REPORT - CITY 3 MAN CITY 4
REIGNING Barclays Premier League Champions Manchester City edged a seven-goal thriller at Carrow Road in a pulsating clash.
The Canaries got off to a horrible start when two goals inside the opening five minutes from Edin Dzeko left them with a mountain to climb.
But Pilkington’s free-kick deflected off Gael Clichy and in to give Norwich hope and when Samir Nasri was shown a straight red for aiming a headbutt at Sebastien Bassong before the break it was game on.
Aguero chipped the visitors 3-1 ahead shortly after the break only for skipper Russell Martin to head his side back to within one goal.
Bunn couldn’t keep out Dzeko’s drive which made it 4-2, but Russell Martin hit back again with a close-range effort in off Joe Hart.
A frantic finale ensued, but the champions clung on for all three points.
After the game City boss Chris Hughton told Canaries Player: “It's very obvious in the end, they started better than us and when you're two goals down at home to the league champions it gives you an awful lot to do.
"But I know we've got character in the team and at 2-1 if we'd have kept that scoreline for a longer period of time the game becomes more open and they defend deeper and possibly you'd get back into the game.
There was just one change for the Canaries before the game, Grant Holt sidelined by a recurrence of his hamstring injury.
"I think you've got to give them credit as well, it's only when you see them at such close quarters that you appreciate just how much ability they have in their team, and such offensive options in the team. They were clinical quality finishes for their goals today and you have to be at your very best to be able to cope with that."
City got off to the worst possible start when they went a goal down inside only two minutes, the visitors carving through the Norwich defence before David Silva squared for Dzeko to fire home.
And things went from bad to worse when a lightning counter-attack – launched as a Norwich shout for a foul by Kompany on Johnson in the centre circle was waved away by the referee saw Aguero race clear into the box.
Norwich ‘keeper Mark Bunn elected to come off his line to meet the threat but was left stranded in no-man’s land as the Argentinian took the ball wide before picking out Dzeko to roll the ball into the unguarded net.
But credit to the Norwich team for their response as they battled their way back into the game just before the quarter-hour mark.
They were awarded a controversial free-kick by referee Mike Jones when Kompany felt he had fairly won the ball from Snodgrass on the edge of the area.
But his protests were in vain and Pilkington struck a low free-kick which deflected past Joe Hart off Clichy to put the Canaries back in the contest.
To rub salt into his wounds Clichy was later booked for a foul on Snodgrass.
On 23 minutes Norwich were a whisker away from conceding again as a spell of pressure from the visitors ended with Garrido attempting a strange looping backpass which Bunn was forced to tip over from under the crossbar.
And as the game moved past the half-hour the Canaries were indebted to Snodgrass for a block on the line to keep out Kompany’s goalbound header.
Then the game took another twist with two minutes of the half remaining. Bassong slid in with what replays suggest was a fair challenge on Samir Nasri, who went flying into the air before squaring up in a head-to-head confrontation with the Norwich man.
Referee Mike Jones adjudged that Nasri had made a forward motion with his head and after consulting with his assistant duly produced a straight red card – also showing Bassong a yellow for his part in proceedings.
On the stroke of a very eventful first 45 minutes the Canaries were forced to make a change as Morison picked up a knock and was replaced by Harry Kane.
Half-time: Norwich City 1, Manchester City 2
The Canaries emerged for the second half in positive frame of mind but were rocked back on their heels just four minutes after the restart when Aguero took advantage of a kind bounce off the shoulder of Bassong to get in behind and net with a lovely lob over the stranded Bunn.
In the 55th minute Manchester City made a change, James Milner replacing Silva and Norwich responded by bringing on Howson for Tettey.
Howson made a lively positive arrival, soon testing Hart with a low, long-range effort the England ‘keeper was forced to tip wide at full stretch.
The resulting corner was played short to Snodgrass, whose ball into the box was nodded back into the danger area by Bassong and glanced home by skipper Russ Martin to reduce the arrears.
But within five minutes they were punished again as Dzeko beat the offside before firing in a low effort which Bunn could only help on to his own post and into the goal.
Norwich refused once again to let this hammer blow end their gutsy challenge and yet again pulled back to within one goal with 15 minutes left to play.
A deep corner into a crowded box eventually fell to Johnson and his scuffed shot fell invitingly for Russell Martin to hammer home his second of the game off Hart from close range.
Just before the goal the Canaries had brought on Jackson for Hoolahan and shortly after it Man City brought on Lescott for Dzeko.
With eight minutes to go Bunn redeemed himself with a one-handed wonder save to deny Aguero from 12 yards.
At the other end with time ticking away Turner stretched to get on to a nod down by Bassong but could only fire into the side netting.
Full-time: Norwich City 3, Manchester City 4
Norwich City: Bunn, Martin (c), Johnson, Bassong, Turner, Snodgrass, Pilkington, Hoolahan (Jackson 75), Morison (Kane 45), Garrido, Tettey (Howson 55). Subs not used: Rudd, E.Bennett, Barnett, R.Bennett.
Manchester City: Hart, Kompany (c), Zabaleta, Nasri, Dzeko (Lescott 81), Aguero (Garcia 90), Barry, Silva (Milner 55), Clichy, Nastasic, Y.Toure. Subs not used: Pantilimon, Sinclair, K.Toure, Tevez.
Referee: Mike Jones