March 10 2014 Latest news:
Paddy Davitt, Norwich City Writer
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Norwich City ground out a battling Premier League point in a fraught 0-0 draw at rock-bottom Sunderland.
Gary Hooper went close with a long-range first-half strike batted away by Vito Mannone in a lively counter-attacking display but Chris Hughton’s men were unable to replicate that after the interval against a home side reduced to 10 men in stoppage time when Wes Brown crudely upended Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Hughton was forced to into one change from the Premier League starting line ups against Swansea and West Brom with key midfielder Jonny Howson missing out through injury. Robert Snodgrass returned after overcoming a knee injury which had sidelined him for the previous five games. Fit-again club-record signing Wolfswinkel was named on the substitutes’ bench along with Wes Hoolahan and Josh Murphy. Back-up keeper Mark Bunn was also included in the match day squad after recovering from minor ankle surgery. Snodgrass’ return triggered a switch of flanks for Nathan Redmond with Johan Elmander again offering the chief support to Hooper.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet kept Steven Fletcher in reserve after the striker missed the midweek Capital One Cup win over Chelsea through illness. City started brightly with Snodgrass forcing an early corner that Hooper rifled across the face of Sunderland’s six-yard box but Leroy Fer was unable to connect at the far post. Poyet’s influence was clearly evident with the hosts committed to building through midfield but Sebastien Bassong vigilantly cut out Fabio Borini’s probing cross from the right. Phil Bardsley’s advanced position on the opposite flank underlined the hosts’ commitment to push forward, but the former Manchester United defender’s cushioned header dropped for John Ruddy.
Snodgrass lined up Bardsley at the opposite end before tumbling inside the home penalty box but referee Atkinson brushed away the Scot’s enquiry with the Sunderland fans venting their frustration towards the midfielder.
Redmond cut inside Ondrej Celustka to test Mannone but the Italian clawed out the youngster’s hit from 20 yards. Sunderland’s penchant for the diagonal switch was providing a degree of concern down the hosts’ left flank, with Bardsley taking Snodgrass back into his own half but Ki Sung Yeung dragged wide from the latest incursion. The City midfielder re-asserted his authority in the 19th minute when he checked inside Bardsley to curl a cross towards Elmander who glanced at Mannone.
Fer felt the full force of a sliding challenge from Bardsley that teed up Sebastian Larsson but the Swede’s wayward strike failed to trouble Ruddy. Larsson did have Ruddy scrambling across his line moments later with a right footed strike from 20 yards that swerved wide. Bassong’s ambitious volley then drifted into the home terraces after Fer’s initial flick to divert Snodgrass’ deep free kick had spiralled in the captain’s direction. Bassong’s willingness to surge forward almost proved Norwich’s undoing just past the half-hour mark when the captain was stranded upfield as Ki led a quick counter that saw Borini slam a strike into the side netting.
City were indebted to former Black Cat Michael Turner who threw himself in the way of Jozy Altidore’s goalbound shot 16 yards out after Larsson managed to escape unattended at the back post before Bardsley tested Ruddy’s handling but the England man gathered a low snapshot following another penetrative break from Ki.
In-form striker Hooper moved centre stage five minutes before the interval with one prolonged bout of patient passing from the visitors’ ending with a whipped Olsson cross to the far post that appeared to catch the predator by surprise as his first touch reared up and dropped fortuitously at Mannone’s feet. The prolific striker wasted little time dwelling on that tempting opportunity when he powered forward a minute later to test Mannone again from 25 yards but the keeper made an excellent one-handed parry. Fer then sidefooted tamely at Mannone after Redmond had led a swift counter at the start of first-half stoppage time. Redmond lined up Celustka at the start of the second period but his cross sailed over Hooper before Borini was cut down by Steven Whittaker to earn the Norwich full-back the game’s first caution – Larsson’s free kick brushing the five-man Norwich wall for the concession of a corner City dealt with competently.
Norwich again left a man unattended in the 56th minute but Elmander reacted to deny Celustka after Brown picked out his defensive ally before Whittaker miscued at the end of a promising Norwich counter. Olsson then raided menacingly down the left before conjuring another inviting cross that evaded Hooper but was scrambled behind for a Norwich corner the experienced Brown headed clear.
Snodgrass cut inside to produce an angled delivery Hooper glanced wide on the angle of the Sunderland six-yard box with the game increasingly stretched approaching the final quarter. Brown headed wide at the opposite end under intense pressure from Ruddy after City were unable to adequately deal with Larsson’s vicious corner. Cattermole then went to ground following a shoulder challenge from Hooper that prompted the home hordes to bay for a penalty but referee Atkinson remained unmoved.
Ruddy enveloped Turner in a huge bear hug after the centre back’s timely intervention denied Steven Fletcher a certain goal at his near post. Ruddy then raced all the way out of his area to the vicinity of the corner flag to try and hold up Fletcher but Ki was unable to drift the ball underneath his bar with Turner back on the cover and the frenzied home crowd now at fever pitch. Fer sprung his compatriot van Wolfswinkel in the 82nd minute but the Dutchman’s angled strike lacked the venom to beat Mannone.
City survived fresh home penalty appeals when Bassong controlled Adam Johnson’s cross on his chest before Brown’s frustration spilled over with a straight red card in stoppage time after tipping up second-half arrival van Wolfswinkel to spark an angry reaction from the visiting players and home fans who made their feelings known on the final whistle.
• Sunderland: Mannone, Celustka, Bardsley, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Ki, Larsson (Roberge 90), Borini, Giaccherini (Johnson 63), Altidore (Fletcher 68). Subs (not used): Dossena, Gardner, Colback, Pickford.
• Bookings: Larsson (foul on Johnson, 76); Borini (dissent, 90).
• Sending off: Brown (foul on van Wolfswinkel, 90).
• Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Olsson, Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Redmond, Elmander (van Wolfswinkel 76), Hooper. Subs (not used): Bunn, Hoolahan, Garrido, Becchio, Bennett, Murphy.
• Booking: Whittaker (foul on Borini, 49).
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorks)
• Attendance: 37,778