Saturday, November 17, 2012
Anthony Pilkington’s first goal of the season gave Norwich City a famous victory over Manchester United to send a Carrow Road full house into carnival mood.
It was cometh the hour, cometh the man as Pilkington struck after 60 minutes with a perfectly-placed header from a cross by full-back Javier Garrido.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy produced a brilliant display to record his fifth clean sheet of the season, most notably with saves from Ashley Young and from his own team-mate, Sebastien Bassong, and the Canaries protected their lead valiantly to extend their unbeaten run to five Premier League games and six matches in all competitions.
It was only City’s second victory over United in 15 meetings, stretching back more than 21 years, but one that Chris Hughton’s men worked themselves into the ground for.
Substitute Jonny Howson might have made the margin of victory greater but rolled the ball the wrong side of the post in the final minute of normal time.
City boss Hughton named an unchanged side after the 0-0 draw at Reading, with midfielder Alex Tettey fit to play despite a back problem restricting his training over the past two weeks.
Hughton also opted for the same seven substitutes on duty at the Madejski Stadium.
Defender Russell Martin was still sidelined by a back problem he suffered three weeks ago at Aston Villa.
United showed three changes to the team that started the 3-2 win at Villa. Anders Lindegaard, who was reported to have suffered a knock on international duty with Denmark, was a surprise inclusion in goal in place of David de Gea, who had troublesome teeth.
Ryan Giggs replaced fellow veteran Paul Scholes in midfield, while Mexican striker Javier Hernandez, who came off the bench to score twice at Villa Park, replaced Wayne Rooney, sidelined by an ankle injury and tonsillitis.
Defender Jonny Evans (groin) and midfielder Nani (hamstring) were still absent, but defender Phil Jones was named on the bench after missing the whole season so far with a knee injury.
Before kick-off, Wes Hoolahan was presented with City’s player of the month award for October.
United were knocked off the top before kick-off by rivals Manchester City’s 5-0 win over Villa.
Unusually, City were defending the Barclay end first and in only the third minute, Ruddy was called upon to make an important save, diving to his right to keep out Van Persie’s left-foot shot but unable to stop it going out for a corner.
United forced two flag-kicks but Young failed to deliver and as City pushed forward, Snodgrass fired their first shot in anger, hooking a long-range effort over the top from a quickly-taken free-kick.
Whittaker had to concede a third corner, heading clear from Valencia’s cross, but as Ruddy punched clear from Young’s kick, City broke very swiftly and Hoolahan sent Pilkington clear for a powerful effort that flashed past Lindegaard’s left-hand post.
Young won a fortunate free-kick on the edge of the City area when he ran into Whittaker and tumbled over, but United wasted it when Van Persie fired almost into the top tier from Giggs’ pass.
Another free-kick, awarded for a foul by Turner on Hernandez, gave Young a dead-ball opportunity but he curled his shot straight into Ruddy’s arms from 20 yards.
A neat passing move after 17 minutes gave Hoolahan the chance to shoot but, on his right foot, his effort lacked the power to trouble Lindegaard.
Evra failed to connect with a free header from a Young corner when he could have given United the lead.
Snodgrass was not too far off target with a glancing header from a cross by Hoolahan, and City, looking more threatening, went even closer when Pilkington set up Garrido for a cross from the left that whizzed across the six-yard box with no one able to connect.
There were ironic cheers when referee Taylor finally gave City a free-kick for a foul by Hernandez on Turner.
Tettey tried his luck from long range but Lindegaard saved comfortably, low to his right.
City carved United open down the left side of their defence with some neat interplay between Hoolahan and Snodgrass, whose cross was destined for Holt at the near post, only for Smalling to make a vital tackle and prevent a certain goal.
Van Persie missed a real opening moments later when he kicked thin air from Giggs’ pass, but Ruddy denied United the lead with a brilliant save three minute before the break. Van Persie’s corner found the head of Whittaker and dropped for Young, who struck a low left-foot shot that was heading inside the post until the keeper stuck out his left-hand to divert the ball wide.
• Half-time: Norwich City 0, Manchester United 0
Within two minutes of the restart, Van Persie again failed to make the most of an opening as he swung a boot at Young’s pass but he was given a second opportunity as Garrido stumbled, only to fire straight at Ruddy, who gathered at the second attempt.
There was an escape for United when Evra fouled Snodgrass and the winger floated in a free-kick that Lindegaard failed to gather, but which struck Turner on the back as he arrived at the far post.
City were enjoying a good spell in the United half and only the lack of a final ball let them down as crosses from Garrido, then Pilkington, went begging.
But with an hour gone, Carrow Road erupted as Pilkington headed City into the lead with his first goal of the season.
A splendid move down the left ended with Hoolahan releasing Garrido and the full-back’s perfect cross was met with a marvellous glancing header by Pilkington that gave Lindegaard no chance.
Pilkington’s footwork almost conjured up the chance for a second goal when he fizzed a cross into the six-yard box but United managed to scramble the ball clear.
United made a double change with just over 20 minutes left as Scholes and Welbeck replaced Valencia and Hernandez.
Smalling appeared to have a handful of Holt’s shirt as a cross from Whittaker came in, but referee Taylor waved play on.
A foul by Rafael on Johnson gave City a free-kick on the left and though United headed clear, Snodgrass floated the ball back in to where Johnson did not quite anticipate the chance and was unable to keep it in.
Ruddy saved a Welbeck header as Van Persie crossed from the right, and Whittaker came to the rescue with a defensive header after Young got away from Garrido.
With seven minutes left, there were three changes as Morison and Howson replaced Holt and Hoolahan for City, and Anderson came on for United defender Ferdinand.
Welbeck headed badly wide from an Anderson cross with five minutes left as United continued to press.
The two substitutes might have conjured up some magic as Morison did well to get in a cross from the left, but just too strong for Howson.
Pilkington cut in from the left and tested Lindegaard with a powerful effort as the home crowd began to sense a famous victory.
In the last minute of normal time, Howson could have made the game safe as Morison held the ball up well and played him through but the midfielder rolled his shot just the wrong side of the post.
Four minutes of added time were signalled and Elliott Bennett came on for Snodgrass, who had been down receiving treatment.
Rafael was booked for dissent after disputing a throw-in as United became frustrated.
Ruddy pulled off another wonderful save from his own defender as Bassong got his head to Van Persie’s free-kick, reacting brilliantly to tip the ball over the bar.
And the keeper capped a brilliant day’s work with another fine save from Anderson, with Scholes looking to pounce on the rebound,
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; Snodgrass (Elliott Bennett, 90), Hoolahan (Howson, 83), Pilkington; Holt (Morison, 83). Subs (not used): Bunn, Tierney, Ryan Bennett, Jackson.
• Manchester United: Lindegaard; Rafael, Smalling, Ferdinand (Anderson, 83), Evra; Valencia (Scholes, 69), Carrick, Giggs, Young; Hernandez (Welbeck, 69), Van Persie. Subs (not used): Johnstone, Jones, Fletcher, Cleverley.
• Referee: Anthony Taylor (Greater Manchester)
• Attendance: 26,840
• Goals: City: Pilkington (60)
• Bookings: United: Rafael (90)