With both teams looking for their first wins of the season, it was West Brom who took the three points after an early strike from Peter Odemwingie was enough to ensure victory. The Nigerian later missed a penalty, but it didn’t matter for the Baggies as they returned to the Midlands with a vital result.
Norwich City welcomed West Brom to Carrow Road ahead of their Premier League clash. The last time the two sides met in the top flight Norwich ran out 3-2 victors and with the game televised on sky, neutrals and supporters alike would be hoping for another extraordinary fixture.
It was bound to be a tight game, with the hosts picking up just two points in their opening three games, and the Baggies yet to put a single point on the board. For those who’ve watched the two teams in action though this is slightly misleading – Albion were unlucky not to take anything from their 2-1 loss to Manchester United, the narrowest win for the Red Devils this season. They haven’t lost a game by more than one goal, with another 2-1 loss to Chelsea and a soft 1-0 to Stoke. Norwich too were unfortunate not to get a point from their away fixture at Stamford Bridge, the 3-1 loss flattered their opponents. They were also denied three points in the last minute of their game against Stoke courtesy of a Kenwyne Jones header.
There were four strikers on the bench and no substitute goalkeeper for Paul Lambert’s Norwich, young ‘keeper Declan Rudd came in to replace John Ruddy who was serving a suspension after being sent off against Chelsea. Substitute striker Aaron Wilbraham has been known to don the goalkeeper jersey in the past however. Chris Martin was again preferred to Simeon Jackson up front in a 4-4-2 formation that was also missing influential playmaker Wes Hoolahan.
A huge boost to Roy Hodgson’s men was the return of Peter Odemwingie, the Nigerian striker was West Brom’s top scorer last season with 15 Premier League goals. He partnered Shane Long up front, the Irish hitman has scored two in his last three games. This meant impressive attacking midfielder Somen Tchoyi could only find a place on the bench. Zoltan Gera was available for selection after a three game suspension but didn’t feature at all.
A minute’s applause rang out for the tragic death of 14-years-old West Brom academy player Blake Melbourne who died after a battle with illness. This was followed by a minute’s silence for the victims of 9/11, both were impeccably observed.
The first minute saw a bizarre incident where goalkeeper Declan Rudd ran the ball out of play after intercepting a cross from Steven Reid. With Shane Long hot on his heels the youngster was lucky to get away with it.
It was 1-0 to the visitors in the third minute. Peter Odemwingie didn’t take long to open this season’s account, he pounced on yet another mistake from Ritchie de Lait; the Belgian defender’s backpass header was underhit due to some poor communication with Rudd. The Nigerian deftly flicked in into the bottom corner. The long ball from Nicky Shorey shouldn’t have caused any problems, but it resulted in the quickest Premier League goal of the season.
Grant Holt could have equalised in the 7th minute. A good move from the Canaries saw Chris Martin play a lovely through ball to Andrew Surman, whose cross was only palmed out by Ben Foster, allowing Holt to pounce on the rebound. It was a tough chance for Holt as it was a difficult ball to control, and he fired wide.
The Canaries were looking ropey; the Declan Rudd’s nervousness in his first Premier League start was rubbing off on the back four. He was growing in confidence however, doing well to come for some dangerous crosses.
A weak bobbling shot from Andrew Surman was easily held by Foster, the midfielder was looking a threatening creative presence though with some good passing.
Youssouf Mulumbu came close for the Baggies, holding off robust challenges from Grant Holt and Bradley Johnson before firing away a low shot from 25 yards out that fizzed just wide of the post.
Elliot Bennett then had a chance, a fantastic low cross from Marc Tierney came in from the far left. It bounced a little awkwardly but the winger should really have done better, his shot flew over the bar.
It was turning out to be a rather open if scrappy affair; Andrew Crofts and Bradley Johnson were putting in some strong challenges as were Paul Scharner and Mulumbu, and there were few examples of flowing football. Elliot Bennett attempted to take matters into his own hands due to some slack marking from West Brom, he was able to take a powerful effort from the edge of the area that was well watched and parried by Ben Foster.
