WBA 2 Sunderland 2

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Cattermole and Larsson on target in hard-fought draw.

Seb Larsson's late equaliser saw Sunderland claim a share of the spoils at West Brom on the opening day of the new campaign.

On an afternoon featuring several league debutants, it was the Black Cats' longest-serving player - Lee Cattermole - who scored their first goal of the season, finding the top corner with an outstanding drive from distance just five minutes in.

Saido Berahino equalised from the penalty spot with half-time approaching before giving Albion a 74th-minute lead from close range.

But Sunderland fought back and earned themselves a point when a neat move was rounded off by a fine side-footed finish from Larsson five minutes from the end.

On the balance of play, the visitors deserved their point and they created the better chances throughout, particularly in the second period.

And head coach Gus Poyet will have been pleased to start on a positive note as his side wrestled their way back into the contest just when it seemed the hosts had the upper hand.

Fans' pre-match ponderings were answered when Poyet opted for Vito Mannone ahead of Costel Pantilimon in goal, while summer signings Patrick van Aanholt and Jack Rodwell both started the game.

Meanwhile, West Brom's Craig Gardner made his competitive Albion debut against his former club having moved back to the Midlands on a free transfer during the summer.

The teams emerged to a wall of noise from both sets of supporters on the opening day of the new campaign – and it was the visitors who were celebrating an ideal start as Cattermole struck with just five minutes played.

A free-kick to the back post was nodded back across goal by Wes Brown and an unconvincing half-clearance fell invitingly for the midfielder, who launched a rocket of a shot from distance into the top corner.

Albion keeper Ben Foster got a touch on the ball, but the power on the shot left him helpless as Cattermole notched his second goal for the club in some style.

The midfielder doesn't score many - but he'll savour this one, which is bound to be featured in a more than a few highlight reels.

Rocked by the early goal, Albion struggled to get going, although Sebastien Pocognoli fired wide from distance while the lively Berahino rippled the side-netting with a vicious drive from a narrow angle.

Valentin Roberge could have doubled the visitors' advantage when he met Larsson's delivery on the half-hour, but the Albion defence breathed a sigh of relief as the Frenchman's header dropped wide of the far post.

Back came the hosts, with Chris Brunt firing inches wide before Gardner saw a piledriver tipped over brilliantly by Mannone. 

However, Albion weren't to be denied and they levelled three minutes before the break through Berahino's penalty after Roberge was adjudged to have pulled back Victor Anichebe.

Mannone had to be alert to gather another effort from Berahino as the hosts went in on top at the break.

Albion thought they were ahead when Craig Dawson bundled the ball across the line four minutes into the second period, but the flag was raised on the far side for a foul and the defender's celebrations were cut short.

The hosts were pressing, but Sunderland generated an excellent chance 53 minutes in via Connor Wickham, who volleyed powerfully wide at the back post after being left unmarked at a corner.

Anichebe then pulled a shot well wide when in a great position before it was Sunderland's turn to have a goal ruled out - Steven Fletcher's back-post header correctly chalked off for offside on the hour after Cattermole's delivery was flicked on.

Rodwell and Adam Johnson were replaced in quick succession by Jordi Gomez and Will Buckley – the latter handed a debut having signed for the club on Thursday.

But the visitors were behind with 16 minutes to play as Berahino grabbed his second goal of the game.

Mannone got down well to turn away Brunt's shot and the ball ran wide for Gardner, whose cross was turned in by the striker with the goal at his mercy.

The Baggies were bouncing and the home crowd thought they were on their way to victory – but Sunderland had other ideas.

The equaliser, five minutes from time, was brilliantly crafted. Sub Gomez played in van Aanholt down the left, and the Dutchman's pull-back was coolly dispatched by Larsson with a side-footed finish.

It was a moment to savour for the Swede, who has set himself the task of chipping in with more goals this season. This one was a great way to start!

Albion applied late pressure as they searched for a winner – but the visitors held firm to ensure they started the season on a positive note.

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Team Sheet

Foster
1
Pocognoli
15
Yellow Dawson
25
Yellow Olsson
3
Wisdom
2
Brunt (Baird)
11
Gardner (Yacob)
8
Yellow Dorrans (Sessegnon)
17
Mulumbu
21
Anichebe
10
Berahino
18
Mannone
25
van Aanholt
3
Brown (Altidore)
5
Roberge Yellow
29
O'Shea
16
Rodwell (Gomez Garcia-Penche)
8
Wickham
10
Johnson (Buckley)
11
Cattermole
6
Larsson
7
Fletcher
9

Substitutes

Davidson
14
Yacob
5
Ideye
9
Sessegnon
29
Baird
4
O'Neil
20
Myhill
13
Bridcutt
4
Gomez Garcia-Penche
14
Altidore
17
Buckley
30
Pantilimon
1
Graham
19
Mavrias
18