Anelka nicks Long’s glory as Baggies hit six

Wearing the famous striped shirt of West Bromwich Albion, Shane Long last night made his first appearance back at Turner’s Cross since leaving for England in 2005, and the one-time Cork City rookie marked the occasion by also registering his first goal at the venue, as the Premier League side eventually ran out easy winners against a mix ‘n’ match home side in front of a crowd of 2,371.

Anelka nicks Long’s glory as Baggies hit six

But even Long was comfortably overshadowed on the night by a five-star performance from Nicolas Anelka who notched up a hat-trick and generally oozed class as he turned in something of a masterclass for his new club, without even appearing to work up much of a sweat.

Jonas Olsson and Gabriel Tamas — the latter nursing a knee injury — were the only absentees from the Premier League squad which had flown into Cork earlier in the day but, although new signing Diego Lugano, the captain of Uruguay, did make the trip, his minimal preparation time meant he was never going to be involved in last night’s action.

Swedish international Olsson — who will be expected to play against Ireland in next month’s World Cup qualifier — was reportedly “fully-fit” yet had made a pre-arranged visit to his home country to see a tendon specialist, Baggies boss Steve Clarke maintaining that the club were keen to be proactive about managing the defender’s workload this season.

For West Brom, Long — named captain for the night — was joined in the starting line-up by former Irish international Steven Reid. But the man from Tipp wasn’t the only old boy returning to the Cross — former Rebels favourite Liam Kearney, back from playing his football in Australia, was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up and could yet end up playing for City again on a more regular basis. Also back from Oz and into the starting 11 was another former City man, Ray Lally, as newly installed caretaker manager Stuart Ashton rotated his troops across the two halves with one big eye on Friday’s potential six-pointer against Bohemians.

After returning from injury in the cup win over Kilbarrack United, Colin Healy brought his experience to the Cork side as captain but it was Anelka who showed the early touches of class in a roving role behind Long. West Brom dominated possession in the opening phase, the bulk of the game being playing in the home half, but 10 minutes in, as Cork began to settle and Kearney rolled back the years with a couple of crosses from the left flank, Healy drew an appreciative cheer when outwitting Anelka with a neat piece of skill.

Still, it was hardly a surprise when Anelka, making the game look ridiculously easy at times, got on the end of a Graham Dorrans cross at the near post and used his chest to give West Brom the lead in the 25th minute.

Though Long was struggling to make an impact, a couple of more good chances still went a-begging for the visitors before the Tipp man himself came close when getting on the end of a Steven Reid cross. But it was Cork who threatened next when, first, Andy O’Connell directed a header from a superb Daryl Horgan cross straight at Ben Foster and then, taken by surprise, Ciaran Kilduff couldn’t profit from the keeper’s kamikaze attempt at a throw out.

And how City were made to pay, Anelka turning provider for Graham Dorrans to make it two with a beautifully curled effort into the corner on the stroke of half-time.

The irrepressible Anelka immediately lit up the second half with a superb strike to make it three before Long finally claimed his first goal at Turner’s Cross with a strong solo run and finish as West Brom doubled their tally inside the opening minutes of the second period.

Then, in the 63rd minute it was five, Long sprinting away before setting up Anelka for his coolly taken hat-trick and, to make matters worse for City, even when they were awarded the consolation of a soft penalty, Andy O’Connell could only blast it over the bar.

Rubbing salt in the wounds, Dorrans claimed his second goal in the 73rd minute to make it a thumping six on the night for West Brom.

CORK CITY: Ryan (D. Browne 77), Kavanagh (A Browne), E. Murphy, Spillane, Lally (Forde 75), Horgan (Kenny 56), Lenihan (G Morrissey 85), Healy (Duggan 45, D. Murphy 77), Kearney (Abbott 75), O’Connell (McAleavy 77), Kilduff (Lehane 56).

WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Foster (Myhill 65), Reid, McCauley (Ridgewell 65), Dawson, Popov, Dorrans (Ruufe 77), Malumbu, Yacob (Morisson 45), Brunt (Berahino 65), Anelka (Jones 77), Long (Rosenberg 65).

Referee: Anthony Buttimer.

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