Norwich failed to win on opening day for the 13th season in a row as their defensive frailties cost them against a counter attacking Palace side.
Alex Neil played a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with Brady at left back and Dorrans and Tettey in front of the back four. Johnny Howson played on the right of a midfield three with Johnson on the left and Hoolahan behind lone striker, Lewis Grabban.
Norwich dominated the first twenty minutes and could’ve been two nil up inside the first ten had Grabban scored from Howson’s cut back as well as then hitting the post from six yards out. You have to take your chances.
Gradually Palace managed to get a foothold in the game through the running of Zaha and Puncheon. Zaha had started on the right but found no joy when up against Robbie Brady, who dealt with the tricky winger very well. It was when Zaha swapped wings that the trouble started as we could all see that he immediately had the beating of Steven Whittaker.
It was in the 39th minute that Zaha connected with a far post cross from Puncheon, side footing in from close range – a sloppy goal to concede.
At half time though, I wasn’t too disappointed with the way we had played and thought we could get back into the game, then just four minutes after the re-start another defensive shambles cost us another goal.
From a corner kick, Cabaye found the unmarked Souare (Johnson’s man?) who headed towards the corner of the goal, allowing Delaney to sweep the ball past Ruddy from close range.
Dear oh dear.
Alex Neil responded immediately by replacing Tettey and Grabban with Jerome and Redmond and the change paid dividends.
In the 69th minute, Redmond received the ball centrally and from fully 30 yards sent a low shot past McCarthy into the Palace goal and Carrow Road erupted.
It gave City new impetus and just five minutes later it seemed for all the world that City were level after Jerome, with his back to goal, hooked the ball over his shoulder into the top corner. I dropped my sunglasses as I celebrated only for my wife to point out I needed to calm down as the goal had been disallowed.
Disallowed?! Unbelievable, a perfectly good goal was wiped off because of the referee, Mr Hooper thinking Jerome’s boot was high.
Of course it was high, it’s an overhead kick and didn’t strike anyone, so what’s the problem. I feel cheated.
A few words about Mr Hooper, he had a shockingly bad game. It started in the first ten minutes when he didn’t book Murray for a nasty lunge on Dorrans, it was a yellow card all day long but just a ticking off as I’m guessing he wanted the game to ‘flow.’
He let a few other fouls go on either side before finally booking Alex Tettey for a trip on Souare – it was not as bad as Murray’s! Then a short time later, Murray deliberately pulled Johnson down just as City were breaking from a Palace corner. That foul stopped a break out – another yellow card offence but not in Hooper’s mind. I read afterwards that this was his first game at Premier league level and it was a shocker – the disallowed goal was an embarrassment to the refereeing profession.
Anyway, rant over, we lost the game 3-1 in the 90th minute when Cabaye was played through and simply scored, giving Ruddy no chance. Just before that Wickham pushed Seb Bassong in the Palace area but his theatrical dive wasn’t going to make Hooper point to the spot.
We played well but lost with possession stats of 62%-38% in our favour. Hoolahan and Howson were excellent, Tettey and Dorrans also did well and Dorrans’ passing to both wings was good. Johnson looked quite chunky and wasn’t really at full speed here though. Robbie Brady had a steady debut and dealt well with Zaha but needs to improve his free kicks a bit. Whittaker struggled to deal with Zaha but almost redeemed himself after Jerome’s “goal” when his lofted shot was cleared off the line by Scott Dann. Grabban was hammered on Canary Call but played well, the two glaring misses aside – the time he hit the post had me uttering ‘How did he miss that?!’
Getting into the positions for the chances is one thing but at this level, you have to take your chances – no question of that and I expect that’s why a new striker is on the agenda.
The first two goals we conceded were wholly avoidable and sloppy in the extreme. I despaired at the second.
Things will have to improve and quickly.
One last thing, the bloke who sits behind me says he has a mate who ‘is in the know’ and reckons that the Virgil van Dijk to Norwich deal is already done but Celtic want to keep their man until they qualify for the Champions League (just as they did with Gary Hooper), please God, let him be right…