Hooper scores brace in Braga battleGARY Hooper was City’s two-goal hero this evening as Norwich continued their pre-season preparations with an eventful 2-2 draw away to Sporting Braga.
It was a night of mixed fortunes for the Canaries who will take Hooper’s brace and 45 minutes of action for defenders Michael Turner and Martin Olsson as the positives. However, they led 2-0 at the break and will feel a touch frustrated at not recording a victory from this trip to Portugal.
City made a bright start and looked to have taken an early lead through Hoolahan. The Irishman was on hand to knock the ball home from close range after Braga ‘keeper Eduardo could only push away a driven effort from Snodgrass.
The hosts won a free-kick on the edge of the area after 12 minutes when Olsson was adjudged to have fouled his man. The situation appeared dangerous but Michael Turner was on hand to powerfully head away the danger.
The opening goal of the game came on 14 minutes when Gary Hooper latched on to a wonderful through ball from Elliott Bennett and the City striker strode into the area, took a touch to help him round ‘keeper Eduardo and calmly clipped the ball home from the tightest of angles.
City’s lead was greeted with delight by the small pocket of Canary fans who had made the journey and also triggered a response from the home fans who, complete with resident drummer, looked to encourage a swift response from their team.
Braga were soon on the offensive and created a great chance to level just two minutes after falling behind but Pardo planted his header fractionally wide of Mark Bunn’s far post.
With the game flowing from end to end City came close to adding to their lead when Whittaker broke down the right and sent in a teasing cross that Eduardo managed to turn over for a corner.
Another great chance came Braga’s way when Ruben Micael wriggled his way into the area before crashing a powerful effort against the woodwork.
Hooper grabbed his and City’s second goal of the night after 28 minutes - once again the City marksman was in the right place at the right time to riffle home a loose ball after Eduardo could only parry Elliott Bennett’s 30-yard shot.
Just five minutes before the break Braga pushed forward and City were indebted to the alertness of ‘keeper Bunn who was swiftly off his line to grab the ball at the feet of the on-rushing Micael.
There was still time for Bunn to be called into action before the interval as Salvador Agra broke free down the right and unleashed a powerful shot which the City stopper beat away.
Half time: SC Braga 0, Norwich City 2
The half-time interval saw the standard pre-season shuffle of personnel as Russell Martin, Javier Garrido and Ricky van Wolfswinkel replaced, Michael Turner, Martin Olsson and Wes Hoolahan.
Braga made 11 changes of their own with the hosts opting to also change their kit during the break. Off went their red and white home kit to be replaced by a grey and red offering.
City were soon on the attack and won a free-kick deep inside the Braga half after just 90 seconds of the second period. Snodgrass whipped the ball into the area where Hooper, searching his hat-trick sent a looping header over the crossbar.
The home side reduced the arrears after 54 minutes when Paulo Vinicius reacted quickest to a ball delivered in to the City area.
Goalscorer Vinicius was then the first player to have his name taken by referee Costa after he chopped down Fer.
Elliott Bennett was next to have his name taken when he pulled down substitute Rafa - the Braga goal clearly adding an extra edge to proceedings.
On the hour Hughton made two further changes as Fer and Elliott Bennett were replaced by Jonny Howson and Nathan Redmond.
The hosts almost leveled the game on 66 minutes when a corner was whipped in right under Bunn’s crossbar but the City goalkeeper just managed to claw the ball to safety.
Two-goal Hooper made way for Jacob Butterfield after 67 minutes as Hughton made his sixth change of the night.
The equaliser arrived after 69 minutes to the delight of the noisy home crowd when Rafa sprinted on to a through ball and with Bunn stranded the Braga man stroked the ball home.
Bunn then had to be at his best again to deny the lively Rafa who tried his luck from distance with a stinging drive.
Ryan Bennet became the second City player to be cautioned after he committed a foul deep inside his own half with seven minutes remaining.
Final score: SC Braga 2, Norwich City 2
Referee: Rui Costa