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16:46 26th February 2012


A LAST-GASP strike from Ryan Giggs saw champions Manchester United snatch victory in the dying seconds of a pulsating Barclays Premier League clash at Carrow Road.

United grabbed an early advantage when Paul Scholes headed home a cross from Nani in only the 7th minute to stun the Canaries.

But City responded with a typically energetic and dogged performance to take the game back to their star-studded opponents, creating chances either side of the break as they battled to get back on level terms.

They finally got the equaliser their play deserved in the 83rd minute, Grant Holt turning superbly under pressure in the box to crash the ball home past United 'keeper David De Gea.

It set up a nail-biting finish as United desperately pushed forward looking for a winner to help them maintain the pressure on neighbours and title rivals Manchester City.

And after City had survived a few late scares United finally grabbed a pricesless winner for them as Giggs, playing his 900th game for the Red Devils, slotted home a cross from Ashley Young.

Norwich City Manager Paul Lambert told Canaries Player after the game: "I thought the effort and commitment we showed was terrific, but Manchester United have done this to teams for 20 odd years.

"My group of players gave it everything they had, and I thought we played extremely well.

"We've done this to teams before, and we have to pick ourselves up.

"I thought we gave as good as we got, we were right in the game, and their goalkeeper produced incredible saves for them at important moments, but for the way we played I've got nothing but praise for the team."

Before the game Lambert made seven changes to the starting line-up following last weekend's 2-1 FA Cup defeat at home to Leicester City.

John Ruddy returned to take up custodial duties, with young Jed Steer returning to the bench. Zak Whitbread came into the centre of defence to partner Elliott Ward and Kyle Naughton returned to right-back in place of Russ Martin.

Bradley Johnson joined David Fox in the centre of midfield, with Andrew Surman and Anthony Pilkington lining up on the left and right flanks respectively.

Meanwhile up front Club skipper Holt returned to the attack, with Canadian international Simeon Jackson as his strike partner.

For United there was no Wayne Rooney as he continues to struggle with a throat infection, although there was a 900th appearance for veteran Giggs.

There was a tentative start to the game with both teams passing the ball around neatly but no real threat in the early exchanges.

But United's first meaningful attack in the seventh minute saw them take the lead with a goal which the Norwich defence will probably feel was too easily conceded. Nani found the space on the right and fired in a low cross which eluded the City defence and there was Paul Scholes unmarked to head home from close range.

In the tenth minute a bit of trickery in the centre circle from Nani was brought to an abrupt halt by Johnson with a challenge which earned the City midfielder a yellow card.

John Ruddy pulled of a great save in the 16th minute to keep the deficit down to one, diverting Welbeck's effort narrowly wide of the post with his fingertips.

City's play picked up and they began to apply some pressure of their own, a goalmouth scramble in the 21st minute ending when the ball squirted narrowly wide off a defender and two minutes later Surman firing a long-range effort wide.

A lovely scooped pass from Naughton in the 27th minute was taken down well by Pilkington in the 27th minute but De Gea managed to save the Norwich winger's low drive with his feet.

At the other end Hernandez burst into the City box but Ruddy got down smartly to collect his low shot. City immediately hit back and when Holt glanced on Pilkington's cross De Gea showed great reflexes to make a smart catch in the 34th minute.

Norwich City 0, Manchester United 1

Lambert made a tactical change at half-time, with Wes Hoolahan coming on to replace Simeon Jackson.

In the 47th minute Jonny Evans was shown the yellow card for pulling back Hoolahan in the centre circle as the Irishman's trickery got the better of him.

It was a quiet start to the second half but just before the hour City began to raise the tempo, as Johnson's daisy-cutter flew narrowly wide and then Surman's volley from Pilkington's cross was blocked.

There was a substitution for each side just after the hour as Ashley Young replaced Hernandez for the visitors and Elliott Bennett came on for City to replace the hard-working Johnson.

In the 63rd minute United went close as Welbeck lobbed goalwards after an excellent move from the visitors, but Whitbread kept his cool and hacked it clear off the line.

Norwich made their final substitution as Wilbraham replaced Pilkington but it was United who nearly scored in the 72nd minute as Giggs nearly marked his 900th appearance with a goal, his volley from Jones' cross cannoning off the bar with Ruddy beaten.

In the 83rd minute Wilbraham gave United a scare when he unleashed a 25-yard rasper which forced De Gea to make a superb save, tipping it over the bar.

United's relief was short-lived though as City at last got the breakthrough their dogged persistence deserved in the 84th minute.

When Whitbread nodded the ball down to Holt in the United box he still had plenty of work to do with defenders on all sides - but he somehow turned and lashed an unstoppable shot past De Gea to equalise.

It sparked a frenetic finale to the match as United desperately poured forward looking for a winner to maintain the pressure on Manchester City at the top of the table.

And after surviving a couple of late scares it was heartbreak for City as Young's low cross flashed across the six-yard box and Giggs arrived at the back post to side-foot home.

Final score:
Norwich City 1, Manchester United 2.

Norwich City:
Ruddy, Drury, Johnson (Bennett 62), Whitbread, Holt (c), Jackson (Hoolahan 46), Surman, Pilkington (Wilbraham 70), Fox, Ward, Naughton. Subs not used: Steer, Morison, Crofts, Barnett.
Manchester United:
De Gea, Evra (c), Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Giggs, Hernandez (Young 62), Carrick, Nani, Welbeck, Scholes. Subs not used: Amos, Berbatov, Smalling, Park, Fabio, Rafael.

Andre Marriner.


    Data provided by Press Association


    Did you know Norwich City Football Club have appeared in three Wembley cup finals?