THE TUCKSTER on today’s defeat against table-topping Manchester City
And so our journey makes its second stop in Manchester. This was another “free hit” where any point, no matter how unlikely, would be massive. However, the enormity of the task was not lost on anybody, least of all our manager, Paul Lambert who spoke prior to the game about the players we would be facing and that as usual we would give it a go.
As is his want, the manager shuffled his pack and Kyle Naughton was restored to the starting eleven along with Elliot Bennett at the expense of De Laet and Jackson. Manchester City`s recent run has seen them lead the Premier League very comfortably with two draws the only points they had dropped prior to the Canary`s visit to Eastlands.
They also literally demolished their Manchester rivals when they handed out a 6-1 drubbing to the league champions a month or so ago. It became obvious very early on that Norwich would be looking to keep the Blues out and see if they could make anything on the break. A similar plan caused Man Utd problems at Old Trafford, so it seemed a good idea.
Man City had the lion`s share of possession as was to be expected and squandered some decent chances, with Aguero in particular missing a couple in the first half hour. Meanwhile, Steve Morison made a nuisance of himself and made a couple of chances for himself against Toure and Kompany. He robbed Toure of the ball and tried a 40yd volley that was a couple of feet wide and then later used his strength to get the better of both the Man City centre backs but a heavy touch allowed Joe Hart to save at his feet.
Man City continued to dominate possession and create chances. The biggest surprise to the Five Live commentators was that it took as long as 32 minutes for Man City to score. The excellent Aguero found himself in the Norwich box surrounded by defenders. He twisted and turned before toe poking the ball through a forest of defending legs to score.
As I mentioned, prior to half time he could`ve scored at least a couple more. He wasted a good chance when he fired over the bar from close range and Ruddy saved another effort.
The teams went in at 1-0 and it seemed a little harsh on Norwich who had worked hard and ridden their luck a little (ok, maybe a lot). Still, a shame to have conceded. Just after half time, Elliot Bennett had a decent chance but missed while off balance from a tight angle.
On 51 minutes, Man City increased their lead with a Nasri free kick and a terrible lapse of concentration by John Ruddy. The lightly hit curling free kick came into the box and Ruddy seemed certain to collect it. He misjudged the ball as it bounced in front of him and glanced off him into the net.
Norwich could feel very unlucky to be two down and just as he did last week, on the hour mark, Lambert sent for the cavalry in the shape of Holt and Hoolahan at the expense of Pilkington and Bennett.
Immediately, Norwich looked more of a threat up front as they adopted the diamond formation and decided to go for it.
Unfortunately, eight minutes later Yaya Toure curled in a classy goal to put the home side three up but Norwich were much more of a threat now. They worked hard and were rewarded on 81 minutes when Steve Morison climbed above Clichy to score with a header from six yards out – Marc Tierney supplied the cross.
Norwich now opened right up after this goal and streamed forward at times desperate to try to get something from the game. Leon Barnett could`ve done better with a header and Andrew Surman volleyed wide when he should`ve hit the target and then with two minutes to go – the sucker punch.
Mario Balotelli, on for Aguero, scored with his shoulder(!) after his first effort was saved and then in the 90th minute, Adam Johnson scored from just inside the box after a good pass from Kompany. And that`s how it finished, 5-1.
Our first spanking of the season, while disappointing should be put in perspective. You don`t need me to tell you the difference between the teams in terms of their finances or the players they have bought. The two City teams are worlds apart.
This was Man City`s seventh consecutive home win of the season and in my opinion they are head and shoulders the best team in the league – don`t forget that they thumped Man Utd at Old Trafford which hopefully puts this defeat into context. The game plan here was not to concede and see what happened. It didn`t work out but at least we had a go.
It`s easy to maybe say we should`ve started with Holt and Wes in a diamond but that formation can leave you very open at this level if played from the start. I don`t think it`s an exaggeration to say that Manchester City are now playing at the same type of level as clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid etc. Although I bet they`re disappointed with the way the Champions League has turned out so far – but, in the Premier League they are pretty much irresistible at the moment.
“Giving it a go” is all you can ask from the lads in this type of game. We`re not competing with Man City in this league – it`s the other teams such as Wolves, Wigan, Blackburn, Swansea etc that we are scrapping with. I`ll have a fiver with anyone that none of those teams will get anything at Eastlands either.
The score looks bad but it should be noted that they scored twice in the last two minutes and for periods in this game we played very well. Next week we play Newcastle at home, a tough game but at home I fancy us against anyone.
So let`s put this behind us and move on. We won`t be playing teams this good every week and with games against Fulham and Wolves coming after Newcastle there are points to be had in the run up to and after Christmas.
Before I go, just cast your mind back to our last league meeting with Newcastle in the Premier League. Yousef Safri (better than Ronaldinho) picked up the ball 30 yards from goal before smashing the ball in off the cross bar with one of the best goals ever seen at Carrow Road. A 90th minute equaliser from Patrick Kluivert was then bettered by a last gasp Dean Ashton header for the winner.
A great memory from an ultimately doomed league campaign, the current City side are much better equipped to stay up and if we can keep the belief we`ve shown so far, I think we`ll be fine.
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