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Paddy Davitt, Norwih City Writer
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Norwich City slipped to a miserable Premier League 2-1 Boxing Day defeat as Fulham boosted their own survival chances at Carrow Road.
The Canaries were given the perfect start when Gary Hooper’s deflected first half strike spiralled over David Stockdale but Pajtim Kasami’s free kick levelled matters before the interval and Scott Parker’s thumping 87th minute hit sealed the points after a lacklustre outing from Chris Hughton’s squad.
Hughton opted to keep the same starting line up which ground out a battling Premier League point at struggling Sunderland. Ricky van Wolfswinkel was kept in reserve after making his long-awaited comeback from a toe injury in the closing stages at the Stadium of Light. Russell Martin was fit to return on the bench after missing out on the goalless draw on Wearside with an ankle problem but midfielder Jonny Howson was again absent with a back problem. Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen was without key defenders Philippe Senderos and Brede Hangeland (sciatic nerve) along with Dimitar Berbatov (hamstring) through injury whilst Clint Dempsey was not included following his short term loan return from Seattle Sounders.
Parker robbed Bradley Johnson to free Kasami inside the opening five minutes, but John Ruddy patted down his swinging long range strike before gathering at the second attempt with Adel Taarabt in close attendance.
Johnson tried to make amends two minutes later with a speculative shot Stockdale could watch roll past his left-hand post. Nathan Redmond eased past Sascha Reither to craft an inviting cross that bisected both Hooper and Johan Elmander six yards out. Hooper lashed Norwich in front in the 13th minute with a deflected 25-yard strike that looped up and over Aaron Hughes after Reither’s original miscue was re-cycled by Michael Turner for Elmander to supply his strike partner.
Kasami had Ruddy scrambling across his goalline after dragging a left-footer wide from 16 yards after pouncing on Steven Whittaker’s errant clearance. Elmander nipped the ball around Stockdale after the Cottagers’ keeper and Hughes failed to deal with a hopeful throughball but the Swede’s intended cutback for Robert Snodgrass was intercepted by Fernando Amorebieta. Hooper was then gifted a chance to double his Boxing Day tally in the 25th minute but the striker wastefully carved wide on his right foot under no pressure 18 yards out after Stockdale and Reither exhibited fresh hesitancy in the visitors’ defence.
Kieran Richardson’s dipping free kick brushed the top of Ruddy’s netting after Leroy Fer was adjudged to have dived in at Steve Sidwell. Damien Duff then side footed wide eight yards out with Ruddy beaten after the Irishman had slipped the wrong side of Martin Olsson to anticipate Kasami’s whipped delivery. Norwich’s slackness was now irking the home support with a comical interlude in the 32nd minute triggering fresh dissatisfaction on the terraces when Ruddy slammed a clearance against the arm of Parker that was correctly ruled out by the assistant referee.
Norwich could not rely on similar help from the officials in the 34th minute when Kasami drew the Cottagers’ level with a free kick drilled right through the home wall and into Ruddy’s bottom left-hand corner after Sidwell’s initial dummy prompted the hosts to break ranks. Norwich belatedly tried to re-gain the initiative in the immediate aftermath, with Redmond’s frustration clear at the lack of urgency from his team mates in connecting with his tempting cross that drifted right across Stockdale’s six yard line. The Fulham keeper needed to be alert on the restart to gather Redmond’s teasing cross with Hooper sensing an opportunity. Turner’s caution for tangling with Taarabt – his fifth of the season - earned him a weekend off after reaching the disciplinary threshold ahead of Manchester United’s league visit on this coming Saturday.
Reither redeemed himself for his shaky opening period with a vital header to divert Fer’s goalbound flick away in the 50th minute from Snodgrass’ corner. City were warned again after Richardson’s raking long pass dropped over Turner for Taarabt to side foot at Ruddy from 16 yards. Fer was the second Norwich player booked for hauling down Taarabt but Kasami’s free kick failed to carry the same menace as his first half leveller.
Elmander was convinced he should have been awarded a penalty for an apparent shove inside the Fulham box in the 61st minute but referee Moss remained unmoved. Van Wolfswinkel’s entrance met with the full approval of the home support for Elmander in the 63rd minute. Redmond’s free kick clipped the Fulham wall from wide on the left as City attempted to make the most of that increase in volume before Fer met another corner with a full-blooded header straight at Stockdale. Taarabt was given far too much room by City’s midfield shortly after but Ruddy held his swerving long range hit. The England man then dropped on Alex Kacaniklic’s deflected cross after Whittaker wisely pulled out of a challenge that may have earned the visitors’ a penalty. Wes Hoolahan’s introduction for the tiring Snodgrass injected a genuine creative element into the mix for the hosts with the game meandering to a conclusion approaching the final quarter. Sebastien Bassong’s last ditch block foiled Sidwell with City cut open on the counter again with worrying ease. Ruddy then denied Hugo Rodallega in a far post scramble with Hoolahan’s intervention also key as the Norwich keeper dropped on the bouncing ball. Johnson’s delicate cross interested the Irishman at the opposite end, but his slice took the ball away from van Wolfswinkel. Parker escaped punishment for a robust challenge through van Wolfswinkel which had echoes of Wes Brown’s red card offence on the Dutchman at Sunderland before Christmas.
Olsson’s wayward left-footed strike into the home fans sparked another wave of frustration, but things got much worse just a minute later when Parker was given time and space to lash a 25-yard strike beyond Ruddy’s despairing dive. City failed to muster any concerted response in stoppage time as they left the field to a chorus of boos.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Olsson, Snodgrass (Hoolahan 72), Fer, Johnson, Redmond, Elmander (van Wolfswinkel 63), Hooper. Subs (not used): Bunn, Martin, Becchio, Bennett, Murphy.
• Bookings: Turner (foul on Taarabt, 50); Fer (foul on Taarabt, 58); Redmond (foul on Kasami, 82).
• Goal: Hooper (13)
• Fulham: Stockdale, Riether, Hughes, Amorebieta, Richardson, Sidwell, Parker, Kasami, Duff (Rodallega 58), Taarabt (Dejagah 72), Kačaniklić (Riise 90). Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Boateng, Ruiz, Bent.
• Goals: Kasami (33), Parker (87)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Jon Moss (West Yorks)
• Attendance: 26,811