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Clarke basks in Baggies glory

Steve Clarke must feel like management is a breeze. The West Bromwich Albion head coach has barely been in the job two minutes but he has already presided over the Midlands club's best start to a top-flight season since 1978, lifting them to dizzy heights and leapfrogging Everton in the process.

Liverpool were vanquished on the opening day here and their Merseyside rivals suffered the same fate on an afternoon when goals from Shane Long, who had hit the bar with a header in the first half, and Gareth McAuley inflicted a first defeat of the season on Everton.

It was a disappointing afternoon for David Moyes's side and in particular for Marouane Fellaini, who wasted several decent chances, including a golden opportunity just before Long gave Albion the lead. The Belgian cut a frustrated figure as he argued with the referee, Jon Moss, about being penalised for free-kicks, and his miserable day was complete when he picked up a second-half booking for a foul on Long.

By that point the game was slipping away from an Everton team who had arrived full of confidence and looking to make it three straight league victories at the start of a season for the first time in 19 years. Although Fellaini was guilty of profligacy, Everton never clicked as an attacking force and found Albion a very different proposition to the Aston Villa side who rolled over last weekend.

Albion looked solid defensively, have two excellent holding midfielders in the shape of Claudio Yacob and Youssouf Mulumbu, and carry a threat on the counterattack.

"It was a good game for us," said Clarke, whose side drew at White Hart Lane in between their wins over Liverpool and Everton. "The first half was a bit cagey but in the second half, when the game opened up a little bit, I thought we were good value. It's a good start to the season. When you looked at the games we had, you thought it would be difficult. But seven points from nine is something to build on."

Long's goal, which came at the end of a flowing move that started at the back and ended with the substitute Peter Odemwingie delivering a sublime cross from the left that implored the Albion striker to stab home, came at a crucial juncture in the game. Fellaini had just side-footed high and wide with the goal at his mercy and a couple of minutes prior to that Moyes had gone for broke, replacing Steven Naismith with Kevin Mirallas to chase three points. It was a tactical decision that the Everton manager was left to regret.

"I made a change to try to go for it because I thought we weren't doing enough to score and in opening up we conceded a goal from it, so I probably should have stayed the way we were.''

There was certainly no way back for Everton -- who lost Darron Gibson to a thigh strain in the first half -- once McAuley headed home Chris Brunt's inswinging corner.


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