City suffer heavy opening day defeat
THE opening day of the Barclays Premier League season was one to forget for City as they fell to a heavy 5-0 defeat to Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Despite a positive opening ten minutes, Martin Jol’s side soon took control as Damien Duff fired past England International John Ruddy just before the half hour mark; a goal from debutant Mladen Petric soon followed to leave City two behind going into the break.
Despite the introduction of striker Steve Morison, City continued to struggle and Fulham put the game beyond doubt on 54 minutes as Petric grabbed his second. It was soon four for the home side as the Croatian International added an assist to his tally to set up Alex Kacaniklic.
Steve Sidwell rounded off a bad day at the office for the Canaries as he fired home a fifth from the penalty spot.
On the performance boss Hughton said: "Unfortunately that is the nature of our game. When you don't put in a good enough performance particularly against a team as good as these there's every chance you're going to come unstuck but you certainly don't expect to concede five goals especially on the first game of the season.
"I thought we started ok. In the first 25 minutes we kept possession quite well and restricted a very good Fulham team to only minimal chances but for me it turned on the two goals we conceded in the first half. It gave them the lift they needed and forced us to change our approach.
"You have to remember that it's the first game of the season, we've all been there before. Whether it's at the start of the season the middle or at the end defeats are defeats and you have to be able to bounce back from them and learn from them."
City boss Chris Hughton made one change from the side that lost 2-0 to Borussia Monchengladbach in the Canaries’ final pre-season match last weekend, with Andrew Surman coming into the side, and new signings Robert Snodgrass and Michael Turner both made the starting eleven.
The 4-4-1-1 formation previously assumed quickly started to look like a more fluid 4-3-3 system for the Canaries, with wingers Anthony Pilkington and Snodgrass flanking captain Holt up front.
Searching for a first win at the Cottage since 1986, the Canaries showed their intent early on as some good possession ended with a Snodgrass corner being headed away at the near post by Mahamadou Diarra.
The home side quickly responded as only some superb defending from debutant Turner could deny Damien Duff a golden chance to score. It forced an instant response from the Canaries, Andrew Surman forcing a smart stop from Schwarzer at the near post after a deft flick on from Holt.
City were in trouble again just five minutes later as John Ruddy’s clearance fell straight to the feet of Bryan Ruiz, Turner again putting the attacker under enough pressure to force a wild shot over the bar.
The pressure was building on the Canaries backline. Riise and Petric soon tested England international Ruddy as the City defence, before the pressure eventually told as Duff gave Fulham the lead just short of the half hour mark. Picking up a good long ball from Riise, Duff made no mistake this time as he slotted home past the City stopper.
With half an hour gone, City were in need of a response. With little in the way of attacking options at times, the Canaries best opportunities were coming from the set-piece. Snodgrass with a free-kick effort just wide following a foul on Holt.
But it was Fulham who had all the attacking poise to please their home faithful and soon Ruddy’s goal was in danger once again; Ryan Bennett doing brilliantly to stop Ruiz in his tracks after being put clean through by Sascha Riether.
Just a minute later Fulham doubled their lead. After more persistent pressure City’s Jonny Howson did all he could to stop Petric’s header from a corner from going over the line. The linesman concluded that it did and City were two down.
As half-time approached City did well to keep the deficit to two as only a great save from Ruddy could deny a dipping free-kick from Fulham danger man Bryan Ruiz.
Half time - Fulham 2-0 Norwich City
In need of an immediate boost, City boss Hughton brought on Welsh international Steve Morison for the second half as he replaced Surman and the Canaries reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.
It brought a bit of a flurry for the Canaries as the substitute broke down the right flank before hitting in a teasing cross into the area, but with lack of numbers in support the Canaries failed to convert what was turning out to be a rare opportunity.
And soon City’s task was made even greater as Mladen Petric’s long range effort took a deflection off Turner, to leave Ruddy helpless as the ball hit the back of the net with just ten minutes of the second half gone.
Chris Hughton reacted immediately by bringing on Elliott Bennett for Scot Snodgrass on the right wing. City had 35 minutes to try and salvage something.
If the Canaries were getting any joy it was down the right hand side and soon Holt evaded his marker to guide in a low cross towards Pilkington, who under pressure from Hangeland could only divert the cross wide.
This was not a good day at the office for the Canaries. With 25 minutes to go Fulham made it four as double scorer Petric flicked on a Dembele pass, falling to former Porto man Alex Kacaniklic who made no mistake as he slotted the ball into the back of the net.
There was little left to take from this match for the Canaries, but Wes Hoolahan replaced Holt on 77 minutes in a final attempt to try and put some injection into City’s attack.
The game came to a close as City failed to clear their lines leading to Turner bringing down Rodallega in the penalty area. Steve Sidwell stepped up to the spot to smash home a fifth past Ruddy.
Full time - Fulham 5-0 Norwich City
Teams - Fulham: Schwarzer, Riise, Hangeland, Petric (Rodallega 66), Ruiz (Sidwell 81), Duff (Kasami 74), Hughes, Diarra, Riether, Dembele, Kacaniklic Subs not used: Stockdale, Kelly, Baird, Halliche.
Norwich City: Ruddy, R Martin, Turner, Johnson, Snodgrass (E Bennett 55), Howson, Holt (C) (Hoolahan 77), Surman (Morison 45), Pilkington, Tierney, R Bennett. Subs not used: Rudd, Vaughan, Barnett, Lappin.