Norwich 3-4 Manchester City: Nasri sees red but Dzeko and Aguero shine
On a night filled with own goals all around, Carrow Road was the stage for a 7 goal thriller between mid-table Norwich and Champions Manchester City. The match saw a lot of controversial decisions by referee Mike Jones. In the end, Mancini’s team came out on top to take home 3 points with a 4-3 win. They had to endure 50 minutes with 10 men after Nasri was sent off.
Norwich City: Bunn – Garrido, Bassong, Turner, Martin – Tettey, Johnson, Snodgrass, Pilkington – Hoolahan, Morrison
Manchester City: Hart – Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy – Toure, Barry – Silva, Nasri, Aguero – Dzeko
Roberto Mancini made 4 changes from the defeat at the Stadium of Light in midweek. Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri came in for Carlos Tevez and James Milner. Gareth Barry started ahead of Javi Garcia and Gael Clichy came back into the starting XI after a long spell of absence. Kolo Toure was dropped.
Norwich’s iconic captain Grant Holt was out with injury and Morrison deputized in attack. That was the only change Chris Hughton made from the match against Chelsea in midweek.
Man City lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation and Norwich in a 4-4-1-1 shape, with Hoolahan playing as a No.10 behind Steve Morrison. The visitors started off brightly and were 1-0 up in the 2nd minute, thanks to an Edin Dzeko goal. Sebastian Bassong made a mess of himself after failing to intercept the ball on the half way line. This allowed Dzeko to ease the ball into space and release Aguero. Both the Norwich fullbacks were caught very high up the pitch and Silva was in acres of space on the other side. Some pin point passing from Aguero and Silva teed up Dzeko to slot in an easy goal. Almost everyone on the pitch missed the handball by Kompany before the buildup to the goal.
Kompany was again involved 2 minutes later, as he bombed forward with the ball and lounged into a strong tackle on Bradley Johnson. He maintained his balance and possession and that move took the whole midfield of Norwich out of play. It was a 4 v 4 situation now. But Sergio Ageuro’s darting run into the right channel forced the keeper to chase him. A cool and composed pass later, Dzeko was celebrating his 2nd goal of the match after a clinical finish. Two early goals rattled the home team and the reception died down almost immediately. Chris Hughton tried to calm his team down, but the City players were playing the ball around with ease. Silva was sandwiched between the two Norwich midfielders, Tettey and Johnson, but still he was able to make a useful pass.
Pablo Zabaleta Passing: successful 40 out of 46 (87%)
Norwich plays predominantly with wide players, who provide good crosses and neat interplay, but they were struggling to cope with the tempo of City’s passing. Zabaleta played in the Norwich half for most of the time, doubling up the fullback and putting in meaty crosses for Dzeko to pounce upon. The third goal was in sight, but unfortunately for Mancini it came at the other end. A foul on the edge of the box resulted in a freekick, taken by Pilkington and deflected in by Clichy. Joe Hart could do nothing about it.
Norwich players soon receded back into their half and were pressing only when City made forward passes. This left the City defenders free with the ball. When Norwich players had the ball, they were looking up to Morrison, who was now operating on the right flank and was dropping deep to link the play up. Snodgrass was making diagonal runs from the right wing and popped up in central areas. The end of the first half saw some drama unfold as, Samir Nasri was sent off for showing aggression towards Bassong. The match was about to turn a crucial corner with this development and Norwich were right back into the driving seat.
Morrison was taken off owing to injury concerns and youngster Harry Kane, on loan from Tottenham, was introduced at half time. Man City were down to 10 men and now had a shape of 4-2-3, with Aguero, Silva and Dzeko forming a triangle in the attack. Norwich had a man advantage, but they were not looking anywhere near threatening for the Man City players. In the first half, Dzeko was at times isolated, but now he was positioned deep and more involved in the play. Aguero produced a master class, as he tormented Bassong and Turner with his runs into wide positions. Bassong’s night got even worse when a long ball from Toure deflected off him and fell kindly for Aguero to chip it over the keeper. Man City created clear daylight in the scoreline now with a two goal cushion.
If Mancini thought his team could defend a 3-1 scoreline, then he was about get the taste of some Canary persistence. The unimpressive Tettey was replaced by a more agile player in Howson. This was a positive change from Hughton, as Norwich now had more of the ball and they were making those chances count in the final third, drawing saves from Hart and earning corners. Clichy was having a tough time dealing with Martin and Snodgrass, so Aguero later came out to help the Frenchman. One such corner led to the second Norwich goal, headed in by Captain Russell Martin who was left free by the City players. The zonal marking system was not helping Mancini’s team as Bassong was unmarked at the far post and he found his captain with precision who too was left free. Disappointing play from the Champions.
Silva was brought off and a more defensive Milner was sent on. Now City had a 4-4-1 shape, Aguero dropping into the left midfield. Barry and Toure were solid from the start of the match and their tackles were helping retain possession and Aguero was acting as the outball from defense. He took on 6 Norwich players at a time, displaying excellent dribbling ability and physicality. The already downed Norwich keeper Bunn didn’t cover himself in glory as he earned an own goal to his name after a Dzeko shot hit the post and rebounded into the goal off the back of the keeper. Again, all the hard work was done by Aguero, he carried the ball a long way from his half and found Dzeko in the attacking third.
Now with the score at 4-2, Mancini could afford a smile. But that was not to long last enough, as Russell Martin scored his second goal of the game, Zonal marking in set pieces being the culprit again for Man City. Lescott came on for Dzeko and the shape of the away team changed to a 3-5-1 with Aguero up front and 3 midfielders shielding the 3 defenders. Hoolahan came off for Norwich and Simeon Jackson was introduced to increase the numbers in attack. This was a good move tactically, but Jackson was poor and made no impact. City had to deal with deep defenses in past match days, but it was their turn to see out a tough game at Carrow Road, and they were successful in doing so.
An exhausting match, with intense drama and a lot of goals. Man City went up early, but the red card served as a setback. A persistent Norwich side came back into the game 3 times after going 2 goals down. Set plays are becoming an area of concern for Mancini in recent weeks. Chris Hughton’s side could have won the match, had his players played to their full potential. In the end, it all came down to the difference in the character of the players. Edin Dzeko almost grabbed a hattrick and was impressive all around. Sergio Aguero produced one of those applauding performances and Maradona will be proud of him. His work rate was immense and as always, he was clinical in his passing and finishing. He is PIE’s man of the match.