Norwich City pulled off a massive win against relegation rivals Newcastle United, thanks to Martin Olsson’s dramatic last minute winner at Carrow Road on Saturday.
City took the lead twice through Timm Klose and Dieumerci Mbokani, only to be pegged back each time by substitute Aleksander Mitrovic before Olsson’s late intervention.
Prior to the game, all the talk was of this match being a genuine six pointer and if ever a game fitted such a description then this was it. Ryan Bennett returned to the back four alongside Timm Klose, suggesting that they are Alex Neil’s preferred central partnership. Russell Martin was missing from the squad though, presumably injured during international duty with Scotland and replaced by Andre Wisdom.
Steven Naismith also returned to the team and played behind Mbokani. Strangely, Mitrovic only made the bench for the visitors despite playing so well against Sunderland two weeks ago with Papiss Cisse preferred by Rafa Benitez to lead the line.
Newcastle had the best of the early possession without ever threatening John Ruddy’s goal before Norwich took control of the game. Mbokani had the ball in Karl Darlow’s goal on 16 minutes but he was correctly flagged as being offside from Howson’s pass. Darlow then saved with his leg again from Mbokani and he also saved from Naismith and Brady in that first half.
Incidentally, by my reckoning, Cisse’s off target header and Jonjo Shelvey’s 25 yard shot that sailed high over the bar were Newcastle’s only efforts at goal in that first half.
With just one minute of added on time at the end of the half, Newcastle conceded a foul near to the visiting fans and the ball went into that section of the crowd.
Newcastle’s ‘wonderful support’ kept the ball and refused to give it back, so a new one was given to Robbie Brady. Mike Dean was less than impressed and you just know he was adding on a little extra time – it’s human nature. As Brady went to take the free kick, the Toon army threw the ball back onto the pitch – pathetic stuff but it gave Norwich the extra time to properly take the free kick.
Brady sent a precision ball into the box and Timm Klose rose unmarked to head into Darlow’s top corner for his first Norwich goal. The size and aerial ability of the guy suggests this may become a regular sight.
The whistle blew for half time and Norwich left the field to a chorus of ‘YELLOWS, YELLOWS, YELLOWS.’
It was all quiet among the Newcastle fans.
Rafa responded by replacing Tiote with Perez and the change of formation helped the visitors to respond. They were now playing further up the field and you sensed they were now much more of a threat although City still had their chances.
Mitrovic replaced Anita on the hour mark and on 71 minutes scored with a header that took a nick off Bennett, to level the scores.
It was tough on City but they responded in fine style as they took the game to the Toon and Mbokani scored an absolute belter just three minutes later to retake the lead. He cut inside Janmaat and smashed the ball past Darlow into the top corner.
The game looked to be heading for a home win until the 88th minute when Gary O’Neil was adjudged to have handled the ball and Mr Dean awarded a penalty. He was a tad unlucky as the ball hit him from close range and it didn’t look deliberate but there you go.
Mitrovic just beat John Ruddy and suddenly our heads in the crowd had dropped.
However, crucially the heads didn’t drop on the pitch despite some intense Newcastle pressure immediately after the penalty. Four minutes went up on the Fourth Official’s board and City broke forwards.
Redmond played the ball back to O’Neil, who sent a cross into the box. Robbie Brady missed a scissor kick and ball fell to Howson who was crowded out. He slipped the ball to the onrushing Olsson on the left, whose low shot went through a defender’s legs and into the corner.
He wheeled away in triumph and Carrow Road erupted with joy as Norwich celebrated a decisive victory in their struggle with Newcastle.
This was a massive victory and completes the first part of the three game mini-league that Norwich are in with Palace and Sunderland. It’s not mathematically impossible for Newcastle of course, far from it but this is another nail in the relegation coffin for the Magpies.
The manner of the win will give even more confidence and momentum to Norwich and it will be a hammer blow to Newcastle – I hope.
Every one of City’s players had a good game today, as they need to in this situation. Timm Klose picked up the MOTM sponsor’s champagne again and added a goal to his latest top performance. His arrival has steadied the defence and it’s no coincidence that as he’s settled we have looked a lot tighter. He is calm in possession and seemingly never beaten in the air – an excellent signing.
Steven Naismith, although tiring late on, also had a good game. Newcastle struggled to deal with his movement in the first half especially and he ran into space time and again.
Despite the hand ball, Gary O’Neil was again excellent as well and is a major reason, along with Jonny Howson, why Norwich have competed so well in the last three weeks.
Dieumerci Mbokani has had a hell of a week, what with the Brussels airport business and then travelling to play for his country. He played terrifically well here and could’ve had three goals, never mind the one cracker he did score. He was marginally offside on 16 minutes and then Darlow later got lucky with an outstretched leg.
The 6ft 1in DR Congo striker won eight of his nine aerial battles (89%) and provided four key passes. He was, as Alex Neil has previously described him ‘a monster.’
I also want to give some praise to John Ruddy who made a really amazing save from Cisse late on, with the score at 2-2. Well done JR!
Sunderland play Leicester next week and we travel to Crystal Palace – a great opportunity to get more of a lead on the Black Cats. We’ve given ourselves a great chance but nothing more. There must be no let up and there must be every ounce of effort from every player between now and the end of the season.
I should also mention the issue of 25,000 clap banners for this game. Not seen at Carrow Road in the Premier League since the end of Chris Hughton’s reign they did us no harm and I wore mine out. I should also point out that Leicester have regularly been using them this season and it hasn’t done them any harm, has it?!