Norwich produced a Jekyll and Hyde performance as they salvaged a point from an entertaining game against Everton.
Alex Neil made four changes to the side with Hoolahan, O’Neil, Jerome and Martin replacing Grabban, Howson, Dorrans and Bennett.
Right from the off, City were being outplayed by a confident Everton who passed their way past Norwich with ease. The home side couldn’t get close enough to the visitors with Tettey and O’Neil running around like headless chickens.
Gerard Deulofeu and Kone were always the dangermen on the flanks and that told on 15 minutes when Olsson played a clearance straight to Deulofeu on the right. The Spaniard’s cross to the far post saw Lukaku jump highest and score past Rudd, who had no chance.
It got not better for Norwich, who had Declan Rudd and the woodwork to thank for keeping it down to just one at the break. Rudd saved two one on one’s with Kone and Baines hit a shot that thundered back off the bar after Lukaku’s air kick. The Belgian also inexplicably missed from inside the six yard box in a first half utterly dominated by the visitors.
Had it been 4-0 at half time no-one with a Norwich affinity could’ve complained after what we witnessed. The boos from the Canary faithful told the players that it wasn’t good enough as they trudged off.
You sensed that a change was required and Ryan Bennett replaced Andre Wisdom at the break. Russell Martin moved to right back and within two minutes City were incredibly level.
Jerome won a corner that Brady sent over. Bennett met it and headed it across Tim Howard, who could only parry the ball out to Hoolahan who bundled the ball over the line, despite Barkley’s efforts.
It was a shot in the arm for Norwich and they then started to put pressure on the visitors, a basic that was missing for most of that appalling first half. Jerome started harassing Stones as he tried to play the ball out and got some joy on occasions.
I can see why Alex Neil chose Jerome for this job but he missed a golden chance to win the game with twenty minutes to go.
Hoolahan flicked the ball to Jerome who sent it to Martin who was played in on the right of the Everton area. His low cross was met and controlled by Hoolahan who then back heeled the ball to Jerome eight yards out and central.
All he had to do was hit the target and he scores but incredibly he fired over the bar.
A simply staggering miss and it underlines why a proven striker is a must in January.
There was still time for Declan Rudd to save well from Gareth Barry and surely earn himself the keeper’s jersey for another week.
At half time this game looked like it was a foregone conclusion, such was Everton’s dominance. Alex Neil admitted afterwards that he would’ve taken a point if offered it there and then.
The difference in the way Norwich played was literally chalk and cheese between the two halves. No doubt Roberto Martinez is having the same thoughts tonight.
It shouldn’t have to be like this as Norwich can clearly play when they feel like it. Ryan Bennett’s arrival was a major factor because not only did it mean the defence got better but Russell Martin was then able to back Redmond up on the right wing.
The ‘Norfolk Cafu’ put in several excellent crosses and once again showed that he is a better right back then he is a central defender for Norwich.
Next up are two very tough looking away games at Manchester United next weekend and then Spurs on Boxing Day.
Despite this being a point gained, it’s not getting any easier is it?
Good decision to bring on Bennett at half time but I wish Alex Neil had replaced Jerome with Mbokani for the last 15 minutes or so – 7/10