Photo Gallery: Morison strike brings up first home victory
Norwich City 2, Sunderland 1: Norwich City turned in a commanding performance last night in front of a Carrow Road full house and global television audience.
City showcased everything good about their rapid rise through the Football League over the past two seasons to deservedly send Steve Bruce's Sunderland side home empty-handed. The Canaries attacked with pace and purpose throughout the contest with Russell Martin and Leon Barnett the core of a resolute defensive effort – pierced only once by Kieran Richardson's late rasping strike.
Barnett even had time to leave his defensive station to coolly slot Norwich in front prior to the break following superb overlapping work from Elliott Bennett. Steve Morison doubled City's lead three minutes after the interval prior to Richardson's lifeline.
Lambert deployed the same starting personnel who had captured a maiden Premier League win at Bolton. Wes Hoolahan was entrusted with supporting Morison again – the attacking width offered by Anthony Pilkington and Bennett. David Fox retained his place alongside the combative Bradley Johnson in central midfield following an impressive display at the Reebok.
Black Cats' counterpart Bruce emulated Lambert with deposed skipper Lee Cattermole and ex-Ipswich striker Connor Wickham again kept in reserve as the visitors remained unchanged from the team that hammered Stoke 4-0 at the Stadium of Light.
John O'Shea dwarfed his Irish compatriot Hoolahan as the captains led their respective teams onto the Carrow Road pitch. Titus Bramble's first touch brought a predictable response from Norwich fans more than happy to remind the centre back of his tribal connections across the border.
Morison bundled past Wes Brown but dragged a right footer at Simon Mignolet from 20 yards. Hoolahan's attempted lob sailed into the lower Barclay with the Black Cats' stopper stranded after Morison and Bramble duelled in mid air.
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The Belgian keeper then miscued horribly to the derision of the home fans but the lively Morison's first time strike was deflected behind. Pilkington teased O'Shea twice in quick succession, only for Mignolet to gather at his near post.
Barnett edged a meeting of muscle with Stephane Sessgnon just inside City's half to spring another swift attack, but Bennett's intended square pass for Kyle Naughton skipped away on the billiard green playing top.
Undeterred, Bennett and Naughton raided again, but the wily Brown was patrolling his near post to cut out the Tottenham youngster's centre. Norwich continued to dictate the tempo of the early proceedings although Bruce's side looked a real menace on the counter. Marc Tierney had to time his sliding challenge to perfection when Ahmed Elmohamady drove infield with purpose.
Tierney then had plenty to say when Sessegnon hung a leg in the defender's direction – yet you sensed City's muscular left back would have appreciated the committed intent.
Nicklas Bendtner veered wide to tee up the on rushing Craig Gardner who sidefooted over at the edge of the Norwich penalty box – much to the frustration of Bruce prowling his technical area.
The Arsenal loanee was now starting to cause Norwich problems with his movement – dropping almost onto the half way line on 25 minutes to trigger another sweeping Sunderland move prior to testing John Ruddy.
The Black Cats were visibly growing in confidence after weathering an early home stint – skipper O'Shea's presence in the final third during a sustained spell a visible indicator of the shift in power.
Pilkington almost profited from such attacking ambition when Morison's reverse pass left him free to gallop into the space vacated by O'Shea, but Mignolet read the Welshman's intentions.
Pilkington shaped to cross shortly after, but cheekily dipped inside his marker only for Brown to again underline his class with another near post dart. City made the decisive breakthrough just past the half hour mark from an unlikely source – centre back Barnett ghosting into the six yard box unmarked to sidefoot home Bennett's precise cut back.
Connor Wickham's appearance on the touchline moments later turned up the volume further following his spicy pre-match comments recalling his bitter experiences in last season's derby whipping at Portman Road. Hoolahan's intelligent movement right across City's frontline continued to be exceptional, one spin and pivot enticing Brown into a hack which earned admonishment from Mr Foy.
Norwich's skipper then swerved a pass with the outside of his right peg into Morison's path, but Mignolet was out sharply to collect before Hoolahan collected Brown's woeful clearance only to strike Bramble.
Bendtner and Sebastian Larsson combined in a thrust conceived in north London, but the on loan Arsenal striker miscued from his former Emirates' team mate's reverse ball in first half stoppage time.
Pilkington forced O'Shea to back pedal on the resumption with a superb dribble that Mignolet clawed away but the Belgian had no chance on 48 minutes when Morison rose powerfully to open his account from six yards.
Martin – clearly inspired by his central defensive partner Barnett – surged forward before rolling the ball for Tierney to stand up an inviting cross from the byline.
Bennett swivelled but dragged narrowly wide of Mignolet's near post from 25 yards as City's players looked to feed on the positive energy swirling around Carrow Road. Larsson's horrendous mistake gifted Morison the chance to race clear just prior to the hour mark but Bramble was back on the cover as the Welshman ranged into view on Mignolet's goal.
Johnson almost presented Bendtner with a gift-wrapped opportunity on 63 minutes when he misjudged his intended clearance but the frontman poked wide of Ruddy's far post.
Pilkington's relieving run tested Mignolet who shovelled away before Martin hammered the rebound wide.
Bruce made a double attacking change approaching the final quarter – new arrival Wickham almost temporarily silencing the home fans when he headed point blank at Ruddy from Elmohamady's centre.
Ruddy went full length to grasp David Vaughan's drilled left footer with Sunderland inevitably pushing City deeper as they probed for any sort of foothold in the closing stages.
Morison and Pilkington exited to rapturous applause on 79 minutes with Lambert again reprising his successful Bolton formula as Grant Holt and James Vaughan were introduced.
City looked to be playing out time when Richardson produce a moment of real quality with a fizzing angled drive that brushed Barnett but nestled in Ruddy's bottom corner. Vaughan was then forced to hobble off at the start of five added minutes following an awkward tumble attempting to chase Fox's pass but City's depleted ranks survived some desperate late Sunderland pressure.