May 19 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, December 2, 2012
First half goals from Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington gave Norwich City their fourth successive Premier League home victory, but they had to work hard in the second half to resist a determined fightback from Sunderland.
The result stretched City’s unbeaten run to eight league games and nine in all competitions under Chris Hughton and pulled them further clear of the danger zone.
The Canaries looked to be well in control when they went two goals up inside 37 minutes.
Bassong scored the first from close range in the eighth minute following a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, his second goal in three games, then Pilkington produced a splendid finish from Bradley Johnson’s through-ball to make it 2-0.
Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland, however, got themselves back into the contest in the final minute of the half when Craig Gardner struck a 25-yard drive past keeper Mark Bunn.
The second half was uncomfortable, nail-biting viewing for City fans at times as Sunderland shook off their lethargy and poured forward.
Matthew Kilgallon fired over an open goal after Gardner’s free-kick had struck the post, Bunn saved superbly from Stephane Sessegnon and substitute Connor Wickham had a goal disallowed, but they failed to get the goal that would have given them a point.
It was another TV triumph for Norwich, whose five “live” games this season have brought three wins and two draws.
City were unchanged after the 1-1 draw at Southampton, with goalkeeper Bunn playing his first Premier League home game for the club in place of John Ruddy, who has had surgery on a torn thigh muscle and will be out for three months.
Ryan Bennett continued in defence in the absence of the injured Michael Turner.
Sunderland, looking for their first league win at Carrow Road since 1985, were without skipper Lee Cattermole, who visited a London specialist after damaging his knee just seven minutes into Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw with Queens Park Rangers. His place went to James McClean.
Referee Dowd had the yellow card out in the third minute when Kilgallon pulled down Holt. The resulting free-kick by Pilkington was headed away by Gardner.
Sunderland’s Adam Johnson tried his luck from long range after cutting inside from the right touchline with six minutes gone but fired high and wide.
City had another free-kick when Whittaker was tripped by Rose and it led to the opening goal in the eighth minute as Bassong scored for the second weekend in a row.
Snodgrass floated the ball in from the right, Bradley Johnson headed on and a deflection off Cuellar’s arm fell to Bassong, who hooked the ball in from almost on the line.
Snodgrass burst through with 19 minutes gone, only to be stopped in his tracks by a challenge by Rose.
Tettey’s powerful drive was then blocked by Larsson as City kept up the pressure.
Sunderland forced a corner on 27 minutes in a rare foray into City territory and it took a good save by Bunn as Larsson played the kick straight to full-back Rose, whose low drive through a crowded goalmouth the keeper did well to hold. Kilgallon headed over from an Adam Johnson free-kick moments later.
But City reasserted their authority after 37 minutes when Pilkington scored for the second home game in a row with a great finish.
A long spell of possession ended with Johnson’s through-ball giving Pilkington a battle with Cuellar, but he did brilliantly to weave it on to his right foot and beat Mignolet with an emphatic finish.
Gardner’s ambitious long-range effort was off target as Sunderland replied.
But the same player was more accurate in the final minute of the half when he pulled a goal back, striking a perfect left-footer just inside Bunn’s left-hand post from 25 yards.
• Half-time: Norwich City 2, Sunderland 1
Sunderland made one change at the interval as Wickham replaced Fletcher, who took a knock during the first period.
Less than three minutes into the half, Ryan Bennett made a vital challenge to cut out Sessegnon’s cross in the six-yard box with Wickham waiting to pounce.
Bassong, hobbling from a challenge he made in conceding a corner, made an important block from Cuellar as Larsson’s flag-kick came over.
After 57 minutes, Pilkington brought Mignolet into action with a 25-yard drive as City tried to regain the initiative they had lost since the break.
Sunderland were inches from levelling a minute later when Gardner’s powerful free-kick struck the post and rebounded to Kilgallon, who fired the rebound over the top with the goal at his mercy.
At the other end, a free-kick by Garrido gave Mignolet problems as Holt challenged at the near post, but Sunderland scrambled the ball away.
The visitors were on top at this stage and a corner cleared as far as Gardner almost provided the equaliser, the midfielder’s goalbound effort being cleared by Garrido, a yard in front of the line.
Sessegnon looked certain to level on 64 minutes when Rose’s pass put him through against Bunn, but the keeper did splendidly to not only save but hold on to the ball.
Bassong headed wide from a Snodgrass free-kick as set pieces again looked City’s best hope of restoring their two-goal advantage.
Sessegnon attempted an overhead kick as Mignolet’s huge kick dropped in the City area but put it wide, then Bassong made a superb clearance from Rose’s cross when he looked set to supply Wickham with the chance of an equaliser.
Sunderland had the ball in the net on 77 minutes when Rose struck a superb volley that Bunn could only parry, Wickham knocking in the rebound, but thankfully for City, the flag was up for offside.
City replaced Snodgrass with Elliott Bennett and there was a further delay when Bassong needed treatment after landing badly when he jumped with Wickham.
Holt was unable to cash in on Hoolahan’s pass when he lost control in the Sunderland area, then he skied an effort at full stretch from Elliott Bennett’s cross.
With six minutes left, Rose flashed another powerful shot wide when he might have done better to crcoss, and Sunderland made another change with Campbell replacing McClean.
Two minutes from time, Howson replaced Hoolahan in City’s second change. Then Vaughan replaced Larsson for Sunderland.
In the last minute of stoppage time, Bunn gratefully held on to a free-kick from Gardner as Sunderland’s last chance went begging.
• Norwich City: Bunn; Whittaker, Ryan Bennett, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey, Bradley Johnson; Snodgrass (Elliott Bennett, 78), Hoolahan (Howson, 88), Pilkington; Holt. Subs (not used): Rudd, Russell Martin, Barnett, Jackson, Morison.
• Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Cuellar, Kilgallon, Rose; Larsson (Vaughan, 90), Gardner; Adam Johnson, Sessegnon, McClean (Campbell, 85); Fletcher (Wickham, 45). Subs (not used): Westwood, Bramble, Colback, McFadden.
• Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
• Attendance: 26,228
• Goals: City: Bassong (8), Pilkington (37). Sunderland: Gardner (45)
• Bookings: Sunderland: Kilgallon (3), Bardsley (59)
Chris Hughton will urge his players to turn on the style at dethroned champions Manchester City.