Norwich City 1, Real Sociedad 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Ricky van Wolfswinkel will score more beautiful goals in his Norwich City career but the Dutchman responded to Gary Hooper's brace at Braga with a first half opener on his Carrow Road home debut.
The club-record signing diverted Leroy Fer's powerful near post header past Carlos Bravo to put Chris Hughton's side ahead in the early stages of a competitive work out before Real Sociedad's former Arsenal hitman Carlos Vela levelled after the interval for the Champions League hopefuls. Hughton again opted to deploy Fer as chief support to his compatriot, with Hooper only given the final ten minutes to get a feel for his new surroundings. City's Dutch contingent earned a large introductory round of applause from the home fans prior to kick-off ahead of their maiden bows. Bradley Johnson also made a welcome return after missing the previous pre-season schedule with a knee injury suffered on the club's USA tour. Hughton's trust in the precocious youth of Nathan Redmond again earned the teenager a regulation start on the opposite flank to Robert Snodgrass.
Fer was probing for constant work in the early sparring with the midfielder's close control and technique drawing fresh appreciation from the home support. Van Wolfswinkel's sharp lay-off freed the overlapping Redmond but Inigo Martinez veered across to sense the danger. Snodgrass then tricked his way to the byline only for the same barrier to present itself at the Spaniards' near post. City nudged in front from the resulting corner – Fer with the towering leap to crash a header against the body of van Wolfswinkel, who had the presence of mind to divert the dropping ball past the stranded Bravo.
Michael Turner was forced to take evasive action to halt Imanol Agirretxe which earned the big centre back an early yellow card from referee Atkinson. Jonny Howson's first time clipped reverse ball had van Wolfswinkel interested again in the 19th minute but the Dutchman had strayed a sliver offside. City captain Russell Martin's timely intervention halted a penetrative burst from central midfielder Ruben Pardo after Johnson was unable to intercept the Sociedad playmaker. Steven Whittaker's speculative long range hit slammed into the Lower Barclay from Snodgrass' quickly-worked corner but there was no disguising the ambition from Hughton's side. Martin Olsson's harassment of Carlos Martinez enabled the predatory van Wolfswinkel to anticipate his blind back pass for Bravo but the Spanish keeper won the personal duel when City's new number nine slammed against his legs from 16 yards.
Fer showcased his attacking instincts ten minutes prior to the interval with a dart into the box and an athletic attempt to hook Redmond's cushioned pass over Bravo but the Sociedad keeper cleared at the second attempt. La Real's primary tactic appeared to drop balls in behind City's centre back pairing with limited success, but a switch wide in the closing stages of the opening period almost paid dividends when the unmarked Marco Sangalli dragged wide.
Whittaker's anticipation averted a sour start to the second period for the Canaries when Pardo's drilled goalbound strike from a yard inside the Norwich box was diverted away by a brave block.
Fer incurred Vela's displeasure for a tap around the ankles of the former Arsenal forward that saw the Dutchman yellow-carded. Olsson displayed his defensive quality in the 61st minute to foil the same man when he appeared primed to roll beyond the advancing Mark Bunn in what proved the Swede's final contribution of an eye-catching home debut as he made way for former Sociedad youth product Javier Garrido. Johnson was also replaced by Wes Hoolahan with Fer underlining his versatility by retreating to a more withdrawn midfield role.
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Vela may have been denied with his first sight of Bunn's goal but the Mexican international made no mistake in the 66th minute with an instant piece of control and a low finish rifled past the Norwich keeper after City's backline had been cut open by the slick Spaniards. City responded positively with Redmond a constant threat in the minutes that followed down Norwich's right-flank. Sociedad maintained their swagger in possession with a marked increase in the intensity from the laboured first half efforts of Jagoba Arraste's side.
Hooper replaced van Wolfswinkel for the final ten minutes but it was City's defence than needed to remain vigilant with Martin again perfectly positioned to mop up the ensuing danger after Bunn could only parry David Zurutuza's cutback. Whittaker's inviting driven ball had Hooper kicking the base of Sociedad's left-hand post in frustration after Carlos Martinez cleared his lines as City pressed for a late winner against the high class visitors.
• Norwich City: Bunn, Whittaker, Turner (R Bennett 66), Martin, Olsson (Garrido 63), Snodgrass (E Bennett 80), Howson, Johnson (Hoolahan 63), Redmond, Fer (Tettey 83), van Wolfswinkel (Hooper 80). Subs (not used): Nash, Becchio, Butterfield, Ayala.
• Goal: van Wolfswinkel (12)
• Bookings: Turner (foul on Agirretxe, 13); Fer (foul on Vela, 58).
• Real Sociedad: Bravo, C Martinez, Cadamuro, I Martinez, Angel, Gaztanaga, Pardo (Ros 81), Zuru, Sangalli (Prieto 59), Agirretxe (Seferovic 75), Vela (Chory Castro 81). Subs (not used): Elustondo, Greizmann, Zubikarai, Ansotegi, De La Bella, Royo.
• Goal: Vela (66)
• Booking: Angel (foul on van Wolfswinkel, 56)
• Referee: Martin Atkinson
• Attendance: 14,433