Baggies unable to unlock Malmo defence
STEVE Clarke's Albion reign got off to a somewhat undeserved losing start as Alex Nilsson's eighth-minute strike proved decisive in the opening game of the club's Scandinavian tour.
The Baggies spent large chunks of this friendly camped in the hosts' half but were frustrated by a well-organised Malmo outfit.
When Albion did trouble the Malmo goal, the likes of Graham Dorrans and subs Liam Ridgewell and Saido Berahino found keeper Viktor Noring in fine form.
However, with improving fitness levels the key objective of the evening, the night was a success, with Clarke's men enjoying a thorough workout.
New boy Yassine El Ghanassy also made his debut as a 70th-minute substitute.
With Euro 2012 players Simon Cox, Shane Long and Sweden's very own Jonas Olsson, plus Ben Foster, Chris Brunt and Zoltan Gera, sat in the stands, Clarke fielded a blend of youth and experience for his first official game in charge.
Peter Odemwingie and Marc-Antoine Fortune began in attack while Kemar Roofe started on the left after being called up for the trip at the 11th hour to replace Jerome Thomas, who is undergoing treatment on a minor knock back in the Black Country.
With Malmo already 15 games into the Swedish season, and boasting an impressive home record of seven wins and one draw, it was no surprise they looked sharper and brighter from the off.
Albion, just 12 days into their pre-season preparations, fell behind in the eighth minute when Nilsson raced onto Ricardo Ferreira Da Silva's defence-splitting pass and slotted past Boaz Myhill.
The breakthrough came within a minute of Malmo left-winger Simon Thern firing over from the edge of the box.
Albion created their first shooting opportunity on 17 when Dorrans was felled just outside the box. Odemwingie saw his low free-kick easily held by Noring after clipping the Malmo wall.
The game marked the start of Clarke's reign but the presence of his predecessor, Roy Hodgson, could be felt at Swedbank Stadion. The England boss won five top-flight titles and two domestic cups during his five-
year spell at the Malmo helm in the 80s and a section of the ground is still nicknamed Roy's Horna - translated as Roy's Corner - in his honour.
Albion threatened again on 23 but Odemwingie was well off target with a 20-yard drive.
Malmo, who sit second and just three points off top spot in the Allsvenskan, had been happy to sit back after opening the scoring.
But they went close on 27, when central defender Jasmin Sudic headed inches over from a corner.
Albion's attempts to find a leveller were very much being spearheaded by the lively Dorrans but chances remained at a premium for the rest of the half.
Clarke made two alterations at half-time, with James Morrison and Ridgewell coming on for Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Roofe.
The changes led to James Hurst switching from left-back to right-midfield and, with his first contribution in his new role, the Academy product fed Fortune in the box. The former Celtic striker spun Filip Helander before forcing Noring into a smart near-post block.
Albion were pegging Malmo deep in their own half and Dorrans saw a ferocious 25-yard drive brilliantly pushed wide by Noring on 53.
The Scotland international whipped in the ensuing corner and it took an even better save from Noring to keep out Ridgewell's flick near-post header.
Moments later, Odemwingie burst into the box and shot straight at the Malmo keeper from a tight angle.
Three more changes arrived on 63, with Steven Reid taking the armband off, and replacing, Gareth McAuley at centre-half and Berahino and Sam Mantom coming on for Fortune and Youssouf Mulumbu respectively.
Seven minutes later came the final changes, as El Ghanassy, making his Albion debut, and Scott Allan came on for Odemwingie and Dorrans.
El Ghanassy made a lively start but, on 75, his finish didn't match his left-wing run when he shot tamely at Noring from an acute angle.
Noring's impressive night continued two minutes from time when he pushed to safety Berahino's fine curler from just inside the box.
MALMO (4-4-2): Noring; Vinzents (c), Sudic, Jansson (Helander HT), Da Silva (Stenstrom HT); Hamad (Kroon HT), Halsti, Friberg (Sekiraca HT), Thern (Cibicki 63); Nilsson, Rexhepi. Subs not used: Larsson, Albornoz, Olsen.
ALBION: (4-4-2) Myhill; Jones, Tamas, McAuley (c) (Reid 63), Hurst; Jara Reyes (Ridgewell HT), Mulumbu (Mantom 63), Dorrans (Allan 70), Roofe (Morrison HT); Fortune (Berahino 63), Odemwingie (El Ghanassy 70). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk).
GOALS: MALMO: Nilsson (8).
BOOKINGS: MALMO - Sudic (foul 70), Kroon (foul 88). ALBION - Hurst (encroachment 25), Tamas (foul 25).
REFEREE: M Hansson
ALBION STARMAN: Graham Dorrans.