Stoke 0-1 West Brom: Salomon Rondon nets winner after two red cards for the hosts
By James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 29/08/15 9:28pm
Stoke's Ibrahim Afellay and Charlie Adam were given straight red cards as West Brom took advantage to win 1-0 and earn their first Premier League victory of the season.
Salomon Rondon handed his manager Tony Pulis a successful return to his former club by scoring the only goal in first-half stoppage time, when Stoke had already been reduced to nine men for a pair of separate violent conduct offences.
The game hinged on the two red-card decisions by referee Michael Oliver within seven minutes of each other for the home side. Firstly, after 25 minutes, an innocuous-looking foul from Craig Gardner on Afellay around the half-way mark turned ugly. The ex-Barcelona midfielder, frustrated at having his progress halted, flicked his hand towards Gardner's face when he returned to his feet.
After taking a few moments to book Gardner, Oliver gave Afellay his marching orders and he would be joined in the changing room by a team-mate shortly after.
Adam and Craig Dawson clashed near the touchline, immediately prompting the assistant referee's frantic flag-waving. Oliver consulted with him and concluded that Adam stamped on his grounded opponent, and he was also red carded much to Stoke's chagrin.
Baggies boss Pulis reacted by immediately whipping off his holding midfielder, Claudio Yacob, and sending Rickie Lambert on to further harm depleted Stoke.
Pulis was unable to call upon Saido Berahino, who missed a third straight match having handed in a transfer request after Tottenham's two failed bids.
The veteran Lambert made a quick impact by twice shooting from distance and forcing Jack Butland into saves before setting up the opening goal.
The Potters, forced further and further towards their own goal, were desperate to head into the break goalless but were thwarted in the final moments when Lambert picked up possession outside the box.
Rondon, the Baggies' £12m summer recruit, peeled away to the far post and guided Lambert's cross past the despairing Butland. The whistle sounded soon after, to leave Mark Hughes looking furious on the touchline.
West Brom tried to turn the screw in the second half but, with Stoke forced to sit deep, rarely threatened to have the quality required to hurt the hosts.
Their best chance may have been within moments of the restart when Rondon found the roof of the net with a looping header. After 51 minutes, the Venezuelan nodded a corner feebly wide before Darren Fletcher's 20-yard drive almost ricocheted into the bottom corner.
Stoke, reduced to a puncher's chance, gamely counter-attacked through Xherdan Shaqiri, their gifted home debutant who displayed flashes of his skill but frequently had too large a task.
The hosts' best opportunity was a stoppage-time free-kick from 25 yards which Marko Arnautovic weakly struck into the grateful wall of defenders.
The win moves West Brom off the foot of the Premier League table and condemns Stoke to a fourth winless match.
Stoke: Butland (6); Johnson (7), Cameron (7), Muniesa (7), Pieters (7); Whelan (5), van Ginkel (5); Shaqiri (7), Adam (3), Afellay (3); Diouf (6).
Subs: Wilson (6), Arnautovic (7), Ireland (5).
West Brom: Myhill (6), Dawson (6), McAuley (6), Olsson (6), Lescott (6), Gardner (7), Fletcher (7), Yacob (6), Morrison (7), McClean (6), Rondon (7).
Subs: Lambert (7), Gamboa (5), McManaman (7).
Man of the match: Rickie Lambert.