Monday, September 26, 2011
Norwich City began to look very much at home in the Premier League as they produced a polished display to chalk up their second successive victory – though they had to endure a nervous finale at Carrow Road.
Defender Leon Barnett’s first goal of the season and striker Steve Morison’s first for the club gave them a two-goal cushion inside 48 minutes as they turned on the style against Sunderland for another packed house and the TV cameras.
Barnett’s first goal for 10 months came after 31 minutes when he finished off a slick move involving David Fox and Elliott Bennett.
Morison headed the second three minutes after the break from a cross by Marc Tierney, thanks largely to a surging run by Russell Martin.
There was a tense ending to proceedings, however, when Kieran Richardson reduced the arrears four minutes from time and City were left to play out stoppage time with 10 men after substitute James Vaughan hobbled off with what looked like a knee injury, just 12 minutes after coming on.
Both sides were unchanged after registering their first victories of the season, with manager Paul Lambert fielding the same eleven who started the 2-1 victory at Bolton nine days earlier, and ex-Canary Steve Bruce sticking to the same formula that brought Sunderland a 4-0 home win over Stoke.
The Canaries wasted no time getting on the front foot and in only the third minute, Morison’s determination gave him the first shooting opportunity of the night as he outmuscled Wes Brown and struck a low drive that goalkeeper Simon Mignolet smothered as he dived to his left.
Two minutes later, Wes Hoolahan might have given City the lead when Leon Barnett’s long ball cleared Morison and Brown and left him in the clear, but his lob cleared both the ’keeper and the bar.
It was a bright start by City and Mignolet, who betrayed early nerves with a badly sliced kick, twice had to cut out crosses from Anthony Pilkington.
A neat interchange between Kyle Naughton and Elliott Bennett led to the full-back’s cross being cleared for City’s third corner, but Nicklas Bendtner was back to clear it.
With 21 minutes gone, Bendtner carved an opening at the other end for Craig Gardner, but the midfielder blazed his shot over the top, and moments later Stephane Sessegnon was equally wayward when he fired well wide.
Sunderland produced their best effort so far on 25 minutes when Sessegnon set up Bendtner for a smart volley on the turn that John Ruddy dived to his right to keep out.
Pilkington forced another corner with a jinking run after good work by David Fox and Morison and though Fox’s corner failed to clear the first man, City stayed on the offensive and moved ahead in the 31st minute.
Bennett played a one-two with Fox and crossed low towards the six-yard box, where centre-back Barnett arrived unmarked to sidefoot home.
With Mignolet not inspiring too much confidence, Sunderland looked nervous at the back and Brown was lucky to escape a yellow card for a trip on Hoolahan that earned him a word from referee Foy.
A mistake by Brown handed Hoolahan an opening in the final minute of the half but his shot deflected wide off Titus Bramble.
• Half-time: Norwich City 1, Sunderland 0
Within three minutes of the restart, City stretched their lead with a superbly-worked goal, Morison scoring his first for the club.
Russell Martin was the architect with a storming run forward after he collected Bradley Johnson’s pass inside his own half, and he slipped the perfect pass to the overlapping Marc Tierney, who floated an inviting cross into the six-yard box for Morison to head home.
Bennett whistled a powerful shot wide as City grew in confidence and an appreciative home crowd pumped up the volume.
A misplaced pass by Sebastian Larsson provided Morison with the chance to add to his tally but as he sprinted away and homed in on goal, Bramble did just enough to halt his progress.
A miskick by Johnson almost enabled Bendtner to reduce the arrears after 63 minutes, but the former Arsenal man somehow squeezed his shot across the face of the goal.
As City broke through Russell Martin once again, he sent Bennett clear on the left and the winger’s shot was beaten away by Mignolet, but Martin’s follow-up cross just eluded Morison.
Former Ipswich man Connor Wickham was introduced as part of a double substitution midway through the second half and had an immediate chance to reduced the arrears but headed straight at Ruddy from Elmohamady’s cross.
Sunderland suddenly looked more urgent and Ruddy had to dive low to his left to foil David Vaughan after substitute Ji-Dong Won broke down the left.
Lambert made a double change with 12 minutes left when Pilkington and Morison made way for James Vaughan and skipper Grant Holt, the two players leaving to a standing ovation.
Andrew Crofts replaced Bennett with six minutes left and Vaughan, keen to make an impact, whistled a 20-yard shot wide.
With four minutes left, however, City were facing a nervous finish when Kieran Richardson reduced the arrears with a powerful drive from the left-hand corner of the penalty area that may have brushed Barnett’s toe on the way past Ruddy.
The sight of Vaughan hobbling, clutching his left knee, then sitting on the turf in need of attention, was a major worry for City in the closing minutes – and he had to be helped off after treatment, leaving City with 10 men for five minutes of added time.
Meanwhile, John O’Shea was booked for a high challenge on Tierney.
Barnett conceded a needless corner with a stray backpass and Ruddy was booked for holding on to the ball as Sunderland tried to take it quickly. Naughton followed the keeper into the book as the seconds ticked away, but when Ruddy made a vital grab from the onrushing Ji, City were home and dry.
• Result: Norwich City 2, Sunderland 1
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Naughton, Barnett, Russell Martin, Tierney; Bennett (Crofts, 84), Fox, Bradley Johnson, Pilkington (Vaughan,78); Hoolahan; Morison (Holt, 78). Subs (not used): Rudd, DeLaet, Surman, Chris Martin.
• Sunderland: Mignolet; O’Shea, Brown, Bramble, Richardson; Elmohamady,Gardner, Vaughan, Larsson (Ji, 68); Sessegnon (Wickham, 68); Bendtner. Subs (not used) Westwood, Turner, Cattermole, Colback, McClean.
• Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
• Attendance: 26,107
• Goals: Norwich: Barnett (31), Morison (48). Sunderland: Richardson (86)
• Bookings: Norwich: Ruddy (time-wasting, 90), Naughton (time-wasting, 90). Sunderland: O’Shea (foul on Tierney, 89)