MANCHESTER CITY 5, NORWICH CITY 1
Goals by Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Adam Johnson kept up City’s title charge as they capitalised on their lion’s share of the possession at the Etihad Stadium against a Norwich City side that disintegrated in the second half as the rain came down.
City have a habit of making their supporters wait for the first goal this season and today was no exception as Norwich defended deep and tried to park the proverbial bus in front of John Ruddy’s goal.
City’s assistant manager David Platt paid tribute to the City players who broke down the stubborn Norwich resistance but played down the flood of goals that were expected in the pre-match buildup and eventually arrived in the second half.
“The goals are irrelevant, as long as we get the points.” said Platt.
“Norwich City are a newly promoted side that have managed to get into a mid table position this season but people always assume that we’re going to get five, six or seven goals against sides like them. We’d take one as long as we got the three points.
“Whether you put one in from 30 yards like Samir Nasri or from 12 inches off your shoulder like Mario Balotelli a goal is a goal.
“Full credit to Norwich City, they got people behind the ball and didn’t want to open up too early.
“It needed some brilliance to get past them but we had that kind of player on the pitch today.
“We had to keep the ball moving around and eventually it was going to open up.”
Norwich manager Paul Lambert was disappointed by the final result.
“I’ll put my hands up and say that we were beaten by the better side today.
“Our game plan worked to some extent but our defending for their second goal was poor.
“People who didn’t see the match will think that we got a mauling but at 3-1 down we were doing ok. The last two goals were a disappointment.”
Roberto Mancini rang the changes again as James Milner and Joleon Lescott stood down from the side that drew with Liverpool last Sunday.
Edin Dzeko and Kolo Toure started for City at the Etihad in their place with Mario Balotelli on the bench again after serving his one match suspension against Arsenal in mid-week.
The scoreboard had barely registered the fact that City had monopolised 75% of the possession after 30 minutes, plus seven shots on target to Norwich’s 1 before their eighth shot became the opening goal.
Aguero had spurned several of those chances earlier including a 16th minute chance laid on by Nasri when he skied the ball with the net at his mercy. Aguero had enough chances for at least a hat trick of his own during the course of the game but the one that counted was exquisite.
Nasri’s pass for Micah Richards allowed the full back to provide a square ball to the Argentine on the edge of the six-yard box. There was a sea of bodies around Aguero but the wily striker twisted and turned until an opening presented itself and he threaded the ball through Marc Tierney’s legs and into the net for his 13th goal of the season in the 32nd minute.
If the first goal was a sign of individual skill from City, their second was a calamitous mistake by Norwich ‘keeper John Ruddy who, on 50 minutes, seemed to have Samir Nasri’s innocuous free kick under control before he somehow fumbled it out of his grasp and into the back of the net. The entire Norwich defence had allowed Nasri’s curling effort to cut right through them and they could only watch in horror as Ruddy’s howler put them 2-0 down.
City put the result beyond doubt in the 68th minute when David Silva’s pass from the left flank found Yaya Toure in acres of space on the edge of the area with the time to pick his spot and finish off the Canaries.
Nasri and Aguero were both withdrawn as attention turned to Bayern Munich’s visit on Wednesday with around 20 minutes to go and as City’s focus shifted Norwich got a late consolation goal when Steve Morison found himself in space from Tierney’s short corner and headed his cross past Joe Hart in front of the travelling fans with 10 minutes to go.
It was the seventh league game in a row in which City had conceded a goal and this will continue to concern Roberto Mancini.
Mancini might have been cheered a little by a party piece from substitute Mario Balotelli after Adam Johnson’s cross allowed the Italian to have a strike on goal but his first effort looped off Ruddy on the ground and the young striker followed it up by cheekily knocking the ball into the empty net with his shoulder from a foot off the line.
Johnson wrapped things up with City’s 5th of the day and their 48th league goal in 14 games after Vincent Kompany had won the ball on the sideline and passed to Johnson who found space to shoot and his clinical finish despatched the Canaries in style.