Manchester City 1, Norwich City 0
The Canaries suffered the cruellest of blows when they were dumped out of the Carling Cup in Manchester. Having more than held their own for 89 minutes, one lapse in concentration allowed their Premier League hosts to snatch a victory they barely deserved.
The Canaries suffered the cruellest of blows when they were dumped out of the Carling Cup in Manchester.
Having more than held their own for 89 minutes, one lapse in concentration allowed their Premier League hosts to snatch a victory they barely deserved.
It was supposed to have been the night when Norwich saw how the other half lives - instead it was a night when the Canaries matched Sven-Goren Eriksson's men stride for stride and blow for blow.
And if ever Delia Smith's “let's be having you” rallying call was ever headed it was last night as City laid to rest the ghosts which had haunted them at Wolves on Saturday.
Both sides were weakened - the Premier League outfit's because Eriksson wanted to give his fringe players a chance; Norwich's because Peter Grant had no choice.
Ironic, that it was an Etuhu - Kelvin, brother of former Canary Dickson - who set up the victory. But to say it was a cruel twist in City's season is an understatement, although Grant will take great heart from the performance of a side in which so many youngsters featured in the absence of so many established stars.
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Grant, already under pressure because of suspension for Jason Shackell, Dion Dublin and Julien Breiller, faced more problems when he lost star winger Darren Huckerby with an ankle injury.
Having being forced to bring every fit player, young and old, north to Manchester Grant found himself with no choice but to play some of his inexperienced youngsters. It meant a start for Fakenham's Rossi Jarvis - only his third in City colours - with Michael Spillane making his first appearance of the season and only his seventh overall, with Andrew Cave-Brown and Robert Eagle on the bench.
With only one recognised centre half Grant played Ian Murray alongside skipper for the night Gary Doherty with Simon Lappin at left back. Jarvis was on the left of midfield, Lee Croft on the right and Spillane partnering Darel Russell in the middle. Up front Chris Brown was recalled to partner Jamie Cureton.
After Norwich's no show on Saturday at Wolves much was expected of Sven-Goran Eriksson's team in the goals department. And it looked after just seven minutes as if those hoping for a goal rush would not be disappointed, only for Norwich keeper David Marshall to turn away Michael Ball's goal-bound free kick.
And surprise surprise, Norwich made their way into the host's penalty area a minute later, Jarvis's free kick headed back by Doherty only to be blocked by the imposing figure of home skipper Richard Dunne.
Norwich were clearly not overawed by the magnificent surroundings of the City of Manchester Stadium nor their Premier League opponents and on 20 minutes will argue they should have taken the lead. Russell played ex Manchester City player Croft in down the right flank, Brown got a slight touch to his low cross and Cureton skewed the ball over the crossbar.
The visiting fans were in good voice as they saw their team finally beginning to pass the ball around and even managed to raise cries of 'Ole' as they played keep-ball for a spell.
Norwich's problem was always going to be recognising when their more illustrious hosts were ready to step up a gear - although by the time half time arrived Norwich had managed to stem any major threats.
Canaries defender Jon Otsemobor proved his prowess at dead-ball situations with a cracking free kick from 20 yards which forced home keeper Joe Hart into a full length diving save to his left.
There was clearly life in the Canaries and with almost half an hour gone they were beginning to exert some pressure, with two corners in a minute forcing Eriksson out of his dug out once again to remonstrate with his players.
The home fans were beginning to show their frustrations too although Rolando Bianchi's chipped shot from the edge of the area on 32 minutes ensured Marshall was kept on his toes.
Little midfielder Geovanni was prodding at every opportunity in midfield, but tracked by the impressive Jarvis every time he moved into a danger zone.
Norwich were still guilty of the odd lapse in concentration and giving the ball away cheaply - which you simply must not do against Premier sides. The hosts began to step up the pressure as half time approached although they could only stand and watch the quality of a Norwich break which began with a cheeky Otsemobor back heel in defence and was followed by a Croft cross which Dunne was forced to put behind for a corner.
Georgios Samaras tested Marshall with a shot that just didn't have enough strength but it was probably as close as Manchester City had got.
Bianchi tried his luck from distance five minutes before half time but his effort was greeted by groans as it skidded harmlessly past Marshall's right hand post.
And as the whistle went for half time it was evident that Grant was the happier of the two managers.
t Half-time: Manchester City 0, Norwich City 0
Neither Grant nor his counter part made changes for the second half - the Norwich manager certainly had no need to as his side resumed as they had left off.
Cureton was caught a yard offside within minutes of the restart after he was played in by Brown although Murray had to be alert at the other end to block a cross by Geovanni, fast becoming the host's best player on the night.
Croft was denied by his pal Nedum Onuoha as he broke into the area with Cureton waiting for the cross.
Bianchi again had home fans groaning with a shot from the edge of the area which just about reached Marshall - and the visitors section of the stadium was again in full voice. It was support that encouraged the Canaries to go forward in search of an unlikely lead, although Croft should have done better than slice an effort wide on the hour mark.
Norwich City came close a minute later when Otsemobor sent a teasing low cross around the back of the home defence, only for keeper Hart to dive bravely at the feet of Cureton before the Norwich man could get a vital touch.
The Canaries were clearly now on top - the question was would they get a goal that they deserved and considering they have only scored twice away from home this season that was always going to be a big ask.
Otsemobor was doing his best down the right flank, teasing Ball, but again Hart got to a cross just before the impressive Spillane could connect.
Chinese international Sun Jihai was allowed too much room to reach the edge of the Norwich area on 65 minutes although his shot flew over the bar.
But at that stage it was still only a brief respite, with Dunne forced to backtrack to keep out the lively Cureton.
Manchester City sub Kelvin Etuhu - brother of ex Canary star Dickson - fired a shot just over as the visitors almost paid for some sloppy passing.
It would have been rough justice with the prospect of extra time - or shock win - looming.
Brown then got a flick to a Lappin free kick four minutes from time although Hart was not unduly troubled.
Manchester City, clearly not looking forward to the prospect of an extra 30 minutes, produced one last effort - and sadly for Norwich it proved decisive.
It was Etuhu who created the chance playing a lovely pass into the inside right position where Samaras - who had been at the brunt of the home fan's criticism - took the ball in his stride, advanced five yards and then slipped it past Marshall into the back of the net.
It was a cruel cruel blow for City - but now the much more important matter of Championship football beckons for Grant and Co.
t Result: Manchester City 1, Norwich City 0
t Manchester City: Hart, Ball, Onuoha, Ireland, Geovanni, Bianchi, Sun, Samaras, Dunne (c), Fernandes, Logan. Subs: Isaksson, Dabo, Evans (for Geovanni, 79), Williamson, Etuhu (for Gelson, 68).
t Norwich City: Marshall, Otsemobor, Croft, Cureton, Brown, Lappin, Russell, Rossi Jarvis, Murray, Spillane, Doherty (c). Subs: Gilks, Strihavka, Martin, Eagle, Cave-Brown.