Norwich City boss Chris Hughton left to admire Premier League champions Manchester City’s star quality
Chris Hughton got up close and personal with Manchester City's superstars at Carrow Road – and the Norwich boss admitted it was an eye-opening experience.
The City manager mixed praise for the Canaries' fighting qualities with disappointment at his side's defending on the goals conceded in the 4-3 defeat to the champions; but underpinning it all was an admiration for the world class talent in their midst.
'When you are at ground level, you just have to appreciate the quality these teams and those players have,' he said. 'How Man City are able to move the ball. How they can whip the ball into the front and it sticks consistently. That is what you are up against. You have to be at your very best to cope with that.
'We conceded poor goals but Manchester City showed the quality they have got. They have spent a vast amount of money on quality finishers but you cannot be 2-0 down and not expect to have a real tough day. At 4-3 we showed a lot of character and it felt like one of those games which might end up going our way, but at 2-1 we needed to keep it at that score for longer.'
The Blues' potency remained intact despite being reduced to 10-men for the entire second half following Samir Nasri's red card.
'Sometimes when we play against players of that quality and it goes to 10 if anything it can open up even more and good players exploit those spaces,' said Hughton. 'They picked us off on the third and fourth goals. It is about real composure and quality finishing. They started the game better than us and it is very difficult. You give yourself a mountain to climb. They caught us cold at the start. Although we lost the ball high up the pitch, Seb (Bassong) gets caught underneath the ball so they are on the counter. Then you have to show composure to finish and it was similar for the second goal. We have got a lot of spirit here and we got back into the game deservedly. We knew the longer it went they would have to defend deeper, but at 2-1 we conceded some poor goals. The frustration was even with 10 men they have the quality to punish you.'
Hughton did offer a caveat for Manchester City's second clinical strike, despatched by Edin Dzeko, which originated from Vincent Kompany's committed challenge on Bradley Johnson.
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'I was very disappointed with their second goal,' he said. 'There was a challenge from Kompany in central midfield and, not that I felt it was a booking, but it is the type of challenge that is always given as a foul these days. Always. So to score from it was disappointing.
'I'm not saying it is malicious but it is a foul that is always given. You watch that in game after game. Some referees will book a player in that circumstance so that is the one that disappointed me more because it's the second one and it gives them a real lift.'
Hughton adopted a more pragmatic view on Nasri's first-half exit, following an ugly exchange with Bassong that earned the Norwich defender a yellow card.
'There was certainly a coming together of heads and certainly a movement from Nasri. Now whether that was enough to have a sending off I don't know,' he said. 'The referee obviously thought it was. Although there was a coming together, certainly from Seb there was no movement. If the referee has given it for that reason then I presume it is because he felt there was some movement from the lad Nasri.
'They are decisions that a referee can make or a linesman can see better at the time. Was it harsh? Maybe a little, if you look at it in terms of the spirit the game was played in. There weren't too many bad challenges.'