Saturday, December 29, 2012
5:17 PM

A storming fightback by Norwich City was not enough to rescue a point from a seven-goal thriller against reigning Premier League champions Manchester City at Carrow Road.

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The Canaries ended 2012 with a cracking contest for another full house but were always playing catch-up after going two goals down in a disastrous first five minutes, and in the end slipped to their third successive defeat in eight days.

The recalled Edin Dzeko struck twice for the Blues right at the start while Chris Hughton’s men were struggling to find their feet, although the contest looked a more even one by half-time thanks to Anthony Pilkington’s 15th-minute free-kick, his fourth goal of the season, and a red card for Samir Nasri one minute before the interval for a head butt on Sebastien Bassong.

Sergio Aguero made it 3-1 to the 10-man Blues five minutes after the break, but captain for the day Russell Martin headed the Canaries back into the contest on 63 minutes, only for Dzeko to strike for a third time four minutes later – officially credited as an own goal by keeper Mark Bunn as the shot ricocheted in at the near post.

Martin hooked in his second with 15 minutes to go to set up a barnstorming finish, but the champions held on by the odd goal in seven.

Skipper Grant Holt was missing for the second time in three matches, sidelined again after returning from a hamstring injury in the 1-0 home defeat against Chelsea on Boxing Day. Steve Morison replaced him in attack and on-loan striker Harry Kane was drafted in on the bench, but Kane was on before half-time as Morison hobbled off holding his thigh.

Manchester City showed four changes after the 1-0 defeat at Sunderland with recalls for Gael Clichy, Gareth Barry, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko in place of Kolo Toure, Javi Garcia, James Milner and Carlos Tevez, all of whom were on the substitutes’ bench.

Russell Martin was given the captain’s armband for the Canaries, who were defending the Barclay goal in the opening half, but not very effectively as Manchester City took less than two minutes to move ahead with a splendidly worked goal.

Aguero was the provider with a cross from the right after a knock-down by Dzeko, Silva met the centre first time with a perfectly-weighted pass and Dzeko rolled the ball home.

A Norwich attack broke down when Hoolahan failed to find Tettey, and with just over four minutes played, it was 2-0.

Kompany challenged Johnson strongly on halfway and sent Aguero clear and though Bunn raced out to try to gather, he came off second best and Aguero crossed for Dzeko to score a simple second.

Johnson was unhappy with referee Jones for allowing play to continue, as were the home crowd, but it was a disastrous start for the Canaries.

Rain was now sweeping in, making conditions similar to the Boxing Day game, but this time Norwich were to find the net.

A foul by Kompany on Snodgrass gave Norwich a free-kick just outside the Blues’ area and with 15 minutes gone, they reduced the arrears through Pilkington. Snodgrass dummied the kick and Pilkington drove it low, right-footed where it appeared to brush Clichy’s leg as it flew in the middle of the goal, while Hart moved initially to his left and could not readjust.

It was Pilkington’s fourth goal of the season, all of them at Carrow Road.

The Blues thought they might have had a penalty as Aguero tumbled over Bassong’s challenge but referee Jones was unimpressed.

Clichy was booked after 18 minutes for a foul on Snodgrass, who moments later curled a left-foot shot just past the angle of post and crossbar.

Garrido almost scored a spectacular own goal against his former club midway through the half when his attempt to lob the ball clear was dropping under the bar, requiring Bunn to tip it over for a corner.

Garrido did better with an important clearance from a cross by Zabaleta, then Snodgrass blocked a header from Kompany with his chest as Nasri swung in the resulting corner from the right.

Five minutes before the break, Yaya Toure thundered a shot inches past the post that would have given Bunn no chance.

There was drama just before the interval when the visitors were reduced to 10 men by the sending-off of Nasri.

Nasri reacted angrily to a foul by Bassong, which earned the Norwich man a yellow card, and as they squared up he ducked his head into Bassong’s face. Blues skipper Kompany tried to push Nasri away but before the Norwich players had finished protesting, referee Jones produced the red card for Nasri, who spent some time complaining before reluctantly trudging off.

In the final minute of the half, Morison, who had been holding his thigh, made way for substitute Kane.

• Half-time: Norwich City 1, Manchester City 2

Pilkington had a shot blocked by Zabaleta as the Canaries began the second period on the attack but after 50 minutes, the 10-man Blues restored their two-goal advantage.

Yaya Toure’s through-ball found Aguero, who left Bassong in his wake and flicked the ball over the advancing Bunn.

Toure then blazed over from an Aguero pass, with the help of a deflection, as the Blues looked to finish the game off.

With 57 minutes gone, both sides made changes as Milner replaced Silva for Manchester City, and the Canaries sent on Howson for Tettey.

A slip by Russell Martin enabled Aguero to get another shot in but a deflection took it harmlessly into Bunn’s hands.

Howson tested Hart with a low drive that the keeper pushed out for a corner – and it led to the goal that brought the Canaries back into the game on 63 minutes.

It was taken short and Snodgrass crossed to the far post, where Bassong headed it back and skipper for the day Martin jumped to beat Hart with a glancing header.

Just four minutes later, however, it was 4-2 as Dzeko appeared to complete his hat-trick – though the goal was officially credited as a Bunn own goal.

Play seemed to freeze as Dzeko latched on to Clichy’s through-ball but there was no offside flag as the big striker advanced and struck a powerful shot that went in via Bunn and the woodwork.

With 15 minutes left, Norwich replaced Hoolahan with Jackson as they waited to take a corner and immediately they reduced the arrears, Russell Martin scoring again.

Hart failed to gather the corner from Snodgrass, Kane had a shot blocked, Johnson miskicked as he followed up and Martin hooked the ball in left footed as Hart could only get his head to the shot.

The Blues made another change with nine minutes left as Lescott replaced Dzeko.

Bunn saved well from Aguero as he attempted to make it 5-3, and Pilkington was booked for berating the linesman for the lack of an offside flag.

Kompany was guilty of fouls on Kane and Jackson as the minutes ticked away and Turner struck the side netting following a free-kick.

Nastasic was being treated on the pitch after a tackle by Martin as the game entered stoppage time and when play resumed he fouled Snodgrass, but the winger’s free-kick was a waste.

Bunn saved again from Aguero, who trudged off very slowly to be replaced by Garcia.

A lucky rebound fell to Hart as a Snodgrass cross signalled Norwich’s last assault.

Norwich City: Bunn; Russell Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey (Howson, 57), Johnson; Snodgrass, Hoolahan (Jackson, 75), Pilkington; Morison (Kane, 45). Subs (not used): Rudd, Ryan Bennett, Barnett, Elliott Bennett.

Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy; Nasri, Yaya Toure, Barry, Silva (Milner, 57); Aguero (Garcia, 90), Dzeko (Lescott, 81). Subs (not used): Pantilimon, Kolo Toure, Sinclair, Tevez.

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Attendance: 26,827

Goals: Norwich: Pilkington (15), Russell Martin (63, 75). Manchester City: Dzeko (2, 5), Aguero (50), Bunn og (67)

Red card: Manchester City: Nasri (44)

Bookings: Norwich: Bassong (43), Johnson (52), Pilkington (83). Manchester City: Clichy (18)

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