FULL debutants Gary Hooper and Josh Murphy were the goal heroes as Norwich City completed a superb comeback to defeat Watford 3-2 after extra time in their Capital One Cup Third Round match at Vicarage Road.
Hooper netted twice, initially with the last kick of normal time and then with the winner five minutes from the end, to cap a turnaround that started when 18-year-old Murphy got City on the scoresheet in sensational fashion on his first senior appearance.
Watford looked to have got the job done thanks to excellent strikes of their own from Javier Acuna and Davide Faraoni, but City’s domination of possession eventually paid dividends.
The dramatic nature of the victory is a huge morale boost for the Canaries ahead of Sunday’s Premier League trip to Stoke City, but they now also have a last 16 Capital One Cup tie to look forward to.
Hooper made his first competitive start for the Canaries, with Martin Olsson and Wes Hoolahan among those brought into the breach for cup action.
Watford named Josh McEachran in their line-up, who less than a fortnight ago scored twice against City’s Under-21s for his parent club Chelsea.
City’s last visit to Vicarage Road saw them net after just two minutes, and they made a lively start this time with Nathan Redmond testing Jonathan Bond with a low shot on seven minutes after a quick one-two with Steven Whittaker.
Watford’s supporters were literally drumming up support but Norwich continued on the ascendency until the home side took the lead against the run of play on 23 minutes.
Acuna turned smartly on the edge of the box and, with the Hornets’ first effort on goal, drove a powerful shot that Mark Bunn in the City goal got a hand to but couldn’t prevent hitting the roof of the net.
Despite the home side edging in front, City still had the better passages of play but hadn’t truly tested Bond until the 39th minute when Wes Hoolahan’s shot from distance was tipped over by the Watford ‘keeper.
The Irishman’s cross moments later then fashioned the Canaries’ best chance – the returning Bradley Johnson met it unmarked in the six yard box but his header crashed back off the crossbar.
Acuna’s wayward long range effort up the other end was the last action of the half, as the hosts retreated back to the changing rooms with that single goal advantage.
HALF-TIME: Watford 1-0 Norwich City
Chris Hughton swapped things around at half-time, introducing Johan Elmander for Javier Garrido, pushing Olsson back to left-back and Hoolahan on the right side of midfield.
Faraoni and Sean Murray tested Bunn from distance in the early stages of the second period, and City’s ‘keeper had to react smartly to deny Diego Fabbrini and then substitute Troy Deeney.
He could do nothing to prevent Watford’s second goal though – a miscommunication between Johnson and Alexander Tettey led to the ball falling to Faraoni, who unleashed a drive from outside the box that powered into the top left corner.
Watford’s pace on the counter attack was causing all sorts of issues for a City side in desperate need of a goal themselves, and Russell Martin did well to block Deeney’s effort on 60 minutes.
Josh Murphy was brought on for his senior debut midway through the half, a move that brought a strong cheer from the Canaries supporters, but they were yet to test Bond in the second period.
That was until the 77th minute, when Murphy stunned the home faithful with an extraordinary goal – the winger picked up possession from Redmond and struck a firm shot that cannoned off the inside of the post from outside the area.
It was a moment for Murphy and Norwich City fans to remember, but Hughton’s side had a cup tie to level and were now firmly in the ascendency as Bond clawed away a Leroy Fer volley.
Martin then had an effort cleared away from the line on 89 minutes but the drama was to come in the fifth minute of added time.
Redmond picked up the ball on the right and his near-post cross was flicked on by Hooper, whose header nestled in the bottom corner, sending the City fans at that end into delirium and forcing the tie into extra time.
Five minutes into the first period of extra time, Deeney drilled a low shot that Bunn comfortably held onto before Martin harmlessly headed over a Redmond corner up the opposite end.
As to be expected, the tempo that defined the last 15 minutes of normal time disappeared from the game as both sets of players tired in the second period of extra time.
One man bursting with energy, however, was Murphy – his low cross after he jinxed past two defenders wasn’t met by any advancing City players in the area.
It didn’t matter, though , when Hooper made sure his name would be sang well beyond the final whistle by City’s supporters with a dramatic winner.
The former Celtic man raced onto a through ball from Fer and slotted calmly underneath Bond, and even a fracas in the Watford box and Murphy sliced effort in stoppage time couldn’t mar a remarkable comeback from City.
FULL-TIME (AET): Watford 2-3 Norwich City
GOALS: Watford: Javier Acuna (23), Davide Faraoni (60) Norwich City: Josh Murphy (77), Gary Hooper (90+5, 115)
WATFORD: Bond; Belkalem, Ekstrand, Battocchio, McEachran (Smith 38), Acuna (Deeney 53), Murray, Pudil, Faraoni, Fabbrini (Forestieri 86), Cassetti (c). Subs not used: Woods (GK), Brown, McGugan, Anya.
NORWICH CITY: Bunn; Whittaker, Martin (c), R Bennett, Garrido (Elmander 45); Redmond, Tettey, Johnson (Josh Murphy 68), Olsson; Hoolahan (Fer 74); Hooper. Subs not used: Nash (GK), Turner, Howson, Becchio.
ATTENDANCE: 11,178 (1841 away supporters)