Norwich City friendly with Ajax lit up by two brilliant strikes

Anthony Pilkington (partially hidden) celebrates his goal for Norwich City with Jonny Howson, Elliott Bennett and James Vaughan. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images Anthony Pilkington (partially hidden) celebrates his goal for Norwich City with Jonny Howson, Elliott Bennett and James Vaughan. Picture: Paul Chesterton / Focus Images

Wednesday, August 1, 2012
9:31 AM

If the object of the exercise was to help Chris Hughton get to know his Norwich City players a little bit more, then Dutch maestros Ajax were willing participants in this Carrow Road experiment.

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Frank De Boer’s Champions League qualifiers tested the Canaries’ defensive shape and discipline for sustained periods on Hughton’s big night. The hosts passed the test and had the temerity to open the scoring – courtesy of Anthony Pilkington’s first-half free kick.

Ajax midfielder Lasse Schone called and then raised Pilkington with a long-range smack on the half-hour mark that left John Ruddy grasping at fresh air. The Dutch always looked the likeliest to grab a winner, but City’s defensive resolve after the break frustrated the visitors.

Russell Martin was the only starter retained from the weekend friendly win at Peterborough as Hughton looked to again spread the fitness workload. Skipper Grant Holt partnered James Vaughan in attack after the duo had combined to potent effect at London Road with Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson paired in central midfield. Robert Snodgrass was included on the substitutes’ bench following his recent Elland Road switch, but fellow new arrival Michael Turner had to settle for a watching brief. Steven Whittaker (ankle) and David Fox (knee) were again absent, with no place in the squad either for Korey Smith.

De Boer opted to include highly-rated Danish export Christian Eriksen. The 20-year-old wasted little time in showcasing his prodigious talent with a cute flick that cannoned against the top of Ruddy’s bar inside the opening two minutes after Jody Lukoki had breezed past Marc Tierney.

Vaughan admonished Pilkington for delaying his intended pass with the striker looking to continue his rich vein of early pre-season goalscoring form with a penetrative burst in behind.

Joel Veltman was forced to take matters into his own hands with the razor-sharp frontman poised to burst onto Holt’s flick 20 yards out. Referee Jones adopted a lenient tone entirely in keeping with the friendly fayre – until Pilkington stepped up to punish the offender with a sublime lift that left Ajax’s keeper Jasper Cillessen motionless.

Eriksen was at the hub of the visitors’ best work, with the Dutchmen’s predictably smooth skills forcing Hughton’s men to dig in for prolonged spells. Lukoki appeared the primary out-ball for De Boer’s side, but Vaughan remained the brightest attacking spark. One turn and pivot ended with Gregory van der Wiel hauling the 24-year-old to the deck. Pilkington again directed operations from wide on the left, but his intended delivery drifted beyond Ryan Bennett’s far-post run. Eriksen’s impressive movement caused City major problems in the 21st minute, only for a reprieve to come in the shape of a heavy first touch with Ruddy left exposed.

City looked comfortable despite increasingly being starved of the ball, but Schone’s leveller for the classy visitors underlined their fabled pedigree – a wonderful long-range strike that veered away from Ruddy’s despairing full-length dive.

Hughton introduced Wes Hoolahan for Vaughan at the interval, with the Irishman operating in a deeper lying role off Holt. The influential Eriksen was also hooked by De Boer after dictating the play for the majority of the opening period.

Johnson bravely threw himself in the way of Ruben Ligeon’s piledriver from another dangerous probe down Norwich’s right. Elliott Ward’s athleticism topped that with Thulani Serero’s goalbound shot set to test Ruddy from 16 yards as Ajax carried on where they had left off prior to the break. The Dutch were in danger of lapsing into exhibition mode – such was their dominance of both territory and the ball following the restart.

Bennett’s entry for the best defensive clearance from the hosts saw the England U21 defender race around on the cover to desperately hook away Lukoki’s lift over Ruddy.

The Canaries needed an inspirational spark and Snodgrass’ introduction for the final quarter certainly had the desired effect on the terraces – Andrew Surman and Andrew Crofts joining the Scot with Hughton keen to survey a fresh midfield mix.

• Norwich City: Ruddy, R Martin (Barnett 86), Ward (Ayala 86), R Bennett, Tierney (Lappin 86), E Bennett (Snodgrass 70), Howson (Crofts 70), Johnson, Pilkington (Surman 70), Holt (Morison 78), Vaughan (Hoolahan 45). Subs (not used): Rudd, Jackson, C Martin. Goal: Pilkington (7).

• Ajax: Cillessen, van der Wiel (Anita 45, De Jong 71), Eriksen (Ligeon 45), Ebecilio, Klaasen, Schone, Serero, Koppers, Lukoki, Veltman, Denswil. Subs (not used): Vermeer, Alderwiereld, Ozbiliz, van Rhijin. Goal: Schone (30).

• Referee: Mike Jones (Chester).

• Attendance: 16,708

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25 comments

  • I would not knock Eliott Ward for his athleticism, it is the look on his face when he is trying to pass out of defence that worries me, along with the underhit passes.

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    Swiss Canary

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Agree, Wiv. Scrimmage, welcome to The House of Fun. Madness! OTBC.

