x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Odemwingie breaks duck for West Brom

Despite the pressure exerted by Norwich, their hosts, Albion could have emerged with four goals in Sunday's Premier League action.

NORWICH // The sooner a first league win comes, the easier it is to settle into a season. West Bromwich Albion, without a point after their first three games, have belatedly got off the mark but Norwich City's quest for that elusive victory continues.

Positive and progressive, the promoted club got a harsh lesson in the realities of Premier League football. Mistakes are punished and officials unfavourable while eager attacking requires an end product. Even a seemingly struggling side - although the fixture list accounted for Albion's slow start - contain quality.

By their own admission, West Brom were below par, pinned on the back foot for long periods and with Roy Hodgson declaring: "We were own worst enemy at times." In comparison, Norwich were relentless in a sustained display of verve. But, thanks to Peter Odemwingie's early winner, it counted for nothing.

The consequence is that they have suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time in Paul Lambert's reign. In itself, that is proof of how far and how fast they have travelled under the Scot and yet Norwich's last taste of top-flight football, which culminated in relegation and incorporated a 14-game wait for a maiden victory, means the past offers a warning.

The present, containing ostensibly encouraging performances, brought a demoralising result.

Norwich had their opportunities, none clearer than a late header that substitute Steve Morison directed wide, but were profligate. Grant Holt and Elliott Bennett also missed the target when well positioned while Bradley Johnson came closest when his fierce strike just cleared the cross bar.

And yet, despite the pressure exerted by their hosts, Albion could have emerged with four goals.

They possessed the greater incision, as Graham Dorrans showed with a wonderfully crisp long-range shot that rebounded off the woodwork, even if the one goal they did manage was gifted. Three minutes into his first start of the campaign, Odemwingie wasted little time in opening his account. The assist, however, came from Norwich's Ritchie de Laet.

His header back lacked the power to reach Declan Rudd and Odemwingie nipped in to slide the ball past the Norwich goalkeeper. It was a second significant error of the season by De Laet, culpable for Wigan's goal on the opening day; borrowed from Manchester United to bring Premier League pedigree, he has proved more gaffe-prone than Lambert's lower-league stalwarts.

The 20-year-old Rudd, meanwhile, had a memorable match. Deputising for the suspended John Ruddy, he alternated between nervy moments and fine saves. But for him, Odemwingie would have had a hat-trick.

When Youssouf Mulumbu's slide-rule ball sent Odemwingie scurrying clear, Rudd's trailing foot diverted the striker's drilled shot to safety. He won their duel again when Morison nudged Steven Reid in the back and Mark Halsey, the referee, pointed to the spot. Odemwingie's penalty was firmly struck but well repelled by the young goalkeeper.

Nevertheless, it maintained Norwich's record of conceding a penalty in every game; such clumsiness could prove costly.

Spot kicks are proving a thorny subject for Norwich, convinced they should have had at least one of their own, especially when, seemingly deliberately, Gabriel Tamas elbowed James Vaughan in injury time.

"I think it's a penalty," Lambert, the manager, said. "You would have to ask the referee. I've seen it on the replay and he has caught him. James is away to see the plastic surgeon at the minute but it's a bad one."

Halsey, who acknowledged he had not seen the incident, exited the field to chorus of "you're not fit to referee", while Lambert was left lamenting: "We never got that big moment."

He was discussing decisions from officials, but Norwich's wait for their perfect moment continues.

sports@thenational.ae