Stoke City 0, Norwich City 1
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City broke their Britannia hoodoo to pick up their first Premier League away win of the campaign with a 1-0 victory at Stoke on Sunday afternoon.
Jonny Howson's 34th minute strike from fully 25 yards settled a contest the Canaries dominated for large spells. Stoke barely mustered a worthwhile threat on John Ruddy's goal as Chris Hughton's side responded in positive fashion to two previous league defeats at Hull and Tottenham and a wretched recent record in the Potteries.
Hughton made four changes to the Norwich City starting line up that lost 1-0 to Aston Villa in the Premier League. Injuries to Nathan Redmond and Javier Garrido saw Martin Olsson come in for his Premier League debut for the club with Anthony Pilkington restored to the left flank in Redmond's absence. Ryan Bennett was another injury call up after Sebastien Bassong failed to recover from his hamstring injury with Alex Tettey preferred to Johan Elmander in a five-man midfield behind Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Gary Hooper was kept in reserve after his two-goal display in the midweek Capital One Cup win over Watford alongside fellow Hornets' goalscorer Josh Murphy. Stoke boss Mark Hughes named an unchanged starting line up from the Potters' side that lost 3-1 at Arsenal last weekend.
Tettey gravitated towards a deeper lying protective role from the kick off sat in front of Norwich's back four with Howson and Leroy Fer operating in a central midfield pairing. Hughton's side started on the front foot with Pilkington's strike from the edge of the home penalty area slamming against Ryan Shawcross before Fer was penalised in his attempt to retrieve Robert Snodgrass' partially cleared free kick after the Scot was dumped to the ground by Marko Arnautovic. Bennett then crashed a half-volley against the underside of Asmir Begovic's bar from inside the six yard box after winning his initial wrestling match at the back post with Jonathan Walters before the Stoke keeper dropped on the rebound. Fer's dancing feet freed the overlapping Russell Martin, but his wayward cross released the pressure with the home fans becoming increasingly restless at the hosts' laboured efforts.
Marc Wilson earned the game's first caution for a crude challenge on van Wolfswinkel before the Dutchman's nuisance value created time and space for Howson to test Stoke's defensive resolve again with a drilled hit from the edge of the area that cannoned back off Robert Huth.
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Norwich continued to dictate proceedings, Fer triggering a flowing move from the edge of his own penalty area that passed through Howson and Pilkington before Begovic was awarded a fortuitous free kick after appearing to spill under pressure from van Wolfswinkel. Stoke belatedly threatened Ruddy's goal in the 33rd minute with Arnautovic's venomous hit swinging just over. Howson rifled Norwich in front a minute later from long range with a dipping strike that deceived Begovic after Pilkington's flick freed the midfielder to drive at Stoke's exposed defence.
Tettey's excellent shift continued with a timely intervention at his far post after Martin had hauled down Walters before Michael Turner's close attentions forced Shawcross to head the resulting Charlie Adam corner over from five yards out.
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Hughes made his intentions clear at the interval with a double change, introducing Jermaine Pennant and former Manchester City and Aston Villa midfielder Stephen Ireland fresh from his goalscoring cameo in the midweek Capital One Cup win at Tranmere.
Olsson earned a pat of appreciation from his keeper for chesting behind Arnautovic's drifted cross with Ireland immediately into the action, before referee Taylor remained unmoved despite vocal home appeals on the terraces demanding a penalty after Fer appeared to pull back Kenwyne Jones.
Pilkington broke the gathering siege on the hour mark when he tricked his way past Geoff Cameron but slashed wide of Begovic's left-hand upright. Howson then sprang a quick counter which invited Olsson forward down the left, but Begovic punched clear with van Wolfswinkel in close attendance. The impressive Howson then freed Snodgrass but after lining up Pieters the Scottish international curled over.
Hughes played his final card with one-time Norwich loanee Peter Crouch replacing Jones in the 66th minute but the Canaries looked to have quelled the second half storm as the game became increasingly stretched in the final quarter. Elmander replaced a struggling van Wolfswinkel, with the Dutchman taking off the right boot of the foot that had troubled him following the Villa defeat long before he had made it to the touchline. Ruddy went full length to deal with Steven Nzonzi's speculative effort which lacked the power to seriously test the England keeper.
Begovic then kept the Potters in touch with a one-handed flying stop to claw out Snodgrass' goalbound curler from the edge of the area in the 80th minute. Shawcross' aerial threat saw him glance a header wide from Pennant's corner inside the Norwich six yard box with the hosts' struggling to scale the same heights as their post-interval surge. Elmander almost embarrassed Begovic when Stoke's keeper dawdled attempting to clear Shawcross' pass back in a far too comfortable passage for the visitors to a priceless three points.
• Stoke: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Huth, Pieters, Walters (Pennant 45), Nzonzi, Wilson, Adam (Ireland 45), Arnautovic, Jones (Crouch 66). Subs (not used): Sorensen, Whelan, Palacios, Assaidi.
• Bookings: Wilson (foul on van Wolfswinkel, 24), Pieters (foul on Pilkington, 75).
• Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Turner, Bennett, Olsson, Tettey, Fer, Howson, Snodgrass, Pilkington (Whittaker 83), van Wolfswinkel (Elmander 76). Subs (not used): Bunn, Johnson, Josh Murphy, Hoolahan, Hooper.
• Booking: Fer (foul on Adam, 42).
• Goal: Howson (34)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)
• Attendance: 26,184