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Not Enough Superlatives In The Book To Describe This One…
MORIISSSOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNN!!! 3-3!!! It was quite a game at the Emirates this afternoon, with Norwich grabbing a deserved point in a topsy-turvy game which would have had the neutral drooling with delight.
TEAM NEWS – After last weekend’s 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool, Lambert switched things around including a major reshuffle of the back four. In came Russell Martin, Simon Lappin, Grant Holt, Simeon Jackson and Wes Hoolahan, out of the side went Adam Drury – through injury, Elliott Ward, Steve Morison, Anthony Pilkington and David Fox. That meant John Ruddy began in goal, behind a back four of Kyle Naughton, Russell Martin, Ryan Bennett and Simon Lappin. In midfield were Elliott Bennett, Bradley Johnson, Wes Hoolahan and Jonny Howson. While Lambert opted for two up top with Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson.
FIRST-HALF – From their first attack, with just 70 seconds on the clock, Yossi Benayoun cut into the box and fired home past John Ruddy. It was a lovely finish by the Israeli, but a truly disastrous start for the Canaries. Norwich tried to mount a response but were a tad limp in doing so, while Ruddy had to be on hand to clutch a Gibbs’ cross. The Canaries almost carved out an equaliser as Holt and Jackson combined, before the Canadian played Holt in. He had a great chance to level though his shot was expertly blocked. The Canaries were responding with some spirit, keeping the ball well, winning a few throw-ins before Lappin won a free-kick for the visitors. Holt headed it across, Jackson got his head on it though it lacked power and was a simple stop for Szczesny. The Canaries came again, Lappin launched in a high cross, Holt leapt with Szczesny, beat him! But he couldn’t get his header on target. From their next attack, the Canaries deservedly levelled. It was a neat move from the visitors, Bennett played in Naughton who crossed. Hoolahan was left in space, pulled the trigger Szczesny made a right mess of it and it trickled into the net. Arsenal responded with Robin Van Persie’s first go, the ball bobbled away from Gervinho, Van Persie latched onto it but curled over the crossbar. The Gunners came once more, with Van Persie finding Gervinho excellently though his cross was put out for a corner by Naughton, the eventual attack fizzled out. Naughton had to be on his toes again to break up a neat Arsenal move, stealing the ball away from Ramsey.
The Canaries were playing some lovely stuff with Lappin finding Holt, he played a one-two with Johnson before feeding Jackson. Jackson clipped it through for Holt who was then denied by a decent Szczesny stop – though the assistant’s flag was aloft so it mattered little. The game turned a tad sloppy after a pulsating start, with both teams making little of possession. Against all the odds, Norwich took the lead! It was a lovely move, Holt first-time flicked the ball to Hoolahan. He strode forwards, while his skipper made a diagonal run. Hoolahan played him in, he made space for the shot let fly, it deflected off the boot of Gibbs, bounced over Szczesny and landed in the net! The Gunners looked to level as Sagna crossed, Van Persie couldn’t meet it and Naughton was on hand to clear the ball to safety. The Canaries broke forward with pace as Naughton fed Elliott Bennett, he crossed for Jackson whose looping header drifted wide. Arsenal could have levelled as Gervinho slid the ball across for Gibbs, but he stroked his effort across the face of goal. Arsenal goalscorer Benayoun was lucky to escape punishment after kicking out at Lappin after being dispossessed, despite Norwich protests nothing was done. Arsenal came forwards, with Johnson fouling Rosicky. From the resulting free-kick Norwich cleared well after Van Persie’s free-kick. An end-to-end game diverted to the Gunners’ area with Howson finding Hoolahan. He took a tumble, though the referee was unmoved.
Then Arsenal came! But Gibbs was brilliantly dispossessed by Elliott Bennett, which sparked City forward with Grant Holt winning a free-kick. They managed to force a corner. It fizzled out before Elliott Bennett came back, throwing in a cross for Russell Martin. Koscielny had more than a handful of his shirt, Martin tumbled though again the referee wasn’t interested. With half-time drawing in, 4 minutes of stoppage time were added on. Arsenal responded with Van Persie fizzing in a cross, Ruddy got hands to it and Russell Martin completed the clearance. Rosicky brilliantly found Benayoun as the Gunners attacked once more, though the Israeli didn’t control and Ruddy pounced to snatch up the loose ball. Norwich had their hosts rattled as they broke up another attack, Jackson was clattered by Vermaelen and City had a free-kick with the interval looming. The Canaries could have had a third on the stroke of half-time with Johnson brilliantly spraying the ball wide for Hoolahan. He launched forwards, crossed low and was brilliantly denied by a Koscielny challenge. The attack was recycled, though Holt’s header skipped wide of goal, before the half-time whistle was blown.
