Canaries nervously hold on to edge five-goal battle with Reading
PUBLISHED: 18:28 17 March 2018 | UPDATED: 20:16 17 March 2018
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Norwich City have brought their seven-game winless streak to an end and got back to winning ways at Carrow Road with a 3-2 win over Reading.
Mario Vrancic and Grant Hanley both scored their first league goals for the Canaries in the first half, both heading home after James Maddison corners.
Liam Kelly kept the visitors in the game with a nice finish but Maddison rolled home a penalty to send City into the break with a 3-1 lead.
Sam Smith brought the Royals back into it early in the second half but the hosts held out to end a run of three consecutive home draws.
Daniel Farke made four changes to the XI which started Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Barnsley. Jamal Lewis reclaimed the left-back berth from James Husband, Harrison Reed replaced the injured Alex Tettey in midfield after shaking off illness, Onel Hernandez started on the right and Dennis Srbeny started up front ahead of Marley Watkins.
Spurs loanee Marcus Edwards was named on the bench for the first time, alongside fit-again striker Nelson Oliveira, with City deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation and Christoph Zimmermann dropping to the bench.
Josh Murphy, making his 100th appearance for City, had scored the equaliser at Oakwell in midweek and continued to play a key role as Carrow Road witnessed an entertaining first half.
Murphy’s break down the left won a corner in the 13th minute and after Maddison and Hernandez had wasted the first one Maddison swung in a second corner from the right, which was flicked on by Grant Hanley and nodded in unchallenged by Vrancic at the back post for 1-0.
Murphy also won the corner from which Hanley made it 2-0 in the 25th minute, after a lovely floated ball from Vrancic set him free, only for Chris Gunter to make a fine block. Maddison swung in the set-piece from the left and Hanley climbed highest to nod home easily from six range.
The hosts were looking comfortable but the Royals came back into the game seven minutes later, after Hanley had brought down Modou Barrow to the left of the penalty area. Angus Gunn initially punched Kelly’s free-kick away from his near post, before saving well with his feet from Sone Aluko, only for Kelly to follow up and lash home from 10 yards.
City restored their two-goal lead in the 37th minute though, after Murphy again broke on the left and crossed, with Reading keeper Anssi Jaakkola bundling over Maddison in the box to try and prevent a shot, only to concede a penalty, which Maddison calmly rolled home for his 14th goal of the season.
Reading hit back less than seven minutes after the break though, with Kelly putting in a fine cross from the left and Smith scoring his first senior goal, poking past Gunn from close range.
Hernandez hit the post on the hour mark as Norwich tried to make their lead safe again, the Cuban winger’s shot deflecting off Tiago Ilori, who then made a fine block to deny Harrison Reed soon afterwards.
Murphy lashed a shot across the face of goal in the 68th minute and Timm Klose was relieved to see Smith fire wide after failing to cut out a Gunter cross from the right three minutes later.
Srbeny missed a fine chance to wrap up the win in the 76th minute after Murphy kept the striker’s knock down alive in the box, pulling his low effort beyond the far post.
Visiting boss Jaap Stam threw on veteran striker Yann Kermorgant with 10 minutes remaining and the Frenchman forced a good save from Gunn in the 82nd minute, flicking a Barrow corner goalwards at the near post.
Nerves were jangling around Carrow Road as Reading kept pushing and City tired but the hosts finally managed to calm things down in the closing stages to see out the victory, with late substitutions helping to break up the visitors’ momentum.
The Canaries now have almost two weeks off for an international break, before returning to face high-flying Fulham at Carrow Road on Good Friday (3pm).
Norwich: Gunn; Pinto (C), Hanley, Klose, Lewis; Reed, Vrancic; Hernandez (Zimmermann 90+5), Maddison, Murphy (Hoolahan 90+2); Srbeny (Watkins 89). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Husband, Edwards, Oliveira
Booked: Hernandez (foul on Barrow, 34), Hanley (foul on Smith, 62)
Goals: Vrancic (14), Hanley (25), Maddison (pen 37)
Reading: Jakkola; Gunter, Ilori, Moore, Blackett; Edwards (Kermorgant 82), Kelly (van den Berg 62), Clement; Aluko (Swift 52), Smith, Barrow. Unused subs: Mannone (GK), Holmes, Bacuna, Evans
Booked: Jaakkola (foul on Maddison, 36 penalty given), Clement (foul on Reed, 45), Barrow (foul on Maddison, 69), Blackett (foul on Pinto, 72), Kermorgant (dissent, 89)
Goals: Kelly (32), Smith (51)
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Mids)