West Brom 0 - Norwich City 2
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City produced a perfect Premier League away day performance to sink West Brom 2-0 at the Hawthorns.
Gary Hooper smashed his third top flight goal before the interval and Leroy Fer sealed only the Canaries' second away win on the road in the league this term three minutes from the end after a wonderfully resolute defensive effort from Chris Hughton's men.
Albion pummelled away for the majority of the second period following Steve Clarke's introduction of Shane Long and Saido Berahino at the interval to pep up the hosts, but City defended manfully until Fer's breakaway strike sealed a priceless victory.
Hughton made three changes to the starting line up which lost 5-1 at Liverpool in midweek. Michael Turner replaced Ryan Bennett at the heart of the Canaries' defence ith Russell Martin also left out for Steven Whittaker. Hooper was restored to the line up after his match-winner against Crystal Palace with Wes Hoolahan relegated to the bench. Baggies' chief Clarke opted to start without Long and highly-rated young striker Berahino but Uruguayan international Diego Lugano made his first Premier League start in the Albion defence with Jonas Olsson suspended. Youssouf Mulumbu was also recalled after missing the midweek league defeat to Manchester City after picking up five bookings.
Fer was deployed on the left of Norwich's midfield in the early exchanges with Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson holding the centre ground and Johan Elmander pushed alongside Hooper in a more traditional looking front two for the Canaries.
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City were tested with two early corners from the hosts but after recent frailties Hughton's rearguard stood their collective ground; Turner making an important clearance under pressure from Lugano. Nathan Redmond carried plenty of menace on the counter with one incursion forcing Gareth McAuley into a timely near post intervention. Stephane Sessegnon was proving an influential figure in the early sparring in a withdrawn role behind Victor Anichebe with Morgan Amalfitano profiting from a ready supply line, but Sebastien Bassong provided auxiliary support to Martin Olsson down City's left-flank when the Baggies threatened.
Norwich made the breakthrough in the 13th minute with the predatory Hooper drifting down the side of Lugano to collect Fer's reverse ball that brushed McAuley's heels and rifle into the bottom corner from 18 yards. Albion continued to press forward despite the initial setback and John Ruddy was down sharply to gather Mulumbu's hit after a sharp exchange of passes with Amalfitano. The England keeper then collected from Anichebe's header before unleashing a tirade in the direction of Fer and Olsson with Albion now raiding down City's left seemingly at will in the opening quarter.
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Fer was clipped by Billy Jones as Norwich looked to trigger another rapier counter midway through a half dominated territorially by Albion, but Redmond's dipping 25 yard free kick lacked the venom of Luis Suarez's strike at Anfield three days earlier.
Elmander controlled Hooper's flick but his shot spiralled away off McAuley for a corner that Mulumbu cleared at his near post then Redmond's attempted curler slid wide with Albion's home support now growing increasingly frustrated. Amalfitano's impish drag back fooled Fer tight to the Norwich byline but Bassong headed behind before McAuley's glancing flick from Chris Brunt's deep corner dropped wide. Ruddy then took evasive action to shovel over Anichebe's strike on the turn from the angle of the visiting penalty box.
Albion's efforts to finish the half on top saw City again tested from the corner delivery of Brunt, with one whipped centre allowed to travel right across the face of Ruddy's six-yard box in a worrying repeat of recent concessions on the road at both Newcastle and Liverpool. Norwich however still carried a threat on the counter with Whittaker's overlapping burst to link with Redmond a sign of the visitors' confidence after Fer and Hooper triggere a flowing move on the opposite flank.
Clarke signalled his dissatisfaction with the opening 45 minutes from his side by introducing Long and Berahino at the interval. City predictably had to withstand an early onslaught, with Sessegnon's shot at the far post appearing to hit Olsson's right arm from point blank range within the opening seconds but referee Clattenburg was not interested in home penalty appeals. Redmond twice broke the gathering siege with swift bursts into the final third but on both occasions the teenager's wayward delivery sailed behind. Elmander was then allowed to escape detection with Albion appealing in vain for offside but the intended cut-back for Hooper struck McAuley at his near post. Whittaker was then cautioned for illegally halting Long's charge as Albion surged forward with a ferocity singularly lacking prior to the interval. Sessegnon spurned what was arguably Albion's best chance of the contest shortly after when he raced through after Bassong pulled out of a potential hack that would surely have seen the captain dismissed but with Ruddy advancing the forward horribly guided his right foot shot the wrong side of the post from 16 yards.
Howson's wonderfully precise clearance invited Redmond to power past Brunt and into the Albion box on the hour mark but Hooper's dart to the near post saw the England Under-21 starlet cut the ball back towards the area Hooper had just vacated. Howson had Boaz Myhill grasping at thin air with an attempted lift into the top corner sailing two yards over following a clever set from Hooper.
Ruddy denied Albion at the other end with his feet when Olsson's miscued clearance dropped to Sessegnon on the angle six yards out as a breathless second period showed few signs of abating. City earned another reprieve when Long scuffed at Ruddy after the ball had spun in the Irishman's direction with the visitors seemingly unable to earn any respite. Mulumbu hammered wide in the 76th minute after brushing off Howson's challenge on the edge of the City penalty box before Hughton made his first move with Josh Murphy introduced to provide another genuine counter-attacking outlet in place of Elmander, although the youngster's first involvement saw him cautioned within a minute of his arrival for hauling down Jones. Brunt tried his luck from range but again Ruddy was secure before Berahino slammed into the side netting from an acute angle with time running out for the Baggies. The England keeper then produced his best stop of the afternoon to scramble across his line and claw out Long's glancing header. That proved a big moment in the contest when Fer ended any hopes of a home comeback after dipping inside Lugano to roll past the wrong-footed Myhill 16 yards out.
• West Brom: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Lugano, Ridgewell (Long 45), Yacob, Mulumbu, Brunt, Amalfitano (Berahino 45), Anichebe (Vydra 81), Sessegnon. Subs (not used): Daniels, Popov, Morrison, Dawson.
• Booking: Brunt (foul on Elmander, 27).
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker (Martin 89), Bassong, Turner, Olsson, Redmond, Fer, Howson, Johnson, Elmander (Murphy 76), Hooper (Becchio 89). Subs (not used): Nash, Hoolahan, Garrido, Bennett.
• Bookings: Whittaker (foul on Long, 53); Ruddy (time wasting, 74); Murphy (foul on Jones, 77).
• Goals: Hooper (13), Fer (89).
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Durham)
• Attendance: 23,675