West Brom came from behind to halt Norwich City’s ten match unbeaten run with a 2-1 Premier League victory at The Hawthorns.
Zoltan Gera’s close-range header cancelled out Robert Snodgrass’s opener just before half time, and a bold attacking substitution from Steve Clarke paid dividends as Romelu Lukaku headed a late winner to give the Baggies their first come from behind win of the season.
Aside from a Lukaku header flashing over the bar in the opening minutes, the first half was slow to catch fire. With both sides electing to play a lone striker up front, there were long periods of stalemate with midfields cancelling one another out.
The first real chance fell to West Brom as Steve Morison played in Lukaku, Mark Bunn saving well to his right. But having done the Lion’s share of defending, Norwich then took the lead from a familiar source.
Peter Odemwingie conceded a free kick on the edge of the box and Robert Snodgrass stepped up to plant home his third Premier League free kick of the season, more than any other player. Ben Foster, returning between the West Brom sticks, will surely feel he should have done better having got both hands to the effort.
Five minutes later, and another West Brom player was holding his head in his hands, Gareth McAuley failing to find the net from a couple of yards out from Chris Brunt’s corner, Bunn saving with his shin.
But from another corner just before the break, the home side were on terms. Again Brunt delivered, and Gera was on hand to head home after Jonas Olsson’s initial header came back off the bar.
Norwich then had legitimate claims for a penalty waved away by Martin Atkinson as Snodgrass’s shot seemed to catch Olsson’s arm before Odemwingie fired inches wide as the home side ended the half on a high.
Clarke rang the changes at half time, bringing on Marc-Antoine Fortune for Graham Dorrans, but the first chance after the break fell to the visitors. Alexander Tettey playing Morison through on goal before the striker dallied too long allowing McAuley to slide in with a superb defensive challenge. A minute later, Norwich missed another golden opportunity, Michael Turner heading wide from another fine Snodgrass cross.
West Brom had their own claims for a penalty turned down and again Olsson was in the thick of it, seemingly being tugged back by Sebastien Bassong.
Not content to settle for the draw, Clarke brought on another attacking player, Shane Long adding to a four pronged attack. It gave West Brom the impetus to press for the winner and they had their reward with nine minutes of normal time remaining. Goran Popov’s long diagonal ball fell invitingly for Lukaku and he stole ahead of Javier Garrido to head powerfully past Bunn.
The lead established, Clarke pulled off his goal scorer for Gabriel Tamas to shore things up at the back. Still Norwich pressed for a late equaliser to maintain their impressive unbeaten run. Russell Martin headed just wide from Snodgrass’s cross and from the last kick of the game, Bradley Johnson also headed just wide.
The result propels West Brom to sixth in the table, level with three teams above them on 30 points, although seventh placed Chelsea have two games in hand.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Romelu Lukaku – West Brom: Caused Norwich all kinds of problems with his pace and capped a fine performance with the winning goal.
West Brom: Foster 6, Jones 6, McAuley 7, Olsson 6, Popov 7; Morrison 6, Brunt 7; Odemwingie 6, Gera 6, Dorrans 5; Lukaku 8. Subs: Long 6, Tamas 6, Fortune 6.
Norwich: Bunn 6; Whittaker 6, Bassong 7, Turner 6, Garrido 6; Pilkington 6, Johnson 7, Tettey 6, Snodgrass 7, Hoolahan 5, Morison 6. Subs: Martin 6, Howson 6, Bennett 6.