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Mel able to salute home side without controversy

Pepe Mel will have appreciated the gesture.

James Morrison, right, competes for possession with Everton defender Phil Jagielka. Picture: Reuters
James Morrison, right, competes for possession with Everton defender Phil Jagielka. Picture: Reuters

After the Spaniard earned a draw in his first match as manager of West Bromich Albion, he was approached by Nicholas Anelka and given a warm handshake. It was a reaction to a performance which had grown in momentum, but likely also a thank-you to a coach who had given him a chance to outrun controversy on the pitch.

Anelka was given 77 minutes in the draw with Everton last night before he was substituted. That was much longer than some had wished the striker to get; West Brom sponsor Zoopla announcing before the match that they intend to cut short their deal with the club as a consequence of Anelka's 'quenelle' celebration after he scored against West Ham. It is a gesture which is considered anti-Semitic, since it resembles an inverted Nazi salute.

Anelka might be asked to hold his wrist out again this morning as the FA considers sanctions. The French forward has insisted that it was not intended to be offensive, but he could be given a five-match suspension.

That was an issue which will return foggily to the mind of Mel this morning, though. His debut in the dugout was instead made more memorable following an equaliser by Diego Lugano midway through the second half and the impassioned response after his side fell behind.

That came after a goal from Kevin Mirallas just four minutes before the break when he collected a headed flick from Romelu Lukaku and pushed a shot past Ben Foster. The West Brom goalkeeper would be beaten late in the game when Sylvain Distin deflected the ball in, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

There would be the opportunity for some flag waving at Mel, too, after he inspired a defiant performance after the break. He was helped by the personal aspirations of substitute Victor Anichebe - a striker who was thrown on at half-time to face the side he left in the summer. He met a cross from Anelka early on and was only denied a goal when Phil Jagielka, the Everton defender, stepped in to block.

Everton sought greater incentive themselves when Aiden McGeady was brought on to make his Everton debut, but Lugano had stolen his moment already.

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