For the second week running City had to endure a torrid second half, but held on magnificently to secure their first Premier League away win of the season.
A goal-fest at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium ended with the Canaries emerging as 4-3 victors – and extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to ten games – but, as the scoreline suggests, it was not one for the faint-hearted.
The Yellow Army’s pre-match talk was of the two enforced changes to the starting XI. With the rumours of a non-appearance of Ryan Bennett being confirmed, the real surprise came with the absence of Alex Tettey from the central midfield, due – one assumes – to an eleventh hour illness or injury. Russell Martin was given the nod – ahead of Leon Barnett – to partner Sebastian Bassong in the centre of the back-four, with Jonny Howson coming in to anchor the midfield alongside Bradley Johnson.
Hughton’s enforced changes did little to slow his team’s momentum in the opening period, as they revealed a previously hidden ruthless streak to storm into a 3-0 lead. But for a ten minute spell midway through the first 45, during which a Danny Graham header crashed against Mark Bunn’s crossbar, the Canaries dominated and were well worth their lead.
A warning of things to come for the Swans arrived as early as minute one, when Johnson’s near-post flicked header forced Tremmel into a point blank save.
Jonny Howson was next to go close for City when, on 13 minutes, his rasping right foot drive hit the base of Tremmel’s left-hand post before rebounding to safety. In the ensuing scramble Robert Snodgrass could only hook a weak right-foot volley gently into the arms of the home keeper when offered a gilt edged opportunity.
Two minutes later City were ahead – and deservedly so. An excellent one-two between the Scottish combination of Snodgrass and Steven Whittaker released the latter into space in the inside right channel – and one jinking run and crisp left foot strike later, Norwich were 1-0 ahead.
The goal did little to change the fluidity of a game that had matched two in-form, passing teams and typically the home side continued in their pass, pass, pass style. The ‘man of the moment’, Michu, gave City a glimpse of his capabilities when he flashed a shot across the face of Bunn’s goal and was soon followed by the Graham header that thumped against the City crossbar.
On 40 minutes the Canaries went 2-0 up when Bassong made it three goals in four games with a towering far-post header from Grant Holt’s far post hanging cross.
Four minutes later, 2-0 became 3-0 when Holt went from provider to scorer. Finding himself unmarked from Snodgrass’ whipped in, left-footed free-kick he thundered a header pass Tremmel’s left hand to give the Canaries a healthy interval lead.
On the back of an indifferent second half performance against Sunderland last weekend, Hughton would have reminded his troops of the need for a continuation of the first half performance – and they went within a whisker of making it 4-0 just two minutes into the second period. A deft pass by Snodgrass allowed Johnson to get in behind the Swansea back-four and his left foot volley crashed against the underside of the bar with the keeper well beaten.
Michu – who else – gave the Swans a lifeline on 50 minutes, when he swept a left wing cross past Bunn’s left hand. The timely lift given to the Welshmen by this goal, so early in the second period, acted as a catalyst for a sustained period of pressure.
On 58 minutes the home side pulled another goal back when De Guzman crashed home a loose ball past an unsighted Bunn, and a previously silent Liberty Stadium suddenly came to life.
Swansea thought that they had levelled on 71 minutes when, following a goalmouth scramble, the ball was bundled in from close range. Fortunately for City – and despite the Liberty Stadium’s scoreboard flashing up ‘3-3’ – referee Howard Webb had spotted a push by Michu on the visiting keeper.
The complexion of the game was changed once and for all on 77 minutes when Snodgrass punished Ashley Williams’ cynical foul on Holt, by gloriously beating Tremmel on his near post with a cracking left-footed free-kick.
Once again it was the Yellow Army that could be heard, loud and proud over the Welsh choir.
The goal appeared to finally take the sting out of this season’s media-darlings but – in typical Norwich fashion – there was one final twist before the points could finally be claimed. A perfectly flighted cross from the Swansea right eluded Bunn, and was headed in at the far post by Michu for his second of the afternoon.
This very late goal was the cue for more nervous head scratching and nail biting from Team Hughton and travelling Yellow Army, but the shrill 94th minute blast of Webb’s whistle signalled a successful end to the latest gig on the Canaries thrilling tour.
So, the bandwagon rolls on…
Just where is it going to end?