Norwich City 2 Celta Vigo 2
© Archant Norfolk 2014
Norwich City’s Lewis Grabban rifled a clinical early brace but the Canaries were pegged back by La Liga outfit Celta Vigo in a testing pre-season finale for Neil Adams’ squad on Friday night at Carrow Road.
Grabban followed up his first home goal against OGC Nice earlier in the week with two inside five minutes, but Vigo were back on level terms by half-time after Manuel Agudo Nolito and Michael Krohn-Dehli finished off a sustained period of midfield dominance for the impressive Galicians.
Adams’ paired his two summer striker signings Kyle Lafferty and Grabban together for the first time in City’s pre-season campaign, but Norwich’s backline and midfield looked to have a settled look that could well re-appear at Wolves for the Championship kick-off next week.
Martin Olsson returned at full-back with Steven Whittaker on the opposite flank and captain Russell Martin partnering Michael Turner.
Bradley Johnson and Andrew Surman were paired in a central two, with Grabban slightly withdrawn from lone front man Lafferty in a three alongside Wes Hoolahan and Nathan Redmond.
The overlapping Whittaker whipped in a teasing cross aimed at Lafferty but Ruben Blanco went full length to claw out of mid-air inside the opening minutes.
Vigo midfielder Santi Mina worked a pocket of space but drilled a left foot strike the wrong side of John Ruddy’s right-hand post from 18 yards.
The predatory Grabban bagged his second of the week with a cool slot rolled past Blanco from 16 yards after Olsson drifted a pass in behind the Spanish defence.
City’s high press from the front was a noticeable feature of the early sparring, but the La Liga outfit carried an obvious threat on the counter with Vigo captain Alex Lopez forcing Ruddy to gather low to his right.
Another marked feature of Norwich’s pre-season preparations came to the fore again in the 11th minute when Hoolahan danced his way to the byline after exchanging passes with Lafferty before a cut-back confidently sidefooted home by Grabban inside the six-yard box.
Surman’s versatility was underlined in the 17th minute when he left his central station on an overlapping run to collect Grabban’s pass and curl an inviting cross that had no takers in maroon for the hosts.
City were firmly in the ascendancy by the midway point of the opening period and a sustained bout of possession football from back to front saw Redmond’s cut-back slammed at Blanco by a clearly frustrated Surman from 20 yards.
Norwich’s ambition almost proved costly shortly afterwards when another attempt to raid from deep through Hoolahan was intercepted, but Turner was back on the cover to sense the danger from Joaquin Larrivey.
Celta were now starting to redress the balance in midfield and reduced the arrears in the 28th minute when Nolito cutely lifted over the advancing Ruddy from the angle of the six yard box after racing onto Krohn-Dehli’s reverse pass.
Larrivey then unleashed a rising strike that hammered Ruddy’s woodwork from fully 25 yards with the Spanish threatening to get back on level terms prior to the interval.
Martin miscued his header from Redmond’s teasing free kick at the opposite end in what had now become an increasingly rare incursion into Celta’s final third. Redmond then tried his luck but dragged an angled shot wide from just inside the penalty area.
Ruddy was tested again from range but Nolito’s free kick lacked the penetration of his earlier goal, but Krohn-Dehli rifled Vigo level with a low shot that flew past Ruddy two minutes from the interval before Nolito thudded a right-foot hit against the base of Ruddy’s post with the Spaniards now dominant.
Celta maintained their control after the interval and Johnson’s attempts to break up the flow earned him a rare pre