Bassong and Pilkington seal Carrow Road victory
THE Canaries withstood a spirited fight back from visitors Sunderland to claim their fourth successive victory at Carrow Road in the Barclays Premier League.
City enjoyed the better of the first-half exchanges, taking the lead through a close-range effort from Sebastien Bassong before doubling their advantage via a slick finish from Anthony Pilkington.
But Sunderland’s Craig Gardner laid the foundations for a nervous second half for City as he reduced the arrears a minute before the break with a clinical strike.
The Black Cats raised their game in the second half and had a number of chances, including a Gardner free-kick which cannoned off the post. But the Canaries doggedly defended their lead and duly extended their Premier League run to eight games unbeaten, equalling the previous record set in 1993-94.
After the game City boss Chris Hughton commented: “I knew it would be a tough second half, even if we’d have gone in at half time 2-0 up, because they’re a good side.
“If anything if you’ve had a tough time of late like Sunderland have, sometimes coming away from home means you can open up a bit more.
“They were a threat, even in the first half, but fortunately for us we had the important moments which were the goals.
“The first half we were excellent, and if Pilkington’s goal came for one of the big teams, then you’d see it replayed over and over.”
City named an unchanged side for the match, with Russell Martin making a welcome return from his back injury to take up a place on the bench.
Norwich made a purposeful start to the match and soon had Sunderland back-pedalling inside the opening couple of minutes, Kilgallon finding himself in referee Phil Dowd’s notebook for bringing down Holt 25 yards out.
But the Canaries were not to be denied and took the lead after only eight minutes, a free-kick from Snodgrass looping up off a Sunderland defender invitingly for Bassong to fire home from point-blank range.
After the goal the game settled into a more even contest however and the next chance of note for either side didn’t come until the 27th minute, when a well-worked Sunderland corner gave Rose the chance to force a smart save from Bunn in the Norwich goal.
City stuck doggedly to their task though and doubled their advantage in the 36th minute. Bradley Johnson played a clever ball in behind the Sunderland defence and Pilkington was adjudged just onside by the officials as he collected, took a touch and slotted home.
But just when it looked as if the Canaries would cruise into the break with a comfortable two-goal cushion the Black Cats hit back in the 44th minute, Craig Gardner stunning the home crowd with a low rocket of a shot into the far corner from 22 yards.
Half-time: Norwich City 2, Sunderland 1
During the interval Sunderland made a substitution, ex-Ipswich forward Connor Wickham replacing Steven Fletcher.
In the 56th minute Pilkington came close to doubling his tally for the game, powering towards the edge of the box with purpose before unleashing a stinging left-foot drive which Mignolet tipped away at full stretch.
Sunderland responded almost immediately with a free-kick at the other end which Gardner struck brilliantly, his 25-yard effort crashing off the post and then Kilgallon blazing the rebound over.
And as the visitors’ dangerous spell continued Gardner went close again in the 62nd minute, Garrido in the right place to hack his goalbound effort off the line.
And a minute later Sessegnon had a great chance to equalise as he went clean through only to be denied by Bunn, saving his shot at the second attempt.
In the 76th minute a great effort from long-range by Rose was spilled by Bunn but as Wickham put the rebound in he was offside.
City made a change a minute later as Elliott Bennett replaced Snodgrass on the right flank.
In the 80th minute Bennett made a great run and cross from the right but Holt fired well over as he slid in at full-stretch to meet it.
Sunderland made an attacking change with Frazier Campbell replacing McClean and City responded as Howson came on for Hoolahan.
Their last throw of the dice came when Vaughan replaced Larsson but City held firm to clinch their fourth successive home league victory.
Final score: Norwich City 2, Sunderland 1
Norwich City: Bunn, Whittaker, Johnson, Bassong, Snodgrass (E.Bennett 77), Holt (c), Pilkington, Hoolahan (Howson 87), Garrido, R.Bennett, Tettey. Subs not used: Rudd, Martin, Jackson, Morison, Barnett.
Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley (c), Rose, Larsson (Vaughan 89), Gardener, Kilgallon, Johnson, McClean (Campbell 84), Cuellar, Fletcher (Wickham 46), Sessegnon. Subs not used: Westwood, McFadden, Colback, Bramble.
Referee: Phil Dowd