LONDON (REUTERS) - Hal Robson-Kanu marked his first start for West Bromwich Albion by smashing in a spectacular goal to secure a 2-1 comeback Premier League win at Southampton on Saturday (Dec 31).
Shane Long had headed his first of the season after 41 minutes to give Southampton a deserved lead while West Brom looked as if they were still on the bus, having been forced to travel to the South Coast by road in the morning after their Friday night flight was cancelled.
But Matt Phillips curled in a nice equaliser two minutes later after being set up by Robson-Kanu, and the visitors never looked back.
Assister-in-chief Phillips turned provider with a neat pass to send Robson-Kanu clear five minutes after the restart.
The striker, whose last goal was his Cruyff-turn classic for Wales in their Euro 2016 quarter-final victory over Belgium, took it in his stride before hammering a powerful 20-metre strike into the roof of the net.
The goal brings a happy end to what has been a memorable year for Robson-Kanu.
When he travelled to France with Wales he was without a club, having been released by Championship side Reading. But he put himself very much in the shop window with his performances during his country’s dream run to the semi-finals.
His brilliant effort against Belgium was even short-listed for the Puskas award for the best goal of the year, although nobody looked like picking him up until Tony Pulis took him to West Brom on transfer deadline day in August.
He then had to stay patient as the form of Salomon Rondon kept him on the bench until Saturday, but Pulis’s decision to send him in on Saturday paid off.
“It was a smashing strike from Hal,” Pulis said.
“We were shocking in the first half really, off the pace of the game, but the first goal lifted us and second half we played really well.
“Robson-Kanu has been very good at the club. When he’s come on he’s been excellent. We felt it was the right time to give Salomon Rondon a rest. Now I have a problem Monday: Who do I pick?”
Southampton, hammered 4-1 at home by Tottenham Hotspur last time out, did little to get back into the game and had centre back Virgil Van Dijk sent off for a second yellow two minutes from time.
Southampton had started the day in eighth, one place and one point above West Brom, but the result means the teams swapped positions.