Norwich City boss Paul Lambert is running out of Premier League superlatives after Arsenal fightback
Paul Lambert saluted his men for scaling even greater Premier League heights after a brave comeback frustrated Champions League-chasing Arsenal in today's 3-3 draw at the Emirates.
The delighted City chief rated this display even higher than the Canaries' previous winning trip to north London when they beat Spurs on Easter Monday. Wes Hoolahan cancelled out Yossi Benayoun's strike inside 70 seconds before Grant Holt's deflected clip looped up off ex-City loanee Kieran Gibbs. Footballer-of-the-year Robin van Persie profited from slack Norwich defending to smash a second half brace, but Steve Morison rifled home an 85th equaliser in a pulsating encounter.
'It wasn't just battling. I thought we were excellent. It was marvellous. As good as in my time,' said Lambert. 'I thought Tottenham was absolutely huge. I never thought I would see that in my time again but I thought we surpassed it. I thought we were brilliant. They have done that for the three years I have been here – play with a freedom. I never set my stall out to get beat. Yeah, we might get turned over but we never go anywhere to frustrate teams. I think we are unlucky not to win the game. We should have had a penalty first half, when my player had his shirt pulled. The one on Russell Martin. Arsenal might argue they should have had on van Persie but Gervinho was offside when the ball was crossed. Simeon Jackson could have made it 3-1 at that stage. No, we certainly deserved something. I thought him and Grant played well together. They were excellent last year. I thought the team performance was top class.'
French counterpart Arsene Wenger was left to rue two dropped points in the hosts' faltering bid for automatic Champions League qualification. The Gunners can now be overhauled by both Tottenham and Newcastle later this weekend in the race for third.
'It is more than frustrating because we were very poor in the first half, not switched on,' he said. 'The quality of our first half was absolutely not at the level we wanted to play in a decisive game like that. In the second half we did very well and created at least 10 chances, but again we did not take our chances. On top of that we gave them a third goal in a situation that was absolutely unbelievable. In the end we got punished for our mistakes.
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'We have to analyse the reasons why we were not sharp enough in the first half. There is no obvious reason because we prepared normally as we always do, and maybe subconsciously we would win it. Norwich played well, you have to give them credit, they did well.'
The Gunners also suffered a serious injury blow when French full-back Bacary Sagna broke his leg during the first half. Sagna has now been ruled out of his country's bid for Euro2012 glory with Laurent Blanc's men opening their campaign against England in June. Wenger was unhappy with the initial challenge in midfield after Sagna had tried to ride a tackle only to collapse seconds later with no City player in the vicinity.
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'It is broken fibula, the same leg (that he broke in October). He was kicked on it, it has not happened alone. When he was kicked, he has broken the leg,' he said. 'The guy closed him down and walked on him. I don't know if it was deliberate or not. I would have to watch it back.'