Photo Gallery: Baggies expose a case for defence
Norwich City 0, West Brom 1: Attacking adventure carried Norwich to the Premier League. Defensive discipline is what will keep them there.
Paul Lambert knows that. So too do his coaching team and a fair proportion of the 25,000-plus home fans in attendance at Carrow Road yesterday.
Make a mistake in the Championship and it could prove costly. Do it in the Premier League and more often than not its fatal. City have suffered rough justice with a growing collection of contentious decisions in all four Premier League games so far.
Two more came against West Brom with the laughable penalty awarded for Steven Reid's loss of gravity. And the one that wasn't when James Vaughan earned an unwanted and painful momento of his Norwich league debut. But in the majority of cases, Norwich have not helped their cause.
Franco Di Santo tumbled under Ritchie De Laet's tackle at Wigan after the City defender had tried desperately to retrieve his own underhit pass.
Stoke's Jonathan Walters did Leon Barnett no favours with his swallow dive – reprised again over this past weekend in the defining act of another impressive win for the Potters against Liverpool – when Barnett was caught the wrong side.
A superbly resolute display at Chelsea ultimately brought no tangible reward when Nicolas Anelka's rapid counter freed Ramires to coax a penalty from John Ruddy.
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So it proved again here. Tales of rough justice at the hands of officialdom, no lack of effort and application from City's band of brothers – but a goal conceded which the Canaries will know in the cold light of day could have been avoided.
Peter Odemwingie is no Wayne Rooney. No Sergio Aguero.
But the Nigerian knows the way to goal. Fifteen goals in 32 appearances signalled a productive first season in English football's top flight and fuelled close season rumours of interest from Arsenal. Wigan made a confirmed inquiry.
The pacy striker was on De Laet's shoulder before he could turn full circle in a bid to decisively clear Nicky Shorey's teasing flick from the left.
De Laet is no slouch, but blistering pace is no protection against West Brom's number 24. The Belgian's initial header towards Declan Rudd was all the encouragement Odemwingie needed to burst away and calmly sidefoot past the advancing keeper.
A penny for the Diss-bred youngster's thoughts as he fished the ball out of his own net barely three minutes into his full Premier League debut?
Not just a full house in attendance but millions of television viewers watching worldwide. Ravenous devotees of the Premier League product.
Rudd had already burst from his box inside the opening seconds attempting to deal with Reid's hanging cross in the swirling wind before the assistant referee's offside flag came to his aid.
You could almost hear Roy Hodgson's team talk the other side of the locked away changing room door. 'Young lad in goal today, boys. Nervous. Unproven. Test him early.'
Rudd responded magnificently. Not just the eye-catching penalty stop to redress his own personal balance with Odemwingie in the second period, but an impressive save later in the opening half when the Nigerian had burst clear again onto Graham Dorrans' weighted ball.
The 20-year-old was passing the biggest footballing test of his young life. Rudd's pedigree has never been in doubt as he progressed serenely through City's academy structure and England age group levels.
The temperament, the ice-cool nerve, well, that only gets tested in the hothouse atmospheres found at the sharp end of a multi-million pound industry. Lambert had no fears. Rudd was always his number one following Ruddy's red card at Stamford Bridge. The England U21 international justified his manager's faith. Belief that also remains undimmed from Lambert in his side's ability to flourish at this level.
The Scot had just endured fresh agonies, but strode purposefully into his post-match press conference convinced his men are on the right path. Yes, they are still learning. Yes, they need to cut out the mistakes, but they served up fresh evidence they can compete.
City may be struggling to translate the free-scoring Football League formula that carried them to back-to-back promotions – but the collective fighting spirit has made a seamless transition.
Norwich's support was in full voice before the hosts had restarted play after Odemwinge's early setback. The men in yellow and green responded to the restorative powers of the home energy source.
Chris Martin and Andrew Surman combined down the left, only for Ben Foster to kick away the intended cross which spat up at Grant Holt and dropped wide. Fine margins.
Elliott Bennett then picked out the unmarked Bradley Johnson from the opposite flank. Johnson miscued before dragging a strike at Foster from the edge of the box.
Surman's glancing header flew over in between Johnson's battle with the Albion stopper. The electronic scoreboards at either end of the pitch said different, but Norwich were stirring.
Yet the visitors' frontline were a constant menace on the counter. Dorrans found Odemwingie, who hammered at Rudd. The goalscorer then lined up De Laet again before crafting a cross that just evaded Shane Long. Jerome Thomas re-gathered to test Rudd.
The young keeper was airborne again five minutes before half-time as Dorrans' fizzing effort thudded against the inside of his right-hand upright and flew back into play.
The woodwork was probably still shaking on the resumption. Lambert's side are made of the same solid stuff.
Johnson and Andrew Crofts began to nullify Dorrans – aided by the Scot coming off worse in a committed challenge with Bennett which eventually forced his early retirement.
Surman and Marc Tierney carved out a cross for Crofts, who lifted into the Lower Barclay. Bennett sprang a swift counter, but Surman was crowded out by a Baggies' rearguard under sustained pressure for the first time in the game.
Wes Hoolahan was introduced with Irish assistant manager Marco Tardelli watching in the stands. The Italian must surely have been impressed with Hoolahan's cameo.
A cute pass to Crofts who unleashed a right-footer that skidded wide; later excellent retrieval work to tee up his Celtic colleague again. The only manager Hoolahan wanted to impress was Lambert.
The Scot introduced Steve Morison and James Vaughan. Norwich were on the front foot. Just like at Chelsea. Then jolted out of their collective stride by another intervention from the official. Just like at Chelsea.
Reid went to ground with Morison at his back. Mark Halsey pointed to the spot. City's incredulous players surrounded the official. The sheepish looking Reid made a swift exit from the scene of the perceived crime. De Laet was booked for his protest.
It was left to Rudd to dispense his own form of retribution with a superbly athletic dive away to his left to beat away Odemwingie's lashed right-foot spot-kick.
City piled forward again with renewed vigour. Vaughan spun away from his marker but lashed wide. Morison planted a header agonisingly beyond Foster's far post from Tierney's driven cross.
Then Tamas and Vaughan tangled. The former Evertonian staggered away.
Only the Baggies' centre-back knows if malice was intended. Vaughan's bloodied protests at the final whistle indicated where he felt culpability lay.
The television pictures did Tamas no favours whatsoever. Retrospective punishment may be dispensed by the authorities. Halsey was the man who mattered on this particular day – and he remained unmoved.
But Norwich's search for a maiden Premier League win did not hinge on the whim of the official. Ultimately, City's collective fate is in there own hands, and feet, this season.
Norwich have earned the right to take their place at the top table. To dine there on a longer-term basis requires one or two missing ingredients.