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West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku brought an end to Norwich's 10-match unbeaten record in the Barclays Premier League with a late winner at The Hawthorns.
Robert Snodgrass gave the Canaries an early lead after fit again Baggies keeper Ben Foster failed to keep out his dipping free-kick, but Zoltan Gera ended West Brom's near six-hour goal drought just before the break before on-loan Chelsea forward Lukaku headed the winner with eight minutes remaining to leave Baggies manager Steve Clarke hoping the Blues do not decide to recall their player during the January transfer window.
Victory ended Albion's mini slump in which they had collected only two points from four games after climbing to third spot. They deserved their success, however, after looking the more threatening during the second period.
But Albion were also indebted to another solid display from central defender Gareth McAuley. The Canaries came close to a share of the spoils despite the absence of key striker Grant Holt with a hamstring injury with Snodgrass always asking problems of the Albion defence
That said, the hosts might have taken the lead after barely three minutes when Lukaku came close. The striker made good contact on his glancing header from Goran Popov's deep cross only for his attempt to skim the bar.
Snodgrass then connected with a volley from the edge of the Albion penalty area but it was directed straight at Ben Foster, returning after a seven-game injury-enforced absence.
The next clear-cut opening fell to Lukaku after 21 minutes when he took a pass from James Morrison in his stride, but the powerful Belgian failed to make a clean contact on his cross shot and Mark Bunn saved with relative comfort.
It proved a costly miss as Snodgrass broke the deadlock three minutes later after Peter Odemwingie had brought down the midfielder. His curling free-kick contained plenty of power and, although Foster got a hand to the ball, he could only help it into the roof of the net.
West Brom tried to retaliate and a goal-bound effort from McAuley was blocked by the body of Bunn following a Chris Brunt corner. After 43 minutes, however, Gera brought Albion back on level terms with his fourth goal of the campaign, when Bunn parried Jonas Olsson's downward header from a Brunt corner onto the crossbar only for the Hungarian midfielder to volley in the rebound from close range.
In the second half McAuley rescued Albion with a superb tackle inside the area after Steve Morison took advantage of a mix-up at a short free-kick by the home side. Norwich centre-back Michael Turner then headed wide from Snodgrass' centre before being booked for hauling down Odemwingie in full flight.
Clarke brought on West Brom top scorer Shane Long, in place of Gera, in a bid to add more firepower, but it was his strike partner who would grab the winner. With eight minutes remaining Lukaku showed great physical strength to climb above Javier Garrido and head Popov's deep cross past Bunn.
Popov was booked in injury time for a foul on Snodgrass but Albion held on to claim their seventh home win of the season.
West Bromwich Albion manager Steve Clarke: “It was a big game for us today. I think it was important we got the three points. We huffed and puffed a bit in the game a little bit to be honest.
“It was crucial for us to get the goal just before half-time. We haven’t scored for a number of hours as people kept pointing out. Sometimes when it’s like that you either need a fantastic goal or a sloppy goal, which changed it.
“At the start of the second half I made one change, which was tactical. Graham Dorrans had done well in the first half but I felt him and Chris Brunt were maybe a little too similar looking to come on the ball. We tried to address that problem and brought on Marco Fortune. It didn’t really change the course of the game, if I’m being honest, because we were still stuttering a little bit. So I decided to stick on another forward and stick four up front to try and turn one point into three because I felt three points was really important for us.”
Norwich City manager Chris Hughton: "It is a disappointed changing room, but you don't want to see happy players after a defeat. That's about the standards they've set themselves.
"The unbeaten run was a great achievement for us. But now it's gone and we will look to pick ourselves up and go again in front of our own fans at Carrow Road against Chelsea on Boxing Day."
|26 Dec 2012||v QPR (A)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Man Utd (A)|
|01 Jan 2013||v Fulham (H)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Reading (A)|
|19 Jan 2013||v Aston Villa (H)|
|30 Jan 2013||v Everton (A)|