Photo Gallery: Norwich City denied in Christmas cracker
Wolves 2, Norwich City 2: Two Norwich City players bagged their first Premier League goals in a rip-roaring contest with Wolves – but it was not quite enough to secure a rare victory at Molineux.
The Canaries led twice, first through Andrew Surman’s diving header against his former club after 12 minutes, and late in the game through substitute Simeon Jackson, within seconds of his introduction, but each time they were pegged back.
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who scored a hat-trick in the corresponding fixture in the Championship in 2009, provided the first of the equalisers eight minutes before the break, and it was eight minutes from time when defender Ronald Zubar headed Wolves’ second to cancel out Jackson’s 76th-minute goal.
There was drama as the game entered stoppage time when Steven Fletcher had what he thought was Wolves’ winner disallowed for offside, before goalkeeper John Ruddy made a vital save from Adam Hammill’s header, but it would have been a cruel end to the evening for a City side who contributed so much to the entertainment on a wet and chilly night in the West Midlands.
Kyle Naughton’s fifth yellow card of the season looks set to mean suspension for the full-back, though he is in in any case ineligible to face his parent club, Tottenham, at Carrow Road next Tuesday.
Manager Paul Lambert kept faith with the same eleven from Goodison Park, and there was a lively start as Russell Martin, becoming the master of the goalmouth heroics, produced a vital block in the fourth minute to prevent Ebanks-Blake getting in a close-range effort.
Surman managed to get in a shot at the other end from Wes Hoolahan’s cross, but a deflection took the sting out his effort and goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey dived to his left to save. Steve Morison went closer still with a fierce cross-shot that Hennessey diverted for the first corner in the 10th minute, after Surman had created the opening.
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But with 12 minutes gone, it was Surman who headed the Canaries into the lead with his first goal of the season. Surman started the move with a pass down the left and Wolves appeared to freeze, waiting for an offside flag that never came, leaving Hoolahan to cross perfectly for Surman – making good ground – to dive in and head past Hennessey. Two minutes later, he almost did it again, getting his head to Morison’s cross, but the keeper was able to save.
Hunt missed a good chance to equalise after 23 minutes when Ruddy could only palm away Ebanks-Blake’s cross but, following up, he hooked the loose ball over the bar.
Ebanks-Blake looked Wolves’ most dangerous player and whistled a half-volley just over the top before, sure enough, eight minutes before the break, he levelled the scores. A slide rule pass from Matt Jarvis set up full-back Stephen Ward for a cross from the left, and though Russell Martin blocked Hunt’s initial effort, Ebanks-Blake knocked the loose ball home.
Fletcher was first to threaten after the interval, curling a shot just off target, while seven minutes into the half, Holt hooked in a shot after Surman’s cross had been knocked down, but it lacked to power to trouble Hennessey.
Surman tested Hennessey again, sending the ’keeper diving to his right with another curling effort after Holt had brought Morison’s cross under control.
Fletcher came dangerously close to making it 2-1 when he shrugged off Tierney and fired narrowly over the bar.
City had appeals for a penalty rejected when Christophe Berra appeared to handle a Hoolahan cross, and twice more the Canaries went close, when Hoolahan’s shot was deflected wide, then when Hennessey blocked Russell Martin’s shot from the resulting corner.
Lambert made a double change with 15 minutes left when Bradley Johnson and Simeon Jackson replaced Fox and Holt, and the move paid off within seconds as City regained the lead. Hoolahan found Morison on the left and he battled hard to beat Roger Johnson to squeeze in a cross that Jackson managed to knock home from almost on the line.
With eight minutes left, however, it was 2-2 as Nenad Milijas swung in a corner from the left and Zubar got in front of Russell Martin to power in a header.
Wolves skipper Johnson almost produced a replica goal from another Milijas corner with five minutes to go, but headed wide.
As the game entered stoppage time, Fletcher knocked home a cross from Jarvis, but the assistant referee’s flag was up for offside, then Ruddy saved a point-blank header from Hammill before Milijas fired wide.