Photo Gallery: Norwich City win style battle as well as points against Swansea
Swansea City 2, Norwich City 3: The Canaries' win sold a lie to the myth that style and sophistication is the sole preserve of Swansea amongst the Premier League's nouveau riche.
Brendan Rodgers is undoubtedly a class act. The side cast in his image have been painted as footballing artists. Norwich, by comparison, have drawn less effusive praise at times from certain quarters. Not any more.
This was a day for the supposed artisans to rise up. The Canaries achieved much more than simply three points and the distinction of becoming only the second club to triumph here this season after champions Manchester United.
Paul Lambert's selections in that midfield crucible, where the Swans have been so dominant, underlined that the Championship spawned more than one outfit with the technical ability to flourish against the best.
Rodgers pointed to the key absence of Welsh international playmaker Joe Allen. Lambert only introduced Wes Hoolahan for the final 13 minutes. Call that a score draw. Norwich can do 'blood and thunder' when required. Liverpool at Anfield. Blackburn and Fulham at Carrow Road this season were all results achieved by a collective force of will.
Resistance was needed again at the Liberty Stadium after Danny Graham profited from the penalty spot to set up an uncomfortable finish for the visitors. Yet this win owed far more to bravery of a different kind. A willingness to take the ball in tight corners. To retain possession. To probe for weakness.
A combined skill set that requires a level of proficiency far in advance of sheer muscular effort and intent. Swansea have skilfully navigated that path during their top flight baptism. Norwich strode across it with purpose in south Wales.
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Just one fresh parallel to add to the many binding these clubs who successfully fight against the tide and the prevailing currents. Comparison between the respective king makers is obvious.
Rodgers is truly a 'Pied Piper' figure with similar restorative powers to the man he warmly embraced pre-match across the technical area divide.
The Swansea boss has reinvigorated a footballing backwater with a brand of football easy on the eye. A banner opposite the main stand paid homage. Below his features were two simple words. 'Total football'.
Such an environment, such a culture spawns chess matches. Not arm wrestles. Andrew Surman offers many things – a ball-winning, combative central midfielder he is not. For Lambert to pair the ex-Southampton man alongside David Fox signalled Norwich's intent before a ball was kicked. Lambert opted for the youthful vibrancy of Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett in wide areas. Hoolahan was sacrificed; but the Irishman's mere presence in the away dugout testified to the creative options now at Lambert's disposal.
Norwich bossed the opening quarter. Confident in possession. Capable of exploiting space in and around the fringes of the Swans' penalty area. Play was largely condensed in the home half.
The passionate Welsh crowd fell silent. Until Graham's excellent counter-attacking strike altered the dynamic.
Bennett and Pilkington were increasingly forced into reverse. Nathan Dyer was the dominant wide player for the final 20 minutes of the opening period as he veered inside to fashion not only the goal, but arguably an even better opportunity for Graham after linking with the subdued Scott Sinclair.
Elliott Ward's excellence ensured Norwich only trailed by one at the interval. Surman spurned the chance for parity when he glanced Pilkington's pinpoint centre at Michel Vorm.
The genesis of Norwich's rapid rise is characterised by their ability to adapt; Lambert's thinking and that of his coaches displays an inherent 'chameleon-like' quality. Boldness and a willingness to embrace change are charges you can never lay against the Scot.
The City chief and Ian Culverhouse knew only too well at the interval that Swansea had established a measure of control. Left unchecked, Norwich would have left the hosts' atmospheric surroundings pointless.
The same personnel emerged for the restart. The system was given a makeover. Traditional midfield four gave way to diamond.
Fox dropped deeper. Bennett was pushed into an advanced role with the licence to roam off the back of Britton and Josh McEachran. Another gifted midfielder cut from the same Welsh cloth – albeit currently on loan from Stamford Bridge.
For Bennett to shine, he needed space to breathe and two forwards able to occupy Ashley Williams and Steven Caulker. Simeon Jackson was all pop and fizz. Grant Holt was simply the stuff of nightmares.
The bare-chested salute to celebrate his second typified Norwich's defiance. Holt battled the home crowd and Swansea's centre-backs in equal measure. The captain's display dripped with gladiatorial intent; it was a warrior-like performance. Power to counter-balance the panache. Holt soared above Williams to despatch Ward's hooked return with all the aggression of a man fed on nothing but raw meat for days.
Bennett escaped minutes later to feed Pilkington. Neil Taylor's deflection spun the ball beyond the stranded Vorm. Norwich had manufactured a position of strength. Conceived in the away dressing room but carried out with the clinical efficiency which appears woven into the fabric of Norwich's Premier League play.
The contrast between now and those early, uncertain months is like night and day. The Canaries during recent times – with the obvious exception of Sunderland away – have added sustained consistency. John Ruddy encapsulates the sea change.
Here again, when called upon, his positioning and shot-stopping prowess were evident. Graham was denied with a smart reaction save after Holt had levelled matters. Swansea's number ten has a personal vendetta against City bordering on the obsessive.
The 26-year-old plundered three against Norwich in Watford colours last season. His first in this game said everything about the confidence coursing through his body. A dismissive side footer brushed the netting before Ruddy even had a chance to set himself. Graham's success so far, in essence, is a microcosm of Swansea's at bridging the same gulf as Norwich. It can be done.
The ex-Middlesbrough trainee always looked like he had the tools to make the step up after initially failing to make the grade in his native north-east. Graham's Cumbrian counterpart has had to construct a more persuasive case to silence his critics. The predatory instincts that carried Holt through the lower reaches remain razor sharp.
The spatial awareness to evade his marker and stay the right side of the assistant referee's flag were matched by Bennett's precise pass, which allowed him the fractions of a second to assess Vorm's intentions before rolling underneath the Dutchman. Surman's part should not be overlooked. There were shades of Swansea's rapier thrust through the heart of Norwich's midfield for the opening goal as Surman threaded a ball between two opponents to free Bennett.
The yellow card that followed for Holt once the bedlam subsided remains an absurd oddity in the modern game. Neither could there any argument when he inexplicably tugged Williams back inside his own penalty box.
Graham won the battle of wits with Ruddy from the spot. Welsh voices reverberated around the stadium. A vocal backdrop to a ferocious final push. Steve Morison tested Vorm with head and feet.
The bustling striker found himself in an identical position to Holt, but Vorm stood tall to parry his poked near post effort. Another in a string of fine stops.
Norwich were grateful Graham's reliable radar betrayed him when he steered wide with Ruddy a spectator. The City keeper thrust up a reactive arm to deflect Caulker's goalbound header in stoppage time. It was Anfield all over again.
Lambert and his players left the field to applause from pockets of home fans in the main stand. By itself a gesture that should resonate far beyond the Valleys.
Norwich had not simply clinched a win at one of the Premier League's most difficult outposts. They had done it with style.