West Bromwich put together their finest performance under Tony Pulis as they equalled their biggest victory in the Premier League era, having beaten the same opponents by the identical score here two years ago.
They felled Leicester before the international break, now a second consecutive win lifts West Brom to ninth and all of a sudden within striking distance of the European places.
Burnley, by contrast, were a limp imitation of the team who have beaten Liverpool and Everton, with manager Sean Dyche describing his players as ‘weak-willed’ and ‘miles off’ their usual standards.
I could have taken at least nine of them off but that would have made it an even more one-sided affair,’ he said. ‘We got drunk on keeping the ball and that is what they want so they can counter. We got sucked into it — even though we had told the players what to expect.’
Any hopes Burnley had of keeping the game tight were shredded inside four minutes. Chris Brunt supplied James Morrison on the overlap and while his low cross lacked threat, Dean Marney’s attempted interception gave the ball straight to Phillips inside the six-yard box. The West Brom winger accepted the invitation, turning neatly round Ben Mee and firing firmly into the roof of the net.
Dyche’s side could have been level in the 14th minute but Jeff Hendrick clipped his finish over the bar and two minutes later the visitors fell further behind. Brunt gained possession and hit a pinpoint ball up to Salomon Rondon, who outmuscled a touch-tight Michael Keane. The Venezuela striker swivelled to feed Morrison, who continued his charge to the edge of the area and fashioned a deceptively fine finish, curling the ball past Tom Heaton with the inside of his right boot.
Five minutes later, Morrison nearly scored again. Heaton erred badly in trying to pass out from the back, sending the ball straight to the Scotland international but his shot floated harmlessly wide.
Such was West Brom’s control and vitality though, the Smethwick End burst into a rare chorus of ‘We’ve got Tony Pulis’ and requested a wave from the obliging head coach, who has not always been a popular figure at the Hawthorns.
Those fans were nearly cheering another goal just after the half-hour. Rondon collected the ball from Allan Nyom 20 yards out and took aim. His measured shot was dipping into the top corner before Heaton sprung left and reached up to produce a stupendous save.
That was merely delaying the inevitable as it became 3-0 in the 37th minute. Burnley’s midfield was once again far too porous, providing Phillips with acres on the left wing. He reached the byline and chipped a cross to the far post that Darren Fletcher met on the half-volley from close range for his first Premier League goal since last December.
Gordon Strachan would have noted all three scorers are available to his Scotland team, even if Phillips has been curiously overlooked recently. It was only the second time three different Scotland players had scored in a Premier League match.
There was little let-up from the hosts and in the 64th minute Rondon got the goal his lung-busting display deserved. West Brom built a fine move, Morrison’s deft touch to Phillip’s pass sending Nyom to the byline from where the left back’s cross found Rondon in space. He turned sharply and struck a shot that was heading in even before a slight double-deflection off two defenders.
The goal meant Pulis, a veteran of 284 Premier League games, could now count three occasions one of his sides had scored four in a top-flight fixture.
‘We scored the goals at the right time and grew in confidence from there,’ said Pulis. ‘It’s a pleasing performance and result. It’s been a dreadful day with the weather and I thank the supporters for coming because they could have easily sat in and watched it on TV.
‘I’m so pleased we’ve put a performance in and scored four goals for them.’