Saido Berahino shows his value to West Brom as Aston Villa suffer
Saido Berahino struck to continue his West Brom comeback as the Baggies claimed a deserved victory at Aston Villa.
The striker poked in his first goal of the season - and first since since threatening to strike earlier this month - to clinch a 1-0 win at Villa Park.
It was all Albion as they out-thought and out-battled Villa during a tight Barclays Premier League derby.
There are no issues between the Baggies squad and Berahino, despite his off-field antics as he tried to force through a move to Tottenham, and his goal underlined his value to the side.
Albion had scored just once in their previous three games.
He also repaired any lasting fractures with the West Brom fans and the 22-year-old threw his shirt into the travelling support at full-time.
But Villa's worries continue to grow, with Tim Sherwood's side without a Barclays Premier League win since the opening day following another tepid display.
They host fierce rivals Birmingham in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday and defeat is not an option after an unconvincing start.
The Baggies started Berahino, along with James Morrison and James McClean, for the first time since rejecting two deadline-day bids from Tottenham and made a bright start as Brad Guzan produced a fine stop to keep out Salomon Rondon's flicked header inside two minutes.
Albion's £12million record scorer impressed all afternoon as he gave the visitors a fine unselfish focal point, even if he failed to score.
It was in stark contrast to Gabby Agbonlahor who toiled against the strong Albion defence, who have now kept four straight clean sheets.
Agbonlahor has now scored just four goals in his last 31 games and his lack of penetration leads to legitimate questions over his role in the Villa side.
He lost out in every aerial tussle but did worry Albion after 26 minutes when he wriggled free on the left and crossed for the onrushing Carles Gil, who was denied by a brilliant block by Claudio Yacob.
It was Villa's best opening but they relied on Guzan five minutes later when he tipped Darren Fletcher's drive wide.
The game desperately needed a goal as it threatened to limp to half-time, and Berahino kept to the script as he delivered six minutes before the break.
A brilliant Craig Dawson tackle allowed McClean to cross from the right.
He found Rondon to lay off for Morrison, and his 18-yard effort was deliberately deflected past Guzan by Berahino.
Villa were jeered off and Sherwood reacted by sending on Rudy Gestede for Scott Sinclair at the break.
Carlos Sanchez and Gil shot straight at Boaz Myhill during a muted Villa response as Albion comfortably maintained their lead.
Guzan claimed Rondon's drive at the second attempt on the hour before Villa were denied a penalty after 65 minutes.
Berahino looked to be inside the area when he blocked Alan Hutton's cross, with referee Martin Atkinson giving a free-kick for handball just outside the box.
It infuriated Villa, although whether the ball hit Berahino's arm was also up for debate, but they wasted the free-kick.
Albion broke and Rondon shot straight at Guzan before Villa cursed the officials again with 20 minutes left.
Micah Richards headed past Myhill but the hosts had already been awarded a free-kick following a foul on Jack Grealish.
Villa, though, never looked like breaking the Baggies down again and Gestede headed over in injury time to waste their final chance.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
@WBAFCofficial: "Several Albion players throw their shirts into the crowd and @SBerahino name is chanted by the 2,800 Albion fans inside Villa Park" - The reintegration comes a full circle according to West Brom's twitter account.
Brad Guzan: 6 (out of 10)
Alan Hutton: 6
Joleon Lescott: 6
Micah Richards: 6
Jordan Amavi: 6
Ashley Westwood: 6
Carlos Sanchez: 6
Carles Gil: 6
Jack Grealish: 6
Scott Sinclair: 6
Gabby Agbonlahor: 6
Rudy Gestede: 6
Jordan Veretout: 6
Leandro Bacuna: 6
Boaz Myhill: 6
Craig Dawson: 7
Gareth McAuley: 7
Jonny Evans: 7
Chris Brunt: 7
Darren Fletcher: 7
Claudio Yacob: 7
James McClean: 7
Salomon Rondon: 7
Saido Berahino: 8
Craig Gardner: 6
Jonas Olsson: 6
Rickie Lambert: 6
Saido Berahino knows how to make an impact - on and off the field - and he clinched a keenly contested derby with a poacher's finish. The striker started the game on the left, although was given scope to cut inside, and he continued his rehabilitation with a committed display.
Berahino was often helping his defenders out, although was lucky not to concede a penalty when penalised for a debatable handball when he seemed to be inside the area.
It was a welcome - and much needed - return to the Baggies' line up.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH:
Saido Berahino's goal surprised no-one. The forward has dictated West Brom's story this season with his strike threat and rejected transfer request and he continued to make the headlines.
Craig Dawson's strong tackle allowed James McClean to cross for Salomon Rondon on the edge of the box. He teed up James Morrison and Berahino stuck out a leg to deliberately divert it past the stranded Brad Guzan.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH:
Tony Pulis continues to do what he knows best as Albion kept a fourth clean sheet in all competitions.
They had previously missed Saido Berahino, with Pulis leaving him out over concerns over his state of mind during Tottenham's interest, and the manager would have been delighted with his impact and all round work-rate.
Tim Sherwood tried to address Villa's lack of punch by throwing on Rudy Gestede at the break but it did little to solve the hosts' problems.
MOAN OF THE MATCH:
The long-suffering Aston Villa fans are still looking for home comforts following another disappointing display at Villa Park.
Villa have not won in the Barclays Premier League since the opening day of the season and fell to a second straight defeat to local rivals following last week's 3-2 defeat at Leicester.
The fans booed the team off at half time and then at full time, and jeered Tim Sherwood's decision to replace crowd favourite Carles Gil with Leandro Bacuna.
Villa Park was half empty by the time the whistle blew and those who stuck around vented their anger.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Aston Villa v Birmingham (Capital One Cup, September 22)
Norwich City v West Brom (Capital One Cup, September 23)