Declan Rudd’s spirits were raised as he pulled off a good save to deny Odemwingie a second. The ball was played over the top by Graeme Dorrans and the lightening quick Nigerian beat Barnett to it. He bore down on Rudd’s goal and attempted to slot it in the corner but the Norwich ‘keeper was equal to it. He then had to be quick to react to a long range Mulumbu effort, the Congolese midfielder was looking dangerous and it took a good save to deny him his first of the season.
There was a penalty appeal when Chris Martin was pulled to the ground by Jonas Olsson, it would have been a soft one but they’ve been given before – Jamie Carragher had been penalised for one on Jonathan Walters the day before.
Two shots from Graeme Dorrans came in quick succession. The first, a fantastic effort from 25 yards rattled the post. The second should have been easily held by Rudd but was spilt, the young ‘keeper was injured in the process though, a big concern for the Canaries considering they had no replacement on the bench.
He was luckily able to carry on however. Mark Halsey brought a close to an even half. There was no doubt that the Baggies were the better team but Norwich had improved after a shaky start and looked set to give Hodgson’s side a good game in the second half.
Andrew Crofts had the first shot of the half, a cross in from Surman found Chris Martin who stabbed it on to the Welshman, his volleyed effort sailed over though. Norwich were putting more pressure on their opponents, and it took a good clearance header from Steven Reid to stop Holt getting on the end of Elliot Bennett’s cross.
A long range strike from Bradley Johnson came within inches of finding the top corner. He was laid off by Chris Martin and let fly a fantastic effort from 30 yards that left Ben Foster stranded. It went just over. The onslaught continued as a cross in from Bennett could have caused problems if it wasn’t for a poor first touch from Holt. Jonas Olsson was looking clumsy in the centre of defence, and was gifting Norwich some clear cut chances.
Jerome Thomas then let fly a curling effort that also came close but it flew just over from the edge of the area.
The Canaries’ hard battling was paying dividends with West Brom looking second best all over the pitch. Norwich certainly seemed to want it more, with Paul Lambert’s team talk ringing in their ears they took the game by the scruff of the neck, a hard but fair challenge from Tierney allowed Andrew Crofts to get in a low driven shot that flew wide.
Jonas Olsson’s defensive play came under scrutiny again as he pulled debutant James Vaughan to the ground inside the area, but Mark Halsey was unmoved.
Halsey did award a penalty minutes later, but it was for the visitors as Steven Reid made the most of minimal contact from Steve Morison. The soft penalty was the fourth conceded by the Canaries in four games. Peter Odemwingie stepped up to double the lead, but a fantastic save from Declan Rudd denied him. A terrific save for the young Premier League debutant.
Jerome Thomas sent another low effort goalwards but it was wide. Crofts then wasted a good chance for the hosts, his effort was well over and he should have played Morison through.
Morison did have his chance five minutes from time, more poor marking from the West Brom back four left the Welsh international in space, and another great ball from Tierney allowed him a free header. He couldn’t get it on target however, and really should have done better from a fairly easy chance.
They wasted another chance when Bradley Johnson opted to shoot from a free kick 35 yards out despite Norwich pushing everyone forward. He wasn’t even close to equalising.
There was still time for Mark Halsey to turn down another penalty appeal from the Canaries, Gabriel Tamas drew blood in the area as he elbowed James Vaughan in the face. An unsporting act from the Romanian, whose reputation is in tatters as it is due to his removal from the Romanian squad.
Steven Reid brought Morison down off the ball on the edge of the area to give the hosts one last chance five minutes into injury time but Hoolahan’s effort hit the wall. The Baggies did well to hold on despite some controversial incidents, and Halsey brought the game to a close.
Referee: Mark Halsey
Norwich (4-4-2): Rudd, Naughton, Barnett, De Lait, Tierney, Bennett, Crofts, Surman (Hoolahan, 62) Johnson, Holt (Morison, 70), C. Martin (Vaughan, 70)
West Brom (4-4-2): Foster, Reid, Tamas, Olsson, Shorey, Dorrans (Morrison, 69), Sharner, Mulumbu, Thomas (Brunt, 84), Odemwingie, Long (Tchoyi, 88)
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