Lambert shines as Saints seal success
A late penalty from man-of-the-moment Rickie Lambert ensured Southampton's Barclays Premier League season got off to a winning start with a 1-0 victory against West Brom at The Hawthorns.
Lambert, who headed the winning goal in midweek against Scotland with the first touch of his England debut, coolly dispatched the spot-kick in the 90th minute after Luke Shaw had been brought down in the box by Youssouf Mulumbu.
It sealed a deserved three points for the Saints, who had been the better side for most of the contest.
They had their goalkeeper Artur Boruc to thank as the death, though, as the Poland international pulled off a great save to keep out Billy Jones' header.
There appeared to be signs of early-season nerves in the opening stages of the game, with West Brom's number one Ben Foster making a hash of an attempted catch and Boruc then giving away a corner by fumbling a James Morrison shot.
Southampton did seem to be settling quicker, however, and Foster's palms were stung by a long-range James Ward-Prowse effort just before the quarter-hour mark.
At the other end Gareth McAuley nodded a Graham Dorrans corner well over, but Southampton were soon pressuring again.
Ward-Prowse's free-kick into the box fell to Lambert, who saw his shot on the turn well blocked by McAuley, and a scramble ensued, with Adam Lallana also striking the ball against a Baggies shirt before the hosts got it away.
Albion attempted to get a grip on the game and when Jonas Olsson nodded the ball to Mulumbu from a free-kick, the midfielder struck an effort wide off one of his team-mates.
Southampton then had the ball in the net as Lambert headed a delivery from Calum Chambers - making his first senior Saints start - back across the area for Lallana to poke in at the far post, but the assistant referee's flag was raised.
West Brom had their closest effort yet three minutes later, with Dorrans curling a free-kick around the wall and on to the roof of the net, but Southampton remained the more likely-looking side to score and in the final moments of the first half Shaw saw his swerving shot from distance pushed behind by Foster.
The pattern remained the same as the second period got under way, with Jose Fonte nodding over - and being penalised for his efforts - before Lambert produced a header that was easy for Foster to gather.
Jay Rodriguez was next up, firing against the bar, although play had already been stopped for a foul.
In the 56th minute Albion fashioned a decent-looking opportunity but Shane Long spurned it, opting to try a clever flick in the box that sent the ball wide.
Morrison then had a shot from the edge of the box blocked and moments later the same thing happened from closer range.
The ball went to the Scotland international in the danger zone from Jones and Morrison could not make the most of it, with Chambers getting himself in the way.
A couple of substitutions then saw West Brom take off one striker recruited over the summer in Nicolas Anelka and send another on in Matej Vydra, but it was the Saints who had the final say.
Mulumbu dragged down Shaw as he burst into the box and Lambert - as he so often does - kept his head to convert from the spot.
Jones almost found an equaliser in the last few seconds, but Boruc got down to deny him.