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Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Norwich City completed a fruitless Christmas and New Year programme when their trip to West Ham United ended in a fourth successive Premier League defeat.
A disputed penalty by Mark Noble at the start of the afternoon set the Hammers on course for victory, Joey O’Brien making it 2-0 before the break.
Russell Martin replied for City in the final minute of normal time but it was too late to salvage anything for Chris Hughton’s men.
The depleted Canaries were rocked on their heels after less than three minutes when Hammers skipper Noble scored from the spot after Ryan Bennett was adjudged by referee Mark Clattenburg to have held down Winston Reid.
They were unlucky not to equalise when a 20th-minute free-kick by Robert Snodgrass hit the post and when Clattenburg failed to spot a handball offence by Reid in the West Ham area moments later.
Goalkeeper Mark Bunn then denied Jack Collison with a fine save, but with 27 minutes gone, it was all too easy for O’Brien as he scored the Hammers’ second after City failed to deal with a cross by Noble.
West Ham might have made it 3-0 when Ricardo Vaz Te headed against the post in the second half and while the Canaries worked hard to try to find a way back into the game, they had to settle for a 90th-minute consolation goal from acting captain Martin, his third in two matches.
So the 12 points of Christmas completely eluded City, on the back of a 10-match unbeaten run in the league.
City showed three changes from the team that started the 4-3 defeat by Manchester City.
Ryan Bennett returned to the defence in place of Javier Garrido, Jonny Howson replaced the suspended Bradley Johnson in midfield and Harry Kane was given the striker’s role in place of Steve Morison, ruled out by a thigh injury, with skipper Grant Holt still not fit to return from a hamstring problem.
Midfielder Korey Smith was in the squad for the first time this season after his loan spell at Yeovil, named as one of the seven substitutes.
West Ham, with five defeats in their previous seven Premier League games, also made three changes after the 1-0 defeat at Reading with Kevin Nolan and James Collins suspended and Gary O’Neil dropped to the bench. Into the side came Guy Demel, Jack Collison and Vaz Te.
Russell Martin skippered City again with Noble leading out the Hammers, Martin occupying the left-back slot and Ryan Bennett playing at right-back.
West Ham forced a corner in the opening minute, Bunn punching clear from Noble’s kick, but within seconds the home side had been awarded a penalty by referee Clattenburg.
Ryan Bennett was penalised for holding Winston Reid as the ball was lobbed back into the area as the crowd, roaring for a spot-kick, got their wish. When the protests died down, Noble stepped up to confidently beat Bunn from the spot - with less than three minutes gone.
A moment of hesitation between Jaaskelainen and two of his defenders almost handed City a way back with the keeper just about managing to grab the ball under pressure from Kane.
Cole needed attention after being caught on the knee by Tettey’s studs as they jumped together. The striker was hobbling badly but eventually returned to the action.
With 13 minutes gone, Cole was fit enough to turn away from Bassong and test Bunn with a powerful effort from 20 yards.
The Canaries were so close to getting on terms on 20 minutes when Noble was penalised for hand-ball and Snodgrass struck a curling free-kick against the post.
Reid clearly appeared to handle in the next goalmouth melee, but play continued and Pilkington’s shot squirted wide off team-mate Ryan Bennett.
Then Bunn had to react brilliantly, diving to keep out Collison’s shot from close range after he connected at the second attempt with a cross by Demel.
The Hammers stretched their lead on 27 minutes but with City effectively a man short as Tettey lay prone on the turf after Cole landed on top of him. Play continued and O’Brien and Noble combined on the left side of the Norwich penalty area, Bassong poked the ball away from Noble’s cross but only to O’Brien, who squeezed a shot past Bunn.
Taylor’s rising shot was tipped over by Bunn after a short corner routine as City continued to struggle.
Cole missed a golden chance to make it 3-0 when he fired over the top from Demel’s cross after the perfect pass from Noble had left Russell Martin and Pilkington trailing.
Vaz Te volleyed wide in the final minute of the half after Howson badly sliced an attempted clearance.
Tettey had a shot blocked by O’Brien as City looked for a way back into the game.
As the teams left the field at half-time, City boss Hughton had words with match official Clattenburg.
• Half-time: West Ham United 2, Norwich City 0
A foul by O’Brien on Snodgrass gave City a free-kick soon after the restart but the offside flag foiled City as Snodgrass floated the ball across.
There were appeals for a penalty as Kane went down under challenge from Tomkins as he pursued a Hoolahan pass, but the referee was unimpressed.
Pilkington struck a fairly tame shot at Jaaskelainen as Hoolahan put him through with only the keeper to beat, but the flag was up once again.
Noble needed treatment after landing badly following a collision with Snodgrass but with an hour gone, the energy seemed to have gone out of the Hammers’ game.
A shot by Noble was deflected for a corner and, remarkably, the kick by Taylor eluded every player in the six-yard box.
After 64 minutes, a cross from the left by Taylor almost provided a third goal for West Ham as Vaz Te rose above Russell Martin but headed against the post with Bunn beaten.
Turner headed over from a Snodgrass corner but with three quarters of the match gone, City’s chances of a comeback were looking slender.
With 20 minutes go, there was a double change as Jackson and Elliott Bennett replaced Kane and Hoolahan, while the Hammers replaced goalscorer O’Brien with O’Neil.
Snodgrass struck a low drive that Jaaskelainen dived to keep out but it lacked the power to really trouble the keeper.
With eight minutes left, Vaz Te made way for Maiga in the Hammers’ second change, before Howson was replaced by Fox, getting a rare taste of Premier League action.
Fox shot over the bar after Turner failed to connect cleanly with a Snodgrass corner, and the Hammers made their last change when Jarvis was replaced by Spence.
In the final minute, Russell Martin reduced the arrears for the Canaries when he volleyed in from inside the penalty area from Elliott Bennett’s cross.
There were a few anxious moments for the Hammers in stoppage time, but Pilkington wasted the final opening for Norwich with a badly overhit cross.
• West Ham United: Jaaskelainen; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, O’Brien (O’Neil, 71); Noble; Vaz Te (Maiga, 82), Collison, Taylor, Jarvis (Spence, 86); Cole. Subs (not used): Spiegel, Diarra, Lletget, Lee.
• Norwich City: Bunn; Ryan Bennett, Turner, Bassong, Russell Martin; Tettey, Howson (Fox, 83); Snodgrass, Hoolahan (Elliott Bennett, 70), Pilkington; Kane (Jackson, 70). Subs (not used): Rudd, Tierney, Barnett, Smith.
• Referee: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham)
• Attendance: 35,005
• Goals: West Ham: Noble (pen, 3), O’Brien (27). City: Russell Martin (90)