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Published: 17:38 | 6/3/16

Rondon strike downs United

Victory leaves Baggies effectively safe

Salomon Rondon struck the only goal as West Bromwich Albion secured a 1-0 home triumph over Manchester United in the Premier League.

United played the majority of the match with 10 men, Juan Mata having picked up two bookings in as many first-half minutes to receive a red card from referee Mike Dean.

West Brom lost Craig Dawson to injury early in the second period, with Sebastien Pocognoli brought on for a rare league appearance.

From the Belgian substitute’s cross, Rondon finished expertly to break the deadlock with a quarter of the clash remaining.

United were unable to fashion a clear opportunity in the time that was left, ensuring a defeat that leaves Louis van Gaal’s troops three points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who boast a game in hand over their local rivals.

Tony Pulis and his side will feel that they are very close to securing their spot in next season’s top flight, with 39 points on the board, 15 clear of the relegation zone.

The Baggies, having threatened through a Saido Berahino that Chris Smalling blocked, were boosted by the dismissal of Mata, who prevented a free-kick from being taken quickly and subsequently chopped at Darren Fletcher to receive his marching orders.

Almost immediately following Mata’s exit, a spectacular looping effort from Dawson went with within inches of sending West Brom ahead.

Anthony Martial, though, could well have given United a half-time advantage, if not for a strong and timely challenge by Gareth McAuley.

Following the interval, United continued to belie their numerical disadvantage, as efforts from Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Danny Blind worried the hosts.

However, inattentive defending from the visitors allowed Rondon to control Pocognoli’s low cross, swivel and direct a left-footed finish beyond the reach of David De Gea.

United enjoyed plenty of possession during the remaining quarter but were unable to create a decent opportunity to take a point, conjuring up familiar concerns regarding the inability of Louis van Gaal’s side to penetrate.

That said, of course, the sending off of Mata had a great impact on the clash, leaving the Red Devils not only with a man less, but arguably their most inventive player.

United must quickly recover from the defeat at The Hawthorns ahead of highly testing fortnight, with both legs of a Europa League tie against Liverpool, an FA Cup clash with West Ham and the Manchester derby all on the horizon.

West Brom have only the Premier League for entertainment but with safety all but guaranteed - indeed, European qualification is not out of the question - it may yet prove to be a satisfactory campaign for the West Midlands outfit.

By David Maher

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