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    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • Absolutely agree re full back position (on both sides). To me, this is the last position that definitely needs strengthening - at the very least we need cover on both sides (assuming MT and RM are preferred starters). I don't see that the King of Spain is good enough cover on left - and we don't have any on the right? For CB - my preferred starting 2 would be Turner and Benno - with Ayala on the benchstepping in for forminjury issues. I don't think EW or Barnett are good enough on a consistent basis at this level. Benno and Ayala have a bunch of potential. I genuinely believe Benno could go on to become an England CB if he starts getting lots of game time soon. I don't think we need another striker (unless that ridiculous article about Vaughan yesterday turns out to be true). For me, Vaughan, if he can stay injury free looks like the real deal - pace, strength, eye for goal. If he has an injury free season, I really think he could take the PL by storm...

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    PutneyCanary

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Interesting too, Pondy, to see "athleticism" and "Ward" in the same sentence. Maybe a fully fit & prepared Elliott W might yet confound us all. I hope so! Benno the Smaller`s goal-line clearance maybe underlines his credentials as a defender, and not just in the "stand-in" category? We do have potential probs @ FB, I believe. Big Benno is maybe emerging as a 1st choice CB? That leaves 1 place for Ayala, Ward, Turner & Barnett to compete for. Why would we buy Turner if he wasn`t to be a 1st choice? Then we paid a fair wedge for Dani, too- but he`s still young. Intriguing times. Carra, August 2009 is beginning to fade....;-) OTBC

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Hoots maybe will have to look at the loan market? Shame this injury happened. Would`ve been better to leave him out of that one. I suggested he get "injured" before the game.

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    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • Good result but Ajax lit up ahost of issues. Tierney (can I mention him?) looked well short of match time but good to see a lean mean Russell Martin on form. Benno & Benno looked up for it. We looked like a team that had not played together much so I hope CH is nearing his preferred starting 11 for Friday

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    Pondlife

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • BTW, does JV look a tad portly at the moment?

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Not a bad result against a quality side. How useless is that photo??? And where have all the ajax puns gone? Surely someone showed someone else a clean pair of heels at some point?

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    Canary Wurst

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Tried to reply, Wiv. The usual. :-(

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    Mad Brewer

    Friday, August 3, 2012

  • Not a bad result against a quality side. How useless is that photo??? And where have all the ajax puns gone? Surely someone showed someone else a clean pair of heels at some point?

    Report this comment

    Canary Wurst

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Seems I`m now debarred from talking to budgie!?

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    Mad Brewer

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • Wiv, have a look @ the "whittaker injury" item. ;-)

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    Mad Brewer

    Friday, August 3, 2012

  • So Whittaker escapes from the Ranger NewCo only to get crocked at Celtic, how perfect is that. I guess that he is the full-back re-enforcement that we were asking for, so now what to do? George Francomb was given a new contract so he must be wanted, a development plan must be in order.

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    Swiss Canary

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • but getting injured before a game ,even pro footballers aren't that clever are they.

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    wivenhoebudgie

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • i agree pondlife,they didnt seem to be as fluent as usual.maybe ajax were a bit hot.i know the squad has to get match fit,but i feel we should now keep playing.what hoots consider is his first team,and give them a chance to really gell for the start of the season.

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    bluelight

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • No point in scouring around for those cleaning product puns again, especially when we are all getting used to Mr Muscle knocking them in up front; even though the redtops say we have seen the last o' Vim.

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    Swiss Canary

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Hoots is no Tinkerman. He knows his starting line-up. Just please don`t let that little Pitbull Vaughan go! Or is it just normal "Redtop" stirring?

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Tried to join you in discussion, Pondy. Guess what........ :-(

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • I actually was quite happy with what I saw, Tierney in particular was a pleasant surprise, give him a couple of games and he'll be back to his best. Have to say, where was the midfield (BJ?) marking for the Ajax "wonder goal"?

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    DocOhNo

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • bluelight totally agree that by now we should be starting see some continuity on the park - I hope CH does not turn into the tinkerman that Ranieri was with Chelsea - though if finish in the upper reaches as Chelsea do I will accept it! OTBC

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    Jakarta Canary

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Nice work swiss

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    Canary Wurst

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • I think the result was ok, but, I would have liked to see more pressure off the ball in the second half. Especially as Ajax's goal was a result of too much space. Sadly I missed Pilk's goal as the stream didn't become active until about 10 minutes in. I found it beyond belief the Dutch channel didn't replay it at any point in the remaining 80 minutes or during half time.

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    Scrimmage Canary

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • on the full back issue , George Francomb has and is an improving player, .He certainly gets my vote as a cover on the right. However possibly a short term loan to a top championship team could help sharpen him up rather than sit on our bench till the end of september. On the left, while the king of spain will do a job, as could a speedy centre back, a bit of specialist cover is required, to bring a little sparkle to our back four.

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    wivenhoebudgie

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

  • Swiss, it`s just that I remember a couple of maladroit incidents last season. One was v Stoke when Titch sort of stood still and hung out a limp leg prior to them scoring. I generally think he`s a good player but never struck me as super-athletic in that sense. He looked fine in Championship season; cool, calm & collected. And he did miss a lot of games last year after his pre-season injury, which didn`t help him. He deserves a chance.

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

  • Missed Pilk's goal and wasn't too impressed with the second half. Having said that, plenty of positives to take from pre-season so far! Hello Mad Brewer, been perusing here along time but never posted. COYY

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    Scrimmage Canary

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

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