Norwich City 1, Hull City 0
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Norwich City earned a priceless Premier League win when Ryan Bennett crashed home an 87th minute header to sink Hull City and ease the pressure on Canaries’ boss Chris Hughton.
The hosts had toiled for much of the second period at a tense Carrow Road in their bid to earn a first win in nine games in all competitions, but Bennett rose above two Hull defenders to despatch Robert Snodgrass’ corner to huge relief from the majority packed inside the stadium. Hull’s central midfielder Tom Huddlestone was dismissed in the closing seconds for a second yellow card offence with Norwich’s first Premier League victory since beating West Brom in December moving them five points clear of the bottom three prior to Newcastle’s top flight visit later this month.
Hughton made two changes from the starting line that lost 2-0 at Everton last weekend in the Premier League with Russell Martin and new loan signing Jonas Gutierrez replacing Steven Whittaker and Javier Garrido. Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper were paired together in attack at home for the first time in the top flight. Hull boss Steve Bruce handed a debut to recent signing Nikica Jelavic, but Shane Long’s move from West Brom was not completed in time for the Republic of Ireland international to be involved.
Jelavic almost enjoyed a dream start to his Hull career when he swivelled seven yards out to crack a shot against the base of John Ruddy’s left-hand post in the early sparring after Huddlestone and Liam Rosenior combined to free the unmarked Robert Koren down the visitors’ left.
Hooper teed up van Wolfswinkel but the Dutchman’s sliced effort deflected behind before Bruce’s side cut Norwich open again in the fifth minute when Ahmed Elmohamady’s deep cross was volleyed wide by Rosenior who had escaped detection at the far post. Van Wolfswinkel hooked wide with his back to goal six yards out in the 11th minute after Snodgrass re-directed Bradley Johnson’s centre back across the Tigers’ area.
Jake Livermore’s speculative long range strike drifted wide but Hull were forced into an early change with James Chester departing with what looked like a right hamstring problem; Maynor Figueroa slotting in the visitors’ backline. The Canaries’ worked a decent position through Leroy Fer and Johnson to slide in Snodgrass who had found a pocket of space in front of Hull’s back three but he dragged at Allan McGregor from 25 yards.
The Norwich midfielder led the break out again shortly afterwards, but was crudely upended by Livermore, although McGregor confidently claimed his floated free kick.
Seb Bassong rose powerfully above Curtis Davies midway through the opening period but his attempted header flew over from Snodgrass’ probing centre, with growing signs the hosts had got to grips with Hull’s slick possession and genuine threat down each flank. Norwich switched play smoothly when Hooper freed the overlapping Martin but Snodgrass’ cross was cleared by Davies. Van Wolfswinkel thrust his hands to his head after Rosenior had denied him in a far post aerial duel just past the half-hour mark with the visitors’ now far less comfortable than in the opening skirmishes. Hull were increasingly circumspect in their attacking forays but Norwich were thankful Rosenior’s heavy pass rolled through to Ruddy in front of Jelavic after Johnson and Fer had been over-run in central midfield.
McGregor palmed away Snodgrass’ swerving shot in the 42nd minute which raised the temperature amongst the home support inside a subdued Carrow Road before van Wolfswinkel required treatment after heading the back of Davies’ head. Strike partner Hooper then miscued on his left foot from the edge of the Hull penalty box in the first of five additional minutes at the end of the opening period.
Johnson was the first Norwich player booked by Howard Webb for a mistimed lunge on Robert Koren, although the Tigers’ midfielder was fortunate to escape the same punishment moments earlier for hauling down Martin – a point made forcibly by the Canaries’ club captain. Koren’s whipped free kick was headed behind by Bennett before Alex Bruce’s follow-up header sailed over.
Martin’s driven cross on the restart merely needed a touch from Gutierrez but Elmohamady reacted quicker than Norwich’s loanee seven yards out. Huddlestone was cautioned for tripping up Johnson but Snodgrass’ free kick struck Jelavic in the Tigers’ wall. Johnson and Fer then worked a position for Martin but Davies headed over with van Wolfswinkel lurking at the far post. Van Wolfswinkel and Snodgrass were both denied within seconds of each other through some last-ditch blocks from the Hull defence. Fer then planted Snodgrass’ header over after rising above a posse of Hull defenders eight yards out. Hughton made his first move from the bench in the 69th minute with Anthony Pilkington making a welcome return after his hamstring injury to replace Gutierrez.
Hooper tried to repeat his stunning Swansea strike with a dipping half volley from van Wolfswinkel’s knockdown that drifted over McGregor’s bar before linking with Snodgrass to free van Wolfswinkel but his driven cross was cleared by Elmohamady with Pilkington on the move.
Luciano Becchio replaced van Wolfswinkel with Norwich desperately trying to up the tempo in the closing stages after a sterile period since the hour mark from Hughton’s struggling side. The Argentine’s first intervention was to roll in Hooper, but Rosenior was around on the cover. Martin’s ambitious long range lift sailed behind with Norwich rapidly running out of inspiration.
Pilkington’s shot from the edge of the area clipped George Boyd with Hull forced into some desperate defending but the hosts made a vital breatkthrough in the 87th minute when Bennett rose above two Hull defenders to power home Snodgrass’ corner six yards out. Hull’s afternoon deteriorated further when Huddlestone earned a second yellow card for a lunging foul on Fer and Norwich almost doubled their lead in the aftermath when McGregor denied Bennett with his legs from close range before Becchio was crowded out.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, R Bennett, Bassong, Olsson, Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Gutierrez (Pilkington 68), van Wolfswinkel (Becchio 79), Hooper. Subs (not used): Bunn, Whittaker, Hoolahan, Redmond, Tettey.
• Booking: Johnson (foul on Koren, 45).
• Goal: Bennett (87)
• Hull City: McGregor, Rosenior, Bruce, Chester (Figueroa 15), Davies, Huddlestone, Koren (Fryatt 81), Livermore, Jelavic, Sagbo (Boyd 67), Elmohamady. Subs (not used): Harper, Meyler, Faye, Quinn.
• Bookings: Figueroa (foul on Snodgrass, 39); Rosenior (foul on Snodgrass, 49); Huddlestone (foul on Johnson, 52).
• Sending off: Huddlestone (foul on Fer, 89).
• Added on time: 5 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorks)
• Attendance: 26,655