Photo Gallery: Manchester City’s Argentine double act destroys Norwich City
Norwich City 1, Manchester City 6: With their well-deserved Easter Monday victory at White Hart Lane, Norwich City appeared to have found a chink in the cast-iron theory that the small group of clubs at the top of the Premier League are almost untouchable – the elite among the elite.
But the gulf in class between the absurdly wealthy few and the rest in the top flight was cruelly reinforced by Manchester City in the space of seven second-half minutes at Carrow Road as the Canaries were subjected to the heaviest defeat of Paul Lambert’s reign as manager.
Just five days after beating Tottenham Hotspur on their own ground with an almost superhuman effort, they were proved to be mere mortals once again.
The mystery for anyone watching Saturday’s early kick-off, either at close quarters or on TV, is how Roberto Mancini’s side do not already have the Premier League title wrapped up, and why they trail big rivals Manchester United by five points with just four games to go.
The self-inflicted absence for six months of Carlos Tevez, Saturday’s hat-trick hero – for want of a better word – is regarded as one reason for the Blues’ inconsistent run in the second half of the season, yet they did not appear to miss him when they swept allcomers aside before Christmas, least of all when they thumped Norwich 5-1 at the Etihad Stadium. Though the Canaries performed much better this time than on that wet December afternoon, the margin of defeat was, painfully, even greater in front of their own fans.
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The entire English-born eleven who defeated Spurs were ultimately no match for their multi-million, multi-national visitors, with Tevez and fellow countryman Sergio Aguero leading the demolition job so completely that until substitute Adam Johnson’s stoppage-time goal, the scoreboard might have read Norwich 1, Argentina 5.
Yet in the end-to-end 18 minutes before Tevez opened the scoring, the Canaries produced their share of chances.
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Anthony Pilkington rolled a shot wide after bursting clear on the left, goalkeeper John Ruddy saved from David Silva at point-blank range, Tevez was booked for diving in the penalty area when it appeared defender Ryan Bennett stood on his foot, and Joleon Lescott cleared off the line from Grant Holt’s header following a corner by Elliott Bennett.
The Blues took the lead, however, when Elliott Ward left Bradley Johnson a fraction short with a pass and Silva combined with Aguero to set up Tevez for a 20-yard shot that swerved viciously past the stunned Ruddy.
It was 2-0 after 27 minutes when Aguero struck his 27th goal of the season, playing a one-two with Tevez, whose perfect backheel set him up for a powerful rising shot that gave Ruddy no chance.
As the hosts rallied, Holt and Aaron Wilbraham tested England ’keeper Joe Hart from long range but it took a double change at half-time to bring the Canaries back into contention.
Six minutes into the second period, Wes Hoolahan set up Adam Drury for a cross from the left and as Hart punched away under pressure from Wilbraham, substitute Andrew Surman chested the ball down and volleyed home.
The Blues threatened again and Ruddy produced a fine save from Aguero, then he blocked Pablo Zabaleta’s shot with his feet.
Midway through the half came Norwich’s best opportunity to get on terms, Hoolahan’s run setting up half a chance for Wilbraham, who was denied by a sliding block by Gareth Barry.
Ruddy then tipped over a powerful shot by Zabaleta but the killer goal came in the 73rd minute when Tevez struck again. Yaya Toure, a major influence in midfield after replacing Samir Nasri, struck a low drive that Ruddy fumbled into the air, where Tevez outjumped Ryan Bennett to nod home.
Within two minutes, it was 4-1 thanks to a superb solo goal from Aguero. Taking possession just inside the Norwich half, he weaved his way just inside the penalty area and, after a kind deflection off Elliott Bennett, curled a perfect right-foot shot out of reach of Ruddy.
The demolition job was complete on 80 minutes when Tevez completed his hat-trick. Ryan Bennett’s attempted backpass fell well short of Ruddy and Tevez pounced to score a simple goal.
Holt was denied by a fine save by Hart as he sought a consolation goal, but the rest was one-way traffic.
Adam Johnson, on for Tevez, struck the bar in the final minute and, as the game entered stoppage time, Ageuro was denied a hat-trick when he struck the foot of the post.
But there was no escape when Aguero, looking slightly offside, and Gael Clichy combined to set up Johnson for goal number six, the England international repeating his December party trick by scoring against Norwich in injury time.