Norwich City bounce back in seven-goal thriller
NORWICH CITY 4, LEICESTER CITY 3: City put their fans through the whole range of emotions at Carrow Road last night before emerging with three points from a remarkable game. Seven goals, there may have been, but there could have been a lot more.
It was breathless stuff - even Adam Drury's first goal since the Premier League was almost lost in the drama of an epic encounter.
A John Ruddy blunder saw bottom side Leicester ahead before everyone had taken their seats, but although City were in front from then on, Leicester fought back - until there was no more to give.
The end result through the tangle of controversies and brilliance was three valuable points - and that's all that matters to City this morning.
City boss Paul Lambert opted for Simeon Jackson in attack ahead of Chris Martin, dropped to the bench after starting every league game this season - perhaps not the biggest surprise considering his lacklustre performance at the weekend.
But it was his opposite number, Paulo Sousa, who ripped his side apart - centre half Miguel Vitor was an enforced absentee after his red card in the 6-1 defeat at Portsmouth on Friday, replaced by Jack Hobbs, but the Foxes' boss made four other changes.
Both full backs were dropped, with Michael Lamey in for Robbie Neilson and Tom Kennedy replacing Bruno Berner while goalkeeper Conrad Logan dropped to the bench, replaced by Carl Ikeme. The other change saw Richie Wellens replace Yuki Abe in midfield.
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Even accounting for Leicester's lowly position, it was a bold move to send a team out with four changes in defence. Time would tell - although one minute and 18 seconds wasn't what anyone expected.
That was how long it took for Leicester to score as Martyn Waghorn made yards down the left, shrugged off Simon Lappin and then Adam Drury far too easily and slid a left-footed shot towards the near post which keeper John Ruddy could only spoon into his own net - a gaffe akin to his pre-season shocker in the friendly against Everton, but on a much more important stage.
Elliott Ward then sliced a clearance to his 'keeper as Leicester attacked and City shook.
Waghorn tried again on five minutes, sending in a left-foot free-kick from 20 yards which Ruddy claimed with ease.
City's first response came two minutes later, Wes Hoolahan working well outside the area before Drury fired a left-footer from inside the area which Ikeme - not very convincingly - pushed over for a corner.
Korey Smith couldn't quite control the ball under pressure from Kennedy as City settled, although Waghorn's long-ranger was worryingly closer to the top of Ruddy's bar.
Ward tried a lob as the ball came out to him after a Lappin corner, but Ikeme read his intentions.
City were working overtime down their left side, where Waghorn was doing all of Leicester's best work - although he and Dyer soon changed wings for some reason - although Steve Howard's flick header almost sent Lloyd Dyer in on goal only for Ruddy to slide out well to gather. Smith sent Holt away on the right, but Kennedy blocked his attempted ball in.
Lappin was booked for a foul on Andy King midway through the half as the game settled, although City still looked out of sorts: a few passes that would normally be routine went astray and there were frustrations among the crowd.
A goal would have changed all that and City had a couple of chances when Crofts found Hoolahan on the left with a lovely ball that he cut back to Lappin - his shot was blocked and when it came out to Russell Martin he wanted one touch too many before seeing a blue shirt get in the way of his effort.
Barnett got his head on to Ward's cross and stretched Ikeme at his right-hand post, but the goal that had been coming arrived on 31 minutes.
Hoolahan made excellent ground on the left, got into the area and chipped the ball in. Jackson got a touch with his head, sending it to the right of the area where Holt retrieved it, cut it back well - and there was Crofts to drive it home from six yards for his third of the season.
It was game on now, with the crowd urging City on, although Leicester responded well. Ward did well to stop Dyer in his tracks while Ruddy was scrambling five minutes before the interval when Howard got his head on to Kennedy's cross from deep.
The half almost ended on high notes for both teams - Hoolahan sent Holt scampering away with a lovely ball only for Ikeme to get there first before Waghorn's low cross at the other end was missed by Barnett and Ward as it rolled along the six-yard line.
And it started in similar fashion, Hoolahan taking advantage of Hobbs' error to fire in a long-ranger which Ikeme grabbed low to his left and Waghorn's free-kick forcing Ruddy to get down low.
Lappin drove a shot over after Barnett's cross field pass somehow found its way to Drury on the left, but it was cagey stuff from both sides early on.
Then came the breakthrough - King raised his arm to block Russell Martin's second attempt at a cross and referee Peter Walton had no hesitation in awarding a spot-kick - Hoolahan made no mistake.
Once again the tempo increased, with Holt heading just wide from Hoolahan's cross and Jackson's left-footer deflected wide for a corner.
Would Leicester crumble?
They looked like they might when Smith's superb ball found Martin on the right and then Lappin found the side netting.
Chances were coming City's way but it was the most unlikely source that planted the best one in the net to put City 3-1 up: Drury, whose last goal was in the Premier League got on the end of Hoolahan's terrific ball and hammered it into the roof of the net.
But the joy was short-lived - Ruddy pushed a shot wide for a corner and from the flag kick the ball pinged around the six-yard box before sub Matty Fryatt poked it home.
From 3-1 up City were looking rocky - and there was still the nervous finale to go.
It was end to end stuff - probably not what Paul Lambert ordered. He might have been happy to have heard the final whistle - but Hoolahan had other ideas and on 75 minutes cracked in a contender for goal of the season.
Holt played a little square pass, Hoolahan saw the goal and from 25 yards hit an absolute beauty into the top left corner. The fans were perfectly justified in chanting his name, and even when Paul Gallagher hit the bar it didn't deter them from showing their appreciation for the talismanic Irishman.
Then came a remarkable few seconds as Fryatt pulled it back to 4-3 after burying Gallagher's pass - and then as he tried to retrieve the ball from the back of the net he kicked Barnett, earning himself a straight red card.
And still there was 10 minutes to go.
Drury stung Ikeme's fingers, but City finally saw it out - to great relief all round.