SECOND-HALF – City had an early sighter as the ball trickled through for Jackson, he had a shot, Vermaelen blocked it and it trickled through to Szczesny. Arsenal were piling on some early pressure, though Norwich to their credit were holding their own and staying strong. The Canaries were nearly pegged back as Van Persie flashed a shot across goal, there was no Arsenal player to poke home and Norwich survived. Jackson almost scored a cracker on his own after Russell Martin headed clear. The Canadian took the ball down, whipped his way past Vermaelen and went on. He found himself one-on-one with Szczesny though shot straight at the Arsenal keeper. Norwich broke up another attack and Holt, once again, won a free-kick. The Norwich front two were working their socks off! The hosts came forwards earning a free-kick, Rosicky dinked it in and Koscielny got his head on it though Ruddy saved and held on well. The Canaries strode forwards with some lovely football with between Elliott Bennett and Naughton. The latter fired the ball across but Jackson couldn’t get a toe to it. The Canaries came again with Holt and Hoolahan playing an excellent one-two, before the the Irishman, on the stretch, prodded wide of goal. Arsenal responded with Benayoun poking the ball through to Van Persie, the Dutchman curled towards the near post though Ruddy made a good stop with his legs. Arsenal rebuilt with Gervinho whipping the ball in, Ramsey missed it and the Canaries survived.
Szczesny, suspect for Norwich’s first, nearly made a right gaffe for what would have been Norwich’s third – with him keeping the ball against Holt, though it bounced back kindly for the keeper. A frantic game was in full flow, with Arsenal looking to find a way back into it with Ramsey withdrawn and Oxlade-Chamberlain entering the fray. Arsenal were still searching for that second, with Van Persie seeing an opening. Though on his weaker foot he fired wide. Boy, oh, boy, the Canaries were holding on as the Gunners came again. Russell Martin made a brilliant block as the ball scampered clear, Rosicky took control and had a shot which was deflected wide of goal. With a quarter of the game to go, the relentless Simeon Jackson was handed a rest and Steve Morison came on for the Canaries. The Gunners made their own change, signalling their intent, as striker Chamakh replaced Benayoun. Russell Martin was on hand to superbly forced Oxlade-Chamberlain wide on one of his runs, with the ball dribbling out for a goal-kick. The Gunners attacked once more, with Russell Martin expertly blocking before Ryan Bennett made his block but eventually Robin Van Persie turned home Alex Song’s ball into the box. The Gunners, desperate for a win, came at goal once more with Gervinho’s cross cleared before they forced a corner. From the resulting ball into the box, Chamakh headed wide.
Wes Hoolahan was withdrawn with 16 minutes left and Anthony Pilkington entered affairs. Though Van Persie was brightening up in the closing stages, poking an effort at Ruddy who held onto the ball. The ridiculous Song had a go at another City player, Grant Holt, after he’d been fouled. He was fortunate to escape a booking, it hadn’t been the first time he’d endulged in such antics during the afternoon. Arsenal powered forwards with a decent passage of play, Gibbs thumped in a cross though Ruddy clawed it out of the air and held on! Arsenal came again, piling on the pressure and got a third. It was incredibly cruel on the Canaries, with Van Persie making the most of a generous bobble. Despite Ruddy’s best efforts, it found the back of the net. Grant Holt was then withdrawn and Wilbraham came on for the final minutes of the game. Norwich could have grabbed an equaliser through a lucky ricochet of their own as it fell for Morison, he found Pilkington who in turn found Johnson who slashed wildly over.
Credit to the Canaries, they were still having a go as Wilbraham challenged with Szczesny though the keeper managed to parry clear. Steve Morison turned himself into a hero as he levelled! Jonny Howson brilliantly took the ball past his marker in midfield and clipped the ball over the top, Morison latched onto it and thumped into the far corner first time! John Ruddy had to be on his toes to deny Arsenal a fourth as Van Persie went through, one-on-one. The big keeper stood up superbly and made the save, before the follow-up header went wide. The Gunners were protesting for a penalty as Van Persie took a tumble with Naughton, the Tottenham loanee certainly got away with one and the Canaries survived! Norwich came forwards with Morison finding Pilkington, though he couldn’t quite keep control and Arsenal cleared to safety! 4 minutes of injury time were added on at the end of the game. Ruddy again came to City’s rescue as he blocked Alex Song’s effort. Wilbraham picked up a yellow for a thumper on Koscielny as time trickled away! Oxlade-Chamberlain picked the ball up from distance after the resulting free-kick, he had an effort and it was deflected wide. Ruddy was called into action again from the resulting corner making a save! The attack was recycled and Ruddy made a fantastic stop from Kieran Gibbs. It was a point-blank range stop and a few seconds later, had won the Canaries a massive point.
MAN OF THE MATCH, RUSSELL MARTIN – The whole team were immense, though Russ did superbly at centre-back, making some expert blocks! Special word for big John Ruddy who was cracking in goal, you simply cannot fault anyone. Near impossible to pick out a man of the match.
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