Photo Gallery: Hertha Berlin 3, Norwich City 2
Norwich City striker James Vaughan's second half brace failed to avoid an opening pre-season friendly defeat against Hertha Berlin this evening in the Austrian town of Gleisdorf.
Chris Hughton's side were sunk by Elias Kachunga's hat-trick but it was the sight of Vaughan at his predatory best which bodes well for the much more important Premier League challenges ahead.
City trailed 2-0 at the interval after Kachunga had calmly slotted underneath the advancing John Ruddy in the 12th minute before beating the England keeper from longer range two minutes later. Vaughan held his nerve in a battle of wills with Thomas Kraft but Kachunga completed his set from the spot when Dani Ayala was adjudged to have grappled the marksman to the floor inside the Norwich penalty area. Vaughan pounced from close range to reduce the arrears with a flick header from Ayala's far post leap and the former Evertonian was only a yard from a third in the closing stages when he just failed to connect with Korey Smith's driven cross.
Hughton fielded two completely different line ups for both halves of this opening pre-season friendly of the summer at the end of a gruelling week-long Styrian training camp.
Grant Holt partnered Simeon Jackson in the first half at the Solar Stadion with Simon Lappin on the left of a defence featuring Ryan Bennett and Elliott Ward at centre back and Russell Martin on the opposite flank.
Jonny Howson and Bradley Johnson operated in central midfield with Andrew Surman and Elliott Bennett on the flanks. City officials had confirmed earlier in the day new summer signing Steven Whittaker was eligible to feature this evening after the club were notified by FIFA they have clearance to play the former Rangers man.
Elliott Bennett's persistence harried Nico Schulz into an early mistake but Howson's attempted clip from ten yards was deflected behind for a corner. Berlin stopper Kraft gathered Ryan Bennett's far post flick at the second attempt.
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Elliott Ward's sliding tackle from behind on Kachunga was anything but friendly but the big centre back escaped censure. Hertha wide player Marin Knoll unleashed a swerving strike that Ruddy was able to watch over his bar in the tenth minute with the Germans pushing three men right up front in the opening skirmishes. Kachunga latched onto Howson's underhit back pass to outstrip Ward and roll coolly underneath the advancing Ruddy.
The pacy Berlin frontman doubled his personal tally less than two minutes later with an instinctive hit from range that flew past Ruddy. Elliott Bennett's anticipation prevented a third when Sami Allagui picked out Daniel Beichler who conjured a curler destined for Ruddy's far corner before the sliding Bennett's intervention.
Berlin looked dangerous with every attacking foray in the opening 20 minutes but City spurned a chance to test Kraft on the counter when Jackson and Elliott Bennett combined to pick out Surman but he opted to try and find Holt from the edge.
Ruddy was forced to beat away Beichler's angled lash on 22 minutes with a perhaps understandably sluggish City again carved open. Bradley Johnson dragged wide from 25 yards after another probing burst from Elliott Bennett – the pick of the City line up in the opening quarter of the friendly.
Howson needed all his athletic prowess to hurdle Peter Kluge's agricultural tackle in front of the dug outs with the competitive edge clearly in evidence on the slick surface. Anthony Brooke-John made a crucial intervention to cut out another dangerous Elliott Bennett cross before Andrew Surman's free kick tamely struck the Berlin wall. Kraft flicked Surman's dinked cross off the head of a rising Holt with five minutes to go before the break.
Roman Hubnik's last ditch block foiled Jackson after the Canadian's pace had took him clear of the Hertha backline with City looking to reduce the deficit prior to the interval.
A completely new Norwich line up emerged for the second period with Vaughan partnering Chris Martin in a two-pronged frontline and the former Evertonian wasted little time in underling his predatory prowess with a cheeky roll through Kraft's legs from Anthony Pilkington's ball.
Hertha restored their two-goal cushion when Ayala was harshly adjudged to have grappled Kachunga to the deck – the Berlin man sealing his hat-trick from the penalty spot when he sent Declan Rudd the wrong way.
City probed down the right flank with Vaughan latching onto Smith's throughball but striking Kraft. From the corner, Smith an overlap with Whittaker to stand up a cross Ayala headed back across goal for Vaughan to apply the faintest of touches on the Hertha goal line.
Vaughan was a yard from drawing City level on 67 minutes with a far post slide to try and divert Smith's whipped cross after an intelligent piece of quick-thinking from Wes Hoolahan over a free kick.
Fabian Holland had Rudd momentarily worried when he drilled a left footer over. Hoolahan earned that rarest of pre-season sights – a yellow card – after taking exception to a stiff challenge that sparked a minor skirmish between both sets of players. Berlin's Alfredo Morales was the next into the book for a late lunge on Marc Tierney.
Vaughan's miscued header from Hoolahan's floated centre let Berlin off the hook once a measure of calm had returned to the proceedings.
• Norwich (first half line up): Ruddy, R Martin, R Bennett, Ward, Lappin, E Bennett, Howson, Johnson, Surman, Holt, Surman.
• Norwich (second half line up): Rudd, Whittaker, Barnett, Ayala, Tierney, Crofts, Hoolahan, Smith, Pilkington, C Martin, Vaughan.
• Bookings: Hoolahan, C Martin
• Goals: Vaughan (48, 57)
• Hertha Berlin (starting line up): Kraft, Hubnik, Beichler, Allagui, Kachunga, Neimeyer, Kluge, Brooke-John, Schulz, Morales, Knoll (Neumann 88).
• Bookings: Knoll, Morales
• Goals: Kachunga (12, 14, 50)