FA Premier League
Saturday 29 December 2012, 15.00 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany (c), Nastasic, Clichy, Y Toure, Barry, Nasri, Silva (Milner 57), Aguero (Garcia 90), Dzeko (Lescott 81)
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Sinclair, Tevez
Goals: Dzeko (2, 4), Aguero (50) Bunn (og 67)
Sent Off: Nasri
Referee: Mike Jones
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero
It couldn’t have been a better start for the visitors, whose campaign was revived at Carrow Road last season, as Dzeko put the blues ahead inside two minutes. Aguero found Silva and he slid the ball into Dzeko inside the box, and the Bosnian finished coolly from eight yards. And, just a couple of minutes later, it got better for the striker, who had his second goal: Kompany put in a great tackle to set himself up on a blistering run forward. He found Aguero, who rounded the goalkeeper and squared for Dzeko to slot into the empty net.
But, immediately, the hosts had a goal back. Kompany was wrongly penalised for a foul on the edge of the box and Norwich had a free kick. Pilkington hit it and it took a deflection off Clichy’s ankles, leaving Hart with no chance as the ball rebounded into the net. There was nothing the blues could do and they were harshly pegged back.
With 15 minutes gone, City wanted a penalty for a challenge on Aguero inside the box. The City man was trying to reach a deflected ball and was seemingly brought down as he tried to stand, but there was nothing doing from the referee. It had been a blistering start to the game and it had slowly begun to develop to a steady pace.
Garrido almost did his old side a favour with 23 minutes on the clock as Aguero broke through the Canaries back line. The Argentine cut back to get his shot in but lost possession and the left-back scooped the ball back towards his goal. But for a good save by Bunn, he would have put through his own net.
It was good defending from Garrido on 34 minutes, though, as Dzeko was looking for his hat-trick. Yaya Toure played a brilliant ball wide to Zabaleta, who headed back across goal towards the Bosnian. The former City full-back, though, was there first to nod behind for a corner. From that flag-kick, Kompany’s header at goal was blocked by Snodgrass on the line. A Dzeko turn and run nearly got him his third, but he tried too much and, perhaps, should have gotten the shot away sooner, as the ball ran through to Bunn.
A neat move on the edge of the Norwich box five minutes before half time almost had the blues their third goal. Barry and Silva combined to move the hosts’ defence, before Yaya Toure found a pocket of space to shoot on the volley. Bunn was beaten, but so was the far post, as the effort fizzed inches wide.
Tempers flared two minutes later as Bassong followed through on Nasri and the Frenchman reacted to the challenge. The Norwich man saw yellow, but the City man saw red, much to the annoyance of the blues fans. Both players reacted the same way, and if one was sent off, so should the other. But that wasn’t how the assistant saw it, leaving the visitors down to ten men and the hosts not.
City started the second half offensively, looking to do the damage early on. The first real chance of the half found the net, too – Yaya Toure played a great ball over the top and Aguero spun the defender to break into the area. One-on-one with Bunn, he lifted the ball cutely over the oncoming goalkeeper and into the net.
It could have been another for City almost immediately after, as Aguero broke into the Norwich half. He beat one man, before squaring for Yaya Toure to shoot, but the Ivorian’s effort was deflected over the bar. The resulting corner was aimed at Kompany, but he couldn’t get there first and it was well cleared.
With the hour approaching, Aguero could have had his second and City’s fourth. Yaya Toure played a ball through the middle for the Argentine to run on to and a slip by Martin let him in on goal. He checked back to beat the covering defender, but his side-footed shot was deflected and the power was taken out of it, leaving Bunn to collect easily.
Howson almost responded for the hosts. A shot from range had Hart at full stretch and the resulting quick corner caught the visitors out. A cross deep was nodded by by Bassong and Martin was unmarked to head the cut-back into the net. It was slack defending from the blues and they were punished for it. The ten men still had work to do.
City, though, quickly restored their two goal advantage. Dzeko was just onside from a long ball by Clichy and he took it down brilliantly to set up a one-on-one. His strike at the near post was saved by Bunn, but the rebound smashed into the upright and off the back of the goalkeeper to sneak into the net. A stroke of luck, but the visitors won’t care.
A minute later and City could have had five: Aguero did brilliantly to keep the ball under two challenges from the Norwich back line and spin into the box. There, he chipped the goalkeeper, but the effort could only hit the side netting. Despite having gone down a man, City were still looking threatening.
Nevertheless, it was the home side who pulled another goal back. Hart didn’t punch a corner away and the ball fell in the box for a Norwich shirt to shoot. Nastasic blocked, but the rebound fell to Martin and he smashed it back in. Hart couldn’t react and it deflected off him into the top corner, bringing the home side straight back into the game.
Aguero could have restored City’s two goal advantage with eight minutes to play. After some brilliant footwork from Yaya Toure, the Ivorian found the Argentine in the box. He spun and shot for the top corner, but Bunn turned it over the bar brilliantly. In stoppage time, Aguero had the chance to steal the game but his shot was easily swallowed up by Bunn after the striker did superbly to keep the ball.
City were able to see out the game and take the win, but they weren’t helped by some dreadful refereeing decisions that make the task much more difficult.