
- The Baggies had 28.8% possession – the 15th occasion they have had less than 30% possession in a Premier League game under Pulis. Of those 15, they have won six.
- Albion’s Rekeem Harper is only the second player born this century (8 March 2000) to play in the Premier League, after Manchester United’s Angel Gomes on the final day of the 2016-17 season.
- Chris Brunt has provided 14 assists direct from dead-ball scenarios in the Premier League since August 2014, more than any other player during this period.
- Ahmed Hegazi is the first West Brom player to score on his Premier League debut since loanee Thievy in February 2014.
- With Hegazi’s goal added to Mohamed Salah’s strike for Liverpool earlier in the day, it was the first time that two Egyptians have scored on the same day in the Premier League since 1 November 2008 (Mido and Amr Zaki).
‘This season is a fresh start’ – what they said
West Brom forward Jay Rodriguez: “It is a fresh start and I love football, and to be given the opportunity to play is brilliant. I was dying to score. The main thing is to get the three points for the team.
“We are a tight-knit squad and the lads made me feel welcome as soon as I came in. We want to win games and push up the table.”
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe: “The build-up to the goal was very disappointing – we gave away a needless free-kick, and against West Brom that is a dangerous thing.
“We have had enough football in pre-season to be ready, and I thought we were ready. The pitch was slow, and that is not an excuse. All our substitutes came on and gave us a bounce effect.
“We had our best spell towards the end of the game. I expected us to have the possession that we did but I thought we would have been more creative with it.”
West Brom travel to Burnley on Saturday, 19 August, while Bournemouth host Watford at Vitality Stadium on the same day.
Follow Match of the Day on Instagram for the best photos from the world of football.