Norwich City crash to 5-0 defeat at Fulham in Premier League opener
Chris Hughton’s reign as Norwich City manager began with a crushing defeat at Fulham in the opening game of the 2012-13 season.
Everything was fine until the kick off. The sun shone, and there must have been about 5,000 Canary fans in attendance. They were in good spirits and good voice, and full of optimism for the new season. The new manager and his team received a rapturous welcome from the massed ranks of yellow and green crammed into the Putney end of the ground.
After the pre-season friendlies Hughton’s first real team for the first real game of the season lined up; Ruddy (loudly acclaimed as England’s Number One), a back four of Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett, new signing Michael Turner, and Tierney, a midfield of Pilkington, Howson, Johnson, Surman, and new signing Robert Snodgrass, with Holt proudly sporting the captain’s armband but fighting a lone battle up front. Dempsey was absent from the Fulham side, allegedly because he was hoping a move to Liverpool would materialise.
With Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Hodgson watching from the stands, Norwich opened brightly and passed the ball well without really threatening the Fulham goal. A few long balls to Holt were all that they had to show for their efforts. Fulham opened the scoring in the 26th minute, with a goal scored by Duff, who found himself in space after a long ball by Riise. Their second came in the 41st minute when Petric beat Tierney to head home from Riise’s corner. So 2-0 at half-time.
Morison showed some welcome commitment when he replaced Surman, but soon it was 3-0 when Petric’s powerful shot was deflected off Turner. Realising that we were unlikely to win, some City fans began to stream out of the exits. Elliott Bennett replaced Snodgrass after 56 minutes. Kacaniklic then scored the fourth after a clever backheel from Petric. Hoolahan replaced the ineffectual Holt after 77 minutes, but Sidwell scored Fulham’s fifth and final goal from the penalty spot after Turner had fouled Rodallega. The remaining Canary fans began a defiant chorus of “City till I die”. The home fans responded with “Are you watching Clint Dempsey”. And mercifully the first game of the season was over.
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So a bad day at the office for City and their new managerial team. Neither Ruddy nor Holt will have enhanced their England chances (although both are in the London Metro newspaper’s fantasy football squads), and neither is likely to attract bids from Old Trafford. Too many City passes did not find their intended target. Four of Fulham’s goals were eminently preventable. And City only really threatened the Fulham keeper twice; once early in the first half when Surman burst through but his shot was smothered, and late in the game when with ten minutes to go Johnson’s long range shot was saved by Schwarzer.
Ever since Paul Lambert left Carrow Road, the pundits in the national press have named the Canaries amongst the favourites for relegation this season. Two of the Evening Standard’s team of five football writers, and four out of the Independent’s team of seven, have tipped us for relegation. On the evidence of Saturday’s game it was hard to disagree with them.
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But there are still 37 games to go. And we were not the only team to get thumped on Day One. QPR lost 5-0 at home to Swansea. Next week we are at home to…QPR. As Alan Hansen joked on MOTD, If both defences play like that it will probably finish 7-7! But seriously the game is already billed as a relegation six pointer and a must-win game for Norwich. It will be interesting to see whether Hughton makes any changes to his defence next week. Debut for Javier Garrido? Rumours of a new centre half? Remember last season we took six priceless league points from Rangers. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope the Norwich players realise it is a great chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of their fans, their manager, and their own self esteem.
Depending on your point of view, after their first game City were either one from bottom of the table or joint 10h on Saturday. Fingers crossed for fewer mistakes, first goals and first points of the season. If we get three points next week we will soar up the table. Bring on the Rangers...