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30 November 2013

First-half Hooper strike clips Eagles' wings

GARY Hooper's first-half strike ensured Norwich City won an entertaining clash against Crystal Palace 1-0 at Carrow Road.

The summer signing finished calmly after Wes Hoolahan's square ball on the half hour to earn the Canaries a crucial three points on Saturday afternoon in front of a record crowd.

Chris Hughton's side dominated the first half - with Johan Elmander hitting the bar - but had to fight against a resurgent Eagles side after the break.

Their best chance was in the first half too though, when Barry Bannan smashed a half volley that Man of the Match Martin Olsson headed onto the crossbar.

The Canaries made three changes from last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United, with Hoolahan making only his second Premier League start of the campaign.

Sebastien Bassong and Elmander were the other players to return to the starting line-up, with Anthony Pilkington, Bradley Johnson and Michael Turner dropping out.

Tony Pulis elected to play Cameron Jerome up front in his first game in charge of the Eagles, with skipper Mile Jedinak leading a central midfield three.

Bassong nodded well wide as City’s earned a corner in the first minute, and Jason Puncheon’s low drive up the other end led to a comfortable stop for John Ruddy.

Ten minutes into, the Canaries earned a free-kick on the right hand side – Nathan Redmond’s delivery was met on the turn with a volley by Elmander, with the ball bouncing back off the underside of the crossbar.

Redmond then stung Julian Speroni’s gloves with a shot after cutting in from the right as City pressed Palace, who started the match four points behind them in the Premier League.

Norwich remained the side on the ascendancy, but they needed Martin Olsson to be sharp on 27 minutes to block Puncheon’s effort from the edge of the penalty area.

It proved to be a crucial piece of defending for City as they scored on 30 minutes to take the advantage.

Elmander’s pass across the penalty area found Hoolahan at the far post, and he showed remarkable selflessness to square the ball to Hooper.

The former Celtic man showed the composure to take a touch and pass the ball into the corner with Speroni out of position – his fourth goal in all competitions this season.

However, Palace weren’t perturbed and went extremely close to levelling just a minute later – Ruddy parried Puncheon’s cross into the path of Barry Bannan, whose fierce shot was headed onto the crossbar by a valiant Olsson.

Russell Martin’s cross somehow evaded both Hoolahan and Elmander on 38 minutes, before Elmander poked wide from Redmond’s cross after the winger had shown Bannan a clean set of heels.

HALF-TIME: Norwich City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Four minutes into the second half Redmond found himself in plenty of space on the left but lofted his shot well over the crossbar.

Palace were making decent inroads in the final third themselves, though, with Marouane Chamakh proving a constant menace aerially.

Space opened up for Hoolahan on 61 minutes to have a shot from range which Speroni was equal to, before Bassong got fortunate in his own box when a sliced clearance went over Ruddy’s crossbar.

City weren’t combining as effectively as in the first half and they needed to be on their toes as Palace brought on pace in the shape of Jonny Williams and Jimmy Kebe.

Luciano Becchio was introduced for Elmander for his first Premier League minutes of the season, while a tired Hoolahan was replaced by Bradley Johnson.

A scramble in the City box on 88 minutes almost led to a goal but the home will be thankful for Cameron Jerome slicing his effort from inside the six yard box.

FULL-TIME: Norwich City 1-0 Crystal Palace

GOALS: Norwich City – Gary Hooper (30)

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Bassong (c), Olsson; Fer, Howson; Redmond, Hoolahan (Johnson 79), Elmander (Becchio 81); Hooper (Whittaker 90). Subs not used: Nash (GK), Turner, Garrido, Josh Murphy.

CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni; Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Moxey; Dikgacoi, Jedinak (c), Bannan (Williams 73); Puncheon (Kebe 76), Chamakh (Gayle 80); Jerome. Subs not used: Price (GK), Mariappa, Phillips, O’Keefe.


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