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Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Gary Hooper’s brilliant first half volley earned Norwich City a point in a 1-1 Premier League draw against Swansea City at Carrow Road.
Hooper’s third top flight goal in his last four outings cancelled out Nathan Dyer’s 12th minute opener but Michael Laudrup’s side were full value for a hard-earned point after their midweek European exertions. Michel Vorm denied Hooper in the best chance of the second period with a one-handed parry but Chris Hughton’s men never really threatened to knock the Swans out of their stride.
Hughton retained the same line up that beat West Brom 2-0 at the Hawthorns with Ricky van Wolfswinkel given another week to step up his fitness bid for the Canaries’ festive programme after his return to full training on Friday following a muscular toe problem. Swansea made eight changes from the line up that lost to St Gallen on Thursday night in the Europa League. Laudrup restored Dutch international Vorm to his side, although the keeper is scheduled to undergo an operation that will sideline him for a month in the New Year in a bid to be ready for Holland’s World Cup quest in Brazil.
The Canaries’ started on the front foot with Nathan Redmond bursting down the right before a cut back that Johan Elmander slammed against Ashley Williams. Steven Whittaker’s buccaneering run seconds later ended with a rash attempt to take the net off that instead flew into the Lower Barclay.
Whittaker was heavily involved in the opening skirmishes but his weak clearance was seized upon by Pablo Hernandez who cut inside and slammed a right-foot shot that brushed John Ruddy’s side netting. Ruddy confidently came through a crowd scene to gather Jonathan de Guzman’s floated free kick with Swansea slipping into their smooth rhythm after a bright start from the hosts. Michael Turner was adjudged to have bundled over Michu in the 11th minute but de Guzman’s right-foot curler raised few alarms for Ruddy as it drifted over his cross bar.
Swansea broke through a minute later, Dyer holding off Sebastien Bassong’s weak aerial challenge to race through onto Williams’ raking pass and lift over the stranded Ruddy 16 yards out. The hosts’ were convinced they should have had a penalty two minutes later when Leroy Fer’s far post header from Redmond’s stand up cross clearly struck the outstretched arm of Angel Rangel but referee Oliver waved away vociferous home appeals led by Fer. Swansea continued to dominate possession, much to the growing frustration of the Norwich crowd, who implored Hughton’s side to press higher out of their defensive shape.
Dyer was breaking into Norwich’s final third with worrying regularity, but the next incursion came down the opposite flank with Ben Davies’ picking out Michu who skied over under pressure from Bassong eight yards out.
Hooper had his first real sighter of the contest in the 27th minute after pulling onto Rangel’s shoulder but his glancing header from Whittaker’s angled cross slid wide. Redmond then drove beyond Davies but Vorm claimed his hanging cross with the Canaries’ flickering into life as an attacking force. Hooper harassed Williams into a mistake seconds later before bearing down on Vorm, who forced the striker to slice wide 14 yards out after he opted to veer infield.
Martin Olsson’s teasing cross was hacked behind shortly after by Jordi Amat with Swansea finally shaken out of their collective comfort zone. But a sickening injury for Dyer brought a prolonged halt to the proceedings before the interval when he appeared to take the full weight of Bassong on his right ankle after the Norwich captain rose to head clear on the halfway line before landing on top of the Swans’ goalscorer. Swansea confirmed at half-time the midfielder had departed for hospital to undergo scans on a suspected broken ankle.
Swansea were indebted to Williams’ quick reactions to head Fer’s close range poke up and over from underneath his own bar before Bassong planted a free header into the crowd from 12 yards with the hosts’ finishing the opening period much stronger.
Elmander won a key flick in midfield to trigger another flowing counter which prompted Jonny Howson to wastefully drag wide with Redmond powering up on the overlap. Dyer’s injury delay forced six minutes of additional time at the end of the half and it was Hooper who outrageously levelled when he moved onto Elmander’s knockdown to chest and volley over the back-pedalling Vorm 25 yards out. Redmond could even have nudged Hughton’s side in front in the seconds that remained when he backed Davies up into his own penalty area but curled wide.
Bassong continued to pound away in the opposition box with another header slipping wide shortly after the interval after shaking off the attentions of Rangel. Ruddy remained vigilant to collect under pressure from Williams after Jonjo Shelvey worked a sharp corner routine that caught Norwich dozing. Whittaker accepted the invitation to range forward but the Scottish international dragged his left footer from 25 yards.
Alejandro Pozuelo underlined Swans’ still carried plenty of attacking threat despite Dyer’s injury exit when he exchanged passes with Michu but curled over from the edge of the Norwich penalty area.
Norwich were again denied by desperate defending from Swansea in the 68th minute when Turner’s initial header struck the bar and hit the back of Amat’s head after Bassong had provided sufficient nuisance value for Vorm to miscue his punch. The Dutch keeper was fortunate again when he miscued a second attempted punch but the ball spiralled behind, but Vorm redeemed himself in the 76th minute with a one-handed parry to deny Hooper his second goal from eight yards out.
Luciano Becchio made his entrance in the immediate aftermath for Elmander with Swansea freshening up their frontline by introducing Wilfried Bony for Michu. The Argentine’s first meaningful contribution serviced Fer who drilled at Williams before Bassong again powered forward but headed Bradley Johnson’s free kick over on the angle of Swansea’s six yard box. Bony had Ruddy scrambling across his line in the 86th minute with a right footer guided wide after the visitors’ sprung a sharp counter from a Norwich corner. The England keeper then raced from his line to smother Shelvey’s attempted dink with his chest as the visitors’ finished the stronger.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Bassong, Turner, Olsson, Redmond (Murphy 83), Fer, Howson, Johnson, Elmander (Becchio 76), Hooper. Subs (not used): Nash, Martin, Hoolahan, Garrido, Bennett.
• Goal: Hooper (45)
• Swansea: Vorm, Rangel, Williams, Amat, Davies, de Guzman, Canas, Dyer (Pozuelo 44), Shelvey, Hernandez (Lamah 83), Michu (Bony 75). Subs (not used): Tremmel, Taylor, Routledge, Tiendalli.
• Bookings: Canas (handball, 55); Vorm (time-wasting 62); Rangel (foul on Fer, 64).
• Goal: Dyer (12)
• Added on time: 6 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
• Attendance: 26,876