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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:05 19th November 2011

VAN PERSIE BRACE SINKS SPIRITED CITY

A BRACE from in-form Arsenal skipper Robin Van Persie saw the Gunners fight back from a goal down to defeat a spirited Canaries side in front of an all-seater record crowd of 26,801 at Carrow Road.

Welsh international striker Steve Morison had stunned the North London giants by firing City in front after 16 minutes as he out-muscled Mertesacker before shooting past Szczesny.

But Van Persie hit back in the 27th minute, side-footing home Theo Walcott's low cross from the right to level the match.

City defender Russell Martin was in outstanding form for most of the match and made three crucial goal-line clearances to help keep the Canaries in the game - but when he lost possession in the 59th minute it was to prove a costly mistake, as Gervinho slotted the ball to Van Persie and the Gunners captain lifted a neat chip over John Ruddy for the winner.

City boss Paul Lambert told Canaries Player: "You can see that they're a top team and you can see why they are a top side and the best thing for us was that we were always in the game.

"We had to get amongst them, you can't let them have the freedom of the football pitch because they'll just hurt you. As I've said before they've gone to Chelsea and hit five, so you have to match them in some sort of way and we did give it a real good go.

"We had a great start with Steve's goal and that gave everyone belief that we could do something and I'm delighted with that aspect of it but disappointed to lose."

Before the game Lambert made two changes to his starting line-up, with David Fox and Andrew Crofts coming into midfield, replacing Grant Holt and Elliott Bennett from the starting team at Villa.

As the game got underway in bright November sunshine it was the Gunners who carved out the first opening in only the second minute, Johnson scurrying forward to block Walcott's drive from the edge of the area.

Another chance fell the way of the visitors in the sixth minute, skipper Van Persie firing wide of the far post with an angled effort from 16 yards.

Russell Martin got a well-earned chorus of 'The Norfolk Cafu' on 11 minutes after a superb last-gasp clearance on the line to keep out a Walcott effort that looked a certain goal.

But after weathering the early Arsenal pressure it was Norwich who took the lead in the 16th minute, Morison robbing Mertesacker in the box before Carrow Road erupted as he calmly slotted home past Szczesny from ten yards.

Arsenal attempted to hit back and Russ Martin was twice more called upon to make goal-line clearances in the 20th and 22nd minute, from first Van Persie and then to hack away an effort from Gervinho which Ruddy had got a hand to.

But the visitors were a constant threat and didn't take long to level the game, Van Persie sweeping home Walcott's low cross from the right in the 27th minute.

The exchange of goals seemed to take something of the urgency out of proceedings, with the rest of the first half seeing Arsenal doing most of the pressing without troubling Ruddy in the Norwich goal unduly.

Half-time:
Norwich City 1, Arsenal 1

Lambert made a change at the break, with Elliott Bennett coming on to replace David Fox in the midfield.

City had an opportunity five minutes after the restart with a free-kick 22 yards out following a foul on Hoolahan, but Szczesny was well-positioned to make the save from Pilkington's curling effort on goal.

Five minutes later a killer pass from Van Persie set Gervinho free in the Norwich box but Ruddy advanced to make a superb save at the Ivorian's feet.

But he was helpless to stop Arsenal taking the lead just before the hour, Song's incisive pass allowing Van Persie to race clear and then find the net with a deft chip over the helpless Ruddy.

In the 65th minute as City searched for an equaliser they were a whisker away as Pilkington was inches away from turning in Bennett's low cross into the Arsenal box.

Looking to add a fresh dimension to the attack, Lambert brought on Grant Holt in the 67th minute to replace the hard-working Wes Hoolahan.

Ruddy was called into action again in the 76th minute, parrying a stinging drive from Arteta away to safety as Arsenal looked to get a third goal to kill the game off.

Arsenal made a change of their own a minute later as Yossi Benayoun replaced Gervinho and Lambert responded by making his final change as Simeon Jackson came on for Pilkington.

As time ticked away the City fans shouted hopefully for a penalty as Holt went over in the box in the 87th minute but referee Phil Dowd was having none of it, instead booking the City striker for diving.

The Canaries continued to try and find a way back into the game but when Johnson's ball into the box from a free-kick was comfortably claimed by Szczeny in injury time it was to prove their last half-chance as Arsenal played down the clock to claim the three points.

Final score:
Norwich City 1, Arsenal 2

Attendance: 26,801 (Carrow Road)

Referee: Phil Dowd

Norwich City:
Ruddy, Martin, Johnson, Morison, Crofts, Pilkington (Jackson 80), Hoolahan (c) (Holt 67), Fox (Bennett 46), Barnett, Tierney, Naughton. Subs not used: Rudd, Drury, Surman, Wilbraham.
Arsenal:
Szczesny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Arteta, Van Persie (c), Santos, Walcott (Djourou 90), Ramsey, Song, Gervinho (Benayoun 77). Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh, Coquelin.

    Data provided by Press Association

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