Saido Berahino struck to continue his West Brom comeback as the Baggies claimed a deserved victory at Aston Villa. Press Association 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. 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. PLAYER RATINGS Aston Villa 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 Subs Rudy Gestede: 6 Jordan Veretout: 6 Leandro Bacuna: 6 West Brom: Boaz Myhill: 6 Craig Dawson: 7 Gareth McAuley: 7 Jonny Evans: 7 Chris Brunt: 7 James Morrison:7 Darren Fletcher: 7 Claudio Yacob: 7 James McClean: 7 Salomon Rondon: 7 Saido Berahino: 8 Subs: Craig Gardner: 6 Jonas Olsson: 6 Rickie Lambert: 6 STAR PLAYER: 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) 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.
To prepare for UCLA’s attack, the Trojans are practicing defending against a mix of roll-shots and hard swings. USC struggled to defend this mix of shots against Yale, and UCLA excels at mixing up its hits. Crouch hopes to have a more consistent rotation once everyone is healthy. Just two players for the Trojans have played in all 39 sets this year: last year’s Pac-12 Freshman of the Year setter Raquel Lázaro and senior middle blocker Jasmine Gross. This past weekend, Crouch began that process by subbing just four times all match. Though as the team is fighting through injuries, it is coming closer to full health. Senior opposite hitter Emily Baptista is expected to make her full return this week. Baptista, still recovering from a knee injury, has only played in 10 sets so far this season — all in the Trojan Invitational two weekends ago. The tilt between USC and UCLA will begin conference play for both teams. UCLA enters the match with a record of 5-4 but is coming off two straight 3-0 defeats. The Trojans can now count on consistent contributions from All-American senior outside hitter Khalia Lanier, who recovered from a concussion suffered earlier in the season. Despite missing two weeks of play, Lanier is third on the team in kills with 92 and has posted a .316 kill rate this season. The Trojans’ current starting rotation still lacks experience and faces various injuries — but head coach Brent Crouch sees a silver lining. “So while we haven’t started clicking yet with the starting group, overall I think because people are getting out there and playing a lot … the team-building part is way more advanced than it was last year,” Crouch said. The team’s leader in kills, freshman outside hitter Kalen Owes, sat out in the matchup with Long Beach State. “We were really clicking against Long Beach [State], and I didn’t want to disrupt that flow,” Crouch said. Though the Bruins run a tricky offense, they have only two hitters with over 50 kills this season compared to five for USC. The Bruins’ leading hitter is junior outside hitter Mac May, an All-American honorable mention last year. The return of injured senior opposite Emily Baptista (left) will give an inconsistent USC squad a much-needed boost as it begins conference play. (Tal Volk | Daily Trojan) The Trojans have seen their ranking steadily drop from No. 14 all the way to No. 25 after a shaky 6-4 start. Battered with injuries, the talented roster has yet to reach its full potential. Facing UCLA on the road is always a difficult matchup for any USC team, but the atmosphere at UCLA’s home opener will prove even tougher than usual. “There’s the challenge of the venue, of the energy that will be for UCLA in that match,” Crouch said. “The emotions that are connected with playing your rival and learning how to play our game despite those distractions will be important, and I think we are getting good at that.” “They are going to be fired up to play us,” Crouch said. “We won the last few, but they are always going to be motivated to give us their best.” UCLA mostly runs an offense that includes two setters, meaning there are always three hitters available — making the offense difficult to defend. The Trojans enter the matchup after an up-and-down weekend in San Diego. USC lost in a hard-fought five-set match to USD then bounced back with a dominant sweep of Long Beach State. USC went 2-0 against the Bruins in 2018, sweeping them in the first matchup and winning a five-set battle in the second. USC and UCLA’s storied crosstown rivalry will be renewed Wednesday when the No. 25 Trojans women’s volleyball team travels to Pauley Pavilion.