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West Ham United kick-started their Barclays Premier League campaign and inflicted a fourth straight defeat on Norwich City with a 2-1 win at Upton Park.
Sam Allardyce’s side, who last won against Chelsea here on December 1, went ahead through a Mark Noble penalty after just three minutes when referee Mark Clattenburg spotted a shirt pull by defender Ryan Bennett. Norwich midfielder Robert Snodgrass rattled the woodwork with a free-kick before Joey O’Brien crashed home a second goal after 26 minutes. Russell Martin netted a late consolation with a well-taken volley for his third goal in two games.
West Ham, with just two victories in the last 11 outings, got off to a flying start when Bennett, drafted into the starting XI in place of Javier Garrido, was adjudged to have held Winston Reid as he climbed for a header. Noble, standing in as captain for the suspended Kevin Nolan, made no mistake from the spot, blasting the ball down the middle as Mark Bunn dived the wrong way.
After a 10-match unbeaten run that pulled Norwich away from the relegation zone, Chris Hughton’s side have endured a poor run over the festive season, with the 4-3 home defeat by Manchester City a third on the spin. There was some concern on the West Ham bench when Carlton Cole stayed down after a challenge with Bennett and the England forward had to go off for some treatment.
Cole, though, was soon back in the thick of the action and after 14 minutes he spun Sebastien Bassong before drilling in a 20-yard strike that Bunn did well to pluck out of the air.
Norwich were awarded a free-kick some 25 yards out after a handball. Snodgrass struck a superb curling effort up over the wall, only for the ball to cannon back off Jussi Jaaskelainen’s right-hand post. At the other end, Jack Collison stabbed his shot at Bunn from point-blank range when he had the whole of the goal to aim at after meeting Guy Demel’s cross from the right.
It became 2-0 after 25 minutes. Play continued with Norwich midfielder Alex Tettey on the floor after being clattered by Cole and Noble charged into the right side of the Norwich penalty area. His cut-back from the goalline was pushed out by Bassong and O’Brien rifled the loose ball past Bunn. West Ham soon went on the offensive again as Matt Taylor unleashed a 25-yard drive which the Norwich goalkeeper tipped over. Cole somehow blazed the ball high into the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand after another low cross through the Norwich six-yard box from Demel.
There was some fresh endeavour about the visitors at the start of the second half. But West Ham continued to look dangerous as they hit Norwich on the break, with a corner flying through the six-yard box and just away from Cole at the far post. After 63 minutes, Taylor lofted a lovely cross-field pass on to the head of Vaz Te but the ball dropped against the foot of Bunn’s right post.
Norwich made a double change with 20 minutes left when Harry Kane and Wes Hoolahan were replaced by Simeon Jackson and Elliott Bennett. Snodgrass tried his luck with a low effort from 25 yards which Jaaskelainen gathered. The visitors were enjoying their best spell, if without really stretching the West Ham defence.
Cole headed another good chance wide before Martin set up an anxious three minutes of stoppage time for the home fans with a close-range volley from Jackson’s cross.
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce: "I was wondering if we were going to hold our confidence and performance level at home. It has been really good even though we have had two back-to-back defeats but today they showed they have the mentality to cope with whatever is thrown at them."
"The disappointing thing was the chances the front lads missed today, with balls just flashing across the box needed a tap-in. We lost a goal in the 90th minute which made us edgy in the end when we should have been out of sight.
"We will continue to try to brush up on our finishing techniques with the lads and hope the next time round we are more clinical with our finishing."
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: “We did not start well enough. We showed in the second half a bit more of what we are about. Nobody has really given us a beating and they have all been really close games.
"We have to be at our best to get results and we have been close in the last four games. For us now it is about getting back to winning ways."
|12 May 2013||v Everton (A)|
|30 Mar 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|07 Apr 2013||v Liverpool (A)|
|13 Apr 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Reading (H)|
|17 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (H)|