Luckless Baggies suffer harsh defeat by Canaries
IT proved unlucky number 13 for Albion as they suffered a harsh third successive defeat in eight days.
The Baggies dominated The Hawthorns encounter from start to finish but poor finishing and England goalkeeper John Ruddy’s saves somehow kept the Canaries’ goal intact.
The hosts fell victim to Gary Hooper’s 13th-minute strike from one of the rare chances City created.
Stephane Sessegnon was guilty of wasting Albion’s best opportunity seven minutes into the second half as Steve Clarke’s men failed to score for the first time in seven games.
And Leroy Fer sealed all three points for the visitors two minutes from time with a strike on the counter-attack.
Clarke made five changes to the midweek team that lost 3-2 to Manchester City as he handed Diego Lugano his full Barclays Premier League debut in place of the suspended Jonas Olsson.
Billy Jones returned from injury and Youssouf Mulumbu from suspension, with Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe also drafted into the Baggies’ starting XI.
Chris Hughton made three changes to the City side that were thumped 5-1 at Liverpool in their last outing, with Steven Whittaker, Michael Turner and Gary Hooper earning recalls.
The Baggies started brightly and were finding joy down the right through Jones and Morgan Amalfitano, who both delivered early crosses just beyond the reach of Anichebe in the six-yard box.
But it was the Canaries who stole a lead on 13.
Fer’s throughball clipped off Gareth McAuley’s heels into the path of Hooper, who produced an unstoppable finish across Boaz Myhill and into the far bottom corner of the net.
Almost immediately it was the hosts on the attack again as Sessegnon weaved his way into the box but saw his tame shot deflected wide for a corner.
And on 18 Mulumbu exchanged a neat one-two with Amalfitano on the edge of the Norwich area before driving his 15-yard shot straight at Ruddy.
A minute later, Amalfitano delivered another cross from the right but the off-balance Anichebe just could not generate enough power in his header to beat England man Ruddy from close range.
At the other end, Nathan Redmond fired a 25-yard free-kick goalwards in the 27th minute, which Myhill was equal to as he dived to his right to hold.
Brunt presented McAuley with an excellent chance to equalise seven minutes later but the Northern Ireland international headed his fellow countryman’s corner wide of the left-hand post when he should at least have hit the target.
Moments later, Anichebe spun Turner on the edge of the area and stung Ruddy’s hands with a drive that was bound for the top right-hand corner of the goal.
Brunt whipped in another dangerous flag-kick six minutes before the break but it dropped just the wrong side of Sessegnon in the six-yard box and he could not make contact with the ball.
Clarke made an attacking double change at the break, with Shane Long and Saido Berahino replacing Liam Ridgewell and Amalfitano.
Brunt moved to left-back with Sessegnon and Berahino taking up wide positions and Long partnering Anichebe up front.
Albion came racing out of the blocks and within a minute of the restart Brunt’s corner eventually dropped for Sessegnon, whose close-range effort struck Martin Olsson's arm on the goalline, but the Baggies’ penalty appeals for handball were turned down.
Seconds later, Jones cut in from the right and drilled a low left-foot shot straight at Ruddy.
Sessegnon went on a one-man mission on 52 and used his strength to hold off Redmond, who could only knock the ball back towards his own goal. Turner and Sebastien Bassong failed to deal with the danger and Sessegnon ran clean through on goal but – with the goal at his mercy – shot wide of the right-hand post.
The ball fell kindly to Jonathan Howson on the edge of the area on 63 and, with the whole goal to aim at, he curled his effort just over the bar.
The game was now spread out and whenOlsson cleared Mulumbu’s cross-cum-shot straight to Sessegnon, he forced Ruddy into a near-post save with his feet.
Mulumbu’s 20-yard shot looped up and landed perfectly for Long to level on 68 but the Ireland international’s ten-yard shot was weak and Ruddy gathered.
Seconds later, Anichebe swooped to connect with Jones’ right-wing cross at the near post and saw his header go wide.
Mulumbu did well to turn Fer and Johan Elmander in the 75th minute but saw his fiercely-struck 20-yard shot fly wide of the left-hand post.
Five minutes from time, Sessegnon slid the ball to Berahino for a sight of goal – but he fired into the side-netting from eight yards.
On 88, Long connected with Sessegnon’s cross but could only watch as Ruddy scrambled across his goal to somehow keep it out at the far post.
The final nail in the coffin came in the 88th minute as Norwich broke and Fer did enough to hold off Lugano before drilling the ball past Myhill from 15 yards.
ALBION (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, McAuley, Lugano, Ridgewell (Long HT); Yacob, Mulumbu; Amalfitano (Berahino HT), Sessegnon, Brunt (c); Anichebe (Vydra 80). Subs not used: L Daniels (gk), Dawson, Popov, Morrison.
NORWICH (4-4-1-1): Ruddy; Whittaker (Martin 89), Turner, Bassong (c), Olsson; Redmond, Howson, Johnson, Fer; Hooper (Becchio 89); Elmander (Josh Murphy 75). Subs not used: Nash (gk), Hoolahan, Garrido, R Bennett.
GOALS: NORWICH – Hooper (13), Fer (88).
BOOKINGS: ALBION – Brunt (foul 27). NORWICH – Whittaker (foul 53), Ruddy (time wasting 74), Murphy (foul 78).
REFEREE: M Clattenburg (Durham).
ALBION STARMAN: Chris Brunt.