Chaos at Carrow Road as Hernandez snatches late equaliser for City to complete amazing comeback against Forest
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City just will not be beaten! The most memorable of Boxing Day battles finished 3-3 at Carrow Road, with the Canaries somehow coming back from 3-0 down – courtesy of a 98th-minute equaliser from Onel Hernandez.
The play-off chasing visitors charged into a 3-0 lead after their keeper Costel Pantilimon had thwarted the high-flying Canaries on three occasions at 0-0 in the first half.
A Matty Cash brace, either side of a Jack Robinson strike, had Forest in a brilliant position before Mario Vrancic pulled one back as Norwich charged forward in pursuit of a comeback – and substitute Hernandez squeezed in another to set up a grandstand finish.
It looked like the unbeaten run would come to an end at 11 matches but Hernandez somehow pulled it off again, with Godfrey poking through a loose ball and the Cuban firing high into the roof of the net, to spark incredible scenes of celebration!
For a second Carrow Road game in succession there was a late change to the Norwich team, with Christoph Zimmermann dropping out in the warm-up and replaced by Timm Klose.
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It seemed a seamless change though as the hosts dominated the first half, with Marco Stiepermann's tenacity setting Teemu Pukki though on goal in the ninth minute, only for the Finn's low shot to be superbly tipped around the post by Forest's giant keeper Pantilimon.
Pukki also thrashed a shot just over the bar in the 18th minute as the Canaries ducked and weaved around the edge of the box looking for an opening.
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Five minutes later Pantilimon did well to turn a Jamal Lewis shot over after a couple of stepovers, with the effort deflecting off Tendayi Darikwa.
It looked like City would be reduced to 10 men when Stiepermann steamed into a sliding tackle trying to prevent Jack Robinson from clearing the ball in the 27th minute, but only catching the left-back with his trailing leg was enough to earn him just a yellow.
It was a let off and seemed to spark Forest into life, as Klose deflected Lolley's low shot behind in the 31st minute.
However, Pantilimon made another fine stop four minutes later as Jamal Lewis turned a Stiepermann cross from the left towards goal from close range, only for Joe Lolley to track well and somehow bundle the ball behind.
Ben Godfrey was next in the book for Norwich after clearing out Jack Colback on the edge of City's box in the 37th minute and Krul got down well to parry a powerful low Danny Fox attempt from the resulting free-kick.
Forest did find the back of the net before the break though, in the first minute of injury-time, after Max Aarons had lost possession when he took a risk on the edge of his own box, being robbed by Matty Cash and helpless to see the forward lash low under Krul.
Vrancic looped an effort beyond the far post in the 53rd minute, caught between two minds over a cross and shot, as the feisty encounter continued at a frenetic pace.
Fox was next to walk the disciplinary tightrope having pulled Stiepermann back early in the second half to earn a booking, then seemingly over-reacting to a Pukki challenge and pushing his forehead against the City man's. As tempers flared, the anger soon turned towards referee John Brooks as he booked Pukki but didn't give Fox a second booking, with Fox the initial aggressor.
Carrow Road was an angry place all of a sudden, as Pukki was robbed and Joao Carvalho threaded in former Canaries striker Lewis Grabban, only for Krul to charge out and make a strong parry to safety.
Fox made a vital interception on the hour as Cantwell shaped to finish a lovely pass into the box from Stiepermann, before again the referee was at the centre of things as he waved clear appeals for a penalty after Robinson had appeared to handle an Emi Buendia cross from the right.
Within a minute the visitors were 2-0 up, with Lolley thumping a low free-kick into the box from the right wing, Fox flicking goalwards and Krul making a reflex save, only for Robinson – fresh from his penalty escape – to smash home from 10 yards with the help of a slight Alex Tettey deflection for 2-0.
In the 70th minute Buendia went down in pain off the ball, as the afternoon got worse for Farke's men, and the response was a double substitution.
It was two strikers, with Dennis Srbeny on for Buendia and Jordan Rhodes on for Lewis, who had been feeling his hamstring, as the Canaries went for the kill. Tettey dropped into a back three and Aarons moving to the left in a 3-4-3 attacking formation.
Pukki went close to sparking the comeback after being played in by Stiepermann in the 73rd minute, but the striker's low effort trickled beyond the far post after he failed to make proper contact.
Less than 60 seconds later it was 3-0, with Lolley getting to the bye-line on the left and pulling back into the box where Cash was waiting to fire low into the bottom-right corner.
Carrow Road was shell-shocked as a large travelling contingent celebrated a three-goal advantage – but it didn't last long, in front of the biggest crowd of the season at just under 27,000.
Soon after Pukki had been denied by a fine save from Pantilimon, Vrancic reduced the arrears in the 78th minute, with his drilled low effort from the edge of the box deflected in off Darikwa to crank up the volume.
Forest nearly replied immediately but Krul came out well to deny Carvalho and at the other end Ben Godfrey squeezed a shot just wide after tenacious work from Pukki, as Farke's team kept working.
Godfrey smashed over from close range with three minutes remaining after a dangerous free-kick from the right from Vrancic landed at his feet at the back post.
Just as it looked like it was all over Hernandez bundled past Saidy Janko on the right and his low shot beat everyone and found the far bottom corner to spark wild and desperate celebrations – with three minutes of added time remaining.
After some time wasting from the visitors, City eventually rescued their point in the eight minute of injury-time, to send the home crowd into raptures.
Hernandez charged into the box and was tackled, Pukki kept the ball alive, Godfrey poked into the box, Klose left the ball and the winger was there to smash into the roof of the next and send bodies scattering in every direction – as the wonderful unbeaten run was extended to 12 matches in the most dramatic of festive fashions.
The Canaries are back in action at Carrow Road on Saturday when they take on another promotion hopeful in Derby County.
Norwich: Krul; Aarons, Klose, Godfrey, Lewis (Rhodes 72); Tettey (C), Vrancic; Buendia (Srbeny 72), Stiepermann, Cantwell (Hernandez 63); Pukki. Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Hanley, Zimmermann, Trybull
Booked: Stiepermann (foul on Robinson, 27), Godfrey (foul on Colback, 37), Pukki (dissent, 55), Vrancic (80)
Goals: Vrancic (78), Hernandez (90+4, 90+8)
Forest: Pantilimon; Darikwa, Hefele, Fox (C), Robinson (Janko 66); Yacob, Colback; Cash (Dias 83), Carvalho, Lolley; Grabban (Murphy 71). Unused subs: Steele (GK), Guedioura, Watson, Osborn
Booked: Fox (foul on Stiepermann, 49), Robinson (time wasting, 51), Colback (foul on Vrancic, 67), Pantilimon (time wasting, 90+6)
Goals: Cash (45+1, 74), Robinson (65),
Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)