Norwich City 1, Real Zaragoza 1
There was a stormy introduction to the new season at Carrow Road when last night’s first pre-season home game was held up for 10 minutes by a lightning strike.
Referee Neil Swarbrick took the teams off the field after just over an hour’s play when much of the ground was plunged into darkness during a thunderstorm.
A first-half goal from Belgian defender Ritchie de Laet was enough to secure a draw for Norwich City against La Liga team Real Zaragoza, with manager Paul Lambert including five summer signings in his starting line-up and later giving winger Anthony Pilkington his first pre-season outing.
There were a few sparks elsewhere at times for it was not the friendliest of friendlies and even the heavy rain, at times torrential, failed to cool tempers, with the Spanish side especially argumentative.
With a crowd of just over 10,000 inside the ground, there was almost a goal in the opening minute when Bradley Johnson got his head to Kyle Naughton’s cross but was foiled by a fine save by goalkeeper Toni Doblas.
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Immediately, at the other end, John Ruddy foiled Adam Pinter and the follow-up effort from Abraham Minero was blocked.
City took the lead after a quarter of an hour when Grant Holt nodded on David Fox’s free-kick and De Laet applied the finishing touch with a close-range header.
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There were some bad-tempered moments and after Real coach Javier Aguirre was lectured by referee Swarbrick for wandering too far down the touchline, his fellow Mexican, on-loan defender Efrain Juaraz, was booked for dissent.
With little more than a minute of the first half remaining, Real levelled with a goal they did not really deserve on the run of the play. City failed to deal with a right-wing corner from Juan Carlos and as the ball was knocked beyond the far post, Braulio Nobrega rifled it into the roof of the net, sparking another scuffle between opposing players.
Zaragoza made five changes at the break and one of the new faces, Angel Lafita, tested Ruddy with a long-range drive three minutes into the half.
Fox drilled in a powerful free-kick after 55 minutes that the ’keeper did well to hold, then Ruddy equalled that save by tipping over another piledriver from Lafita.
With 62 minutes gone, a lightning strike plunged most of the ground into darkness as most of the floodlights went out and referee Swarbrick sensibly took the teams off the field. Defender Marc Tierney, undaunted, cartwheeled his way on to the pitch after the teams left the field to keep the crowd entertained.
The delay lasted 10 minutes before play resumed, and it wasn’t long before Tierney was given a taste of the real action as one of three substitutes for the Canaries in the 71st minute, when Pilkington was also given his first pre-season outing.
With 10 minutes left, Toni Doblas denied Steve Morison by diving to his left to save from the striker and shortly afterwards, the hobbling Morison made way for Aaron Wilbraham.
The ’keeper made another fine save to keep out Simeon Jackson’s header four minutes from time.
• Norwich City: Ruddy; R Martin (Tierney, 71), Barnett, De Laet, Naughton; Fox; Bennett, B Johnson (Pilkington, 71); Hoolahan; Morison (Wilbraham, 82), Holt (Jackson, 71). Subs (not used): Rudd, Drury, Whitbread, Surman, K Smith, Lappin, Francomb. Goal: De Laet (15).
• Real Zaragoza: Toni Doblas; Juarez, Lanzaro (Laguardia, 45), Mateos, Paredes (Contini, 45), Abraham (Obradovic, 45); Ponzio; Edu Oriol (Lafita, 45), Pinter, Juan Carlos (Orti, 71); Braulio (Uche, 45). Subs (not used): Leo Franco, Alcolea, Goni, Joel, Kevin. Booking: Jaurez (20). Goal: Braulio (44).
• Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)
• Attendance: 10,825