Lukaku justifies Clarke’s brave decision to start him ahead of Long

West Bromich Albion 1 Reading 0

Largely overlooked by Andre Villas-Boas after Chelsea paid £18 million to bring him to England in August last year, Romelu Lukaku is beginning to make up for lost time after joining West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan.

The 19-year-old Belgian striker’s second goal for Steve Clarke’s side settled a contest that should have been won more comfortably against a Reading side who were reminded again how difficult it is to win Premier League points.

Brian McDermott’s promoted side could not have been faulted for their industry but had barely created a chance until substitute Hal Robson-Kanu’s header beat Ben Foster only to land on the roof of the net in the last 10 minutes.

By then Albion had confirmed their superiority with a goal in the 71st minute, one that justified one of Clarke’s first tough decisions since leaving the relative comfort of coaching to be a number one. So far it could hardly be going better, with his side third in the table.

Clarke left out top scorer Shane Long to accommodate Lukaku from the start for the first time. As it happened, Long played a key role, meeting fellow substitute Graham Dorrans’s crossfield pass with a header at the far post to set up the chance for his teammate, who steadied himself before driving the ball past an unsighted Alex McCarthy, whose performance otherwise fully justified his selection ahead of Adam Federici.

“I said when I took the job that I would not be afraid to take tough decisions and it was difficult to leave out Shane because he has been terrific for me,” Clarke said. “But Romelu had been patient, waiting on the bench. I also felt I was I was always asking Shane to do the horrible shift, being on for the first hour when the defenders were still fresh and that it might benefit him to come on as the fresh player for a change. It worked out well for the team.”

Clarke, who was eight years on the coaching staff at Stamford Bridge, may have made one of the deals of the season in taking Lukaku on loan. Villas-Boas, who was sacked by Chelsea before the youngster started a Premier League match, found it difficult to find room for him while Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba were at his disposal, using him from the start only in Carling Cup games. “Had he been able to overtake those two it would have been a tremendous achievement for a 19-year-old,” he said recently.

With Drogba gone and Torres continuing to find his old Liverpool form elusive even under Roberto di Matteo, Chelsea might realise what they are missing, although Clarke said the possibility of recalling the striker did not concern him.

“I’m looking for Romelu to continue the fine form he has shown for us so far and score a few more goals. I would imagine there is a recall clause in his contract but if they do come back for him I can’t affect that.”

Clarke must work out how to include Long and Lukaku in a system based on one striker. It was working yesterday until James Morrison, outstanding as one of a trio behind Lukaku, went off injured. Only Claudio Yacob, exemplary in a holding midfield role, rivalled Morrison as man of the match. Those chances would have given Albion a cushion had McCarthy not been excellent in the Reading goal. He was beaten by a Jonas Olsson header that hit the bar but twice, at the start of each half, the 22-year-old denied Morrison, diving to push a shot around, then reacting to keep out a volley from the same player. It was a surprise that he was beaten by a shot fired straight at him, although he had two defenders between him and Lukaku and McDermott blamed them. “We should have got a block in regardless of what the keeper did,” he said.

West Bromwich (4-2-3-1): Foster; Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Gera (Dorrans 70), Morrison (Long 66), Brunt; Lukaku (Rosenberg 76).

Reading (4-4-2): McCarthy; Gunter (Robson-Kanu 80), Pearce, Gorkss, Shorey; McCleary, Leigertwood, Guthrie, McAnuff; Pogrebnyak (Hunt 69), Le Fondre.

Referee: Chris Foy

Man of the match: Yacob (West Brom)

Match rating: 6/10

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?