Chris Hughton defends Sebastien Bassong after first half spat in Norwich City’s 4-3 Premier League defeat to Manchester City

Norwich boss Chris Hughton defended Sebastien Bassong for his part in a first half flashpoint that saw Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri red-carded for an attempted head butt in a breathless 4-3 Premier League defeat against the champions at Carrow Road.

Bassong was yellow-carded for a strong sliding challenge that provoked an aggressive response from Nasri. The French-bred players squared up in the aftermath, before Nasri appeared to make a head butt gesture spotted by the assistant referee.

The Blues were 2-1 ahead at that stage after Edin Dzeko struck twice inside the opening five minutes before Anthony Pilkington dragged Norwich back into the game with a deflected free kick against Gael Clichy that deceived the stranded Joe Hart.

Sergio Aguero made it 3-1 to the 10-men five minutes after the break, but home captain for the day Russell Martin headed the Canaries back into the contest on 63 minutes, only for Dzeko's strike to restore the visitors' two-goal lead – although the goal was officially credited to keeper Mark Bunn as the shot ricocheted off his back at the near post. Martin hooked in his second with 15 minutes to go but Norwich were unable to avert a third consecutive festive defeat.

'We conceded poor goals but Manchester City showed the quality they have got,' said Hughton. 'They have spent a vast amount of money on quality finishers but you cannot expect to be 2-0 down and have a good day. At 4-3 we showed a lot of character and it felt like one of those which might end up going our way. At 2-1 we needed to keep it at that score for longer. I can't fault the character and the endeavour.

'On the sending off, there was certainly a coming together of heads and certainly a movement from (Samir) Nasri. Whether that was enough to have a sending off I don't know. The referee obviously thought it was. Although there was a coming together, certainly from Seb there was no movement. They are decisions that a linesman can see better at the time. Was it harsh? Maybe a little and in the spirit of the game, there wasn't too many bad challenges.'

Blues' counterpart Roberto Mancini admitted Nasri deserved to go for his rush of blood, but Bassong should also have been dismissed in the skirmish minutes before the interval.

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'Both players came forward with their heads, so if you are going to send off one, then you have to send off both, not only Samir,' said the Italian, who is already facing a Football Association probe for post-match comments towards referee Kevin Friend following the Boxing Day defeat at Sunderland. 'Samir said he touched his head, okay, but the other player has done the same. The linesman has a big responsibility also, because it was not a good decision, it is incredible. You want to send off both players? Then, okay, the referee was there, he saw everything. The linesman was behind (the players), he could not see.

'We will appeal, sure. I am disappointed with Samir, and he will pay his fine, but the decision was not correct. Samir did a mistake, okay, but after why when the other player did the same thing, does he send off only one? There are two rules for different teams, and I hate this in football and cannot accept this.

'In life, there is only one rule for everyone. This season, I have seen things which are not good. For the referees, this is the most easiest thing to do, but I do not want to talk about the referees too much, because I said last time that they had a big lunch for Christmas, and I don't know what (will happen).'

Norwich forward Grant Holt missed the thriller with a recurrence of his hamstring injury after training on Friday. Hughton confirmed afterwards he will be 'touch and go' for the New Year's Day trip to West Ham. Striker Steve Morison (thigh) is also a fresh doubt after being replaced by Harry Kane before half-time on Saturday. Bradley Johnson will miss the trip to Upton Park after his fifth caution of the season.