A couple of crackers to end 2012

Russell Martin scores Norwich City's second goal against Manchester City. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images Russell Martin scores Norwich City's second goal against Manchester City. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Hamilton Nemo
Thursday, January 3, 2013
5:49 PM

Norwich City ended 2012 with two home games against Chelsea and Manchester City. Both games ended in defeat by a single goal. Both games ended in heavy rain.

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Both games were played in front of very full houses, despite there being but few trains in evidence (and none from London) on Boxing Day. And in both games the Canaries played well against two of the best (and most expensively assembled) teams in England and were applauded off the pitch by their fans.

Since Chelsea had won their previous game 8-0, some City fans feared the worse when Chelsea visited Carrow Road on Boxing Day. Such are Chelsea’s rich reserves that they could afford to leave both Lampard and Hazard (combined transfer value approx. £50 million), on the bench for this game. But City matched their illustrious opponents and were somewhat unlucky to lose to a superb strike from Mata after 38 minutes. Just to prove that money is not everything, £50 million Torres was quite anonymous throughout, despite manager Benitez encouraging and cajoling him in Spanish.

The real winner in the second half was the weather. The rain poured down to such an extent that both the pitch and the ball were slippery and unpredictable, and either side might have profited from the conditions to score a freak goal. In the event neither did. Man of the match Bassong came closest at the death with a downward header that somehow, despite the sodden pitch, found enough bounce to bounce over the bar. Lucky Chelsea, but well played City.

On Saturday it was the turn of the millionaires from Manchester City to grace the hallowed turf at Carrow Road for an action packed afternoon. For this game Morison started in place of the injured Holt. Norwich made the worst possible start and were two goals down within four minutes. Both goals were scored by Dzeko, after good work by Silva and Aguero respectively. The second goal came after Kompany’s fierce challenge on Johnson which might have resulted in a Norwich free kick…but did not, to Johnson’s chagrin. The Canaries pulled one back after 15 minutes when Snodgrass dummied and left a free kick on the edge of the area for Pilkington to rifle in a shot that appeared to take a slight deflection as it beat Hart.

Halfway through the half Garrido mistimed his clearance against his former club and the ball appeared to be heading under the bar, only for Bunn to tip it over for a corner. Was that a back pass? The referee clearly thought not. Just before half-time there was a moment of drama when Bassong’s over-enthusiastic tackle was judged to be a foul on Nasri. Nasri first rolled over as though he were seriously injured, then changed his mind and leapt up to confront the Cameroonian defender. Had he been taller he would have headbutted the Norwich man, but as it was he simply stood on tiptoes and thrust his head under Bassong’s chin threateningly. Referee Jones booked Bassong and sent Nasri off. To say that Nasri disagreed with the decision would be an understatement. Just before the half-time whistle blew, Morison went off clutching his thigh, and was replaced by substitute Kane.

Despite being down to ten men the Blues restored their two-goal advantage after 50 minutes. Again it was an excellent strike, this time by Aguero who took Yaya Toure’s pass, beat Bassong, and flicked the ball over Bunn. After 57 minutes Howson replaced Tettey in the Norwich midfield, and soon showed his class as Hart could only push his strong shot out for a corner, which was taken short and Snodgrass was able to cross to the far post where Bassong, completely unmarked, headed it back into the danger area and acting skipper Russell Martin headed home his first goal of the season.

Four minutes later that man Dzeko completed his hat-trick and restored the Blues’ two-goal advantage. As the Norwich defence waited in vain for an offside flag the Bosnian continued his run and his shot took deflections off both the post and Bunn before trickling in.

After 75 minutes Jackson replaced Hoolahan, and Norwich immediately reduced the arrears following the confusion caused by Snodgrass’ corner. Kane and Johnson failed to put the ball in the net, but Martin was not to be denied. Play was flowing from end to end and passions ran high. Bunn saved well from Aguero. Pilkington was booked for arguing with the linesman. But despite Norwich pressure there was no further score and Norwich tasted defeat for the third time in eight days.

The transfer window is now open for one month. Will there be any new arrivals at, or departures from, Carrow Road? Undoubtedly. Who? Messi? Ronaldo? Schneider? Mackail-Smith? Graham? Mulenga? Toure? All or none of the above? I haven’t a clue. Watch the Pink Un website for breaking news. And a Happy New Year from the Capital Canaries. May 2013 be another exciting and successful year for Norwich City and their fans. OTBC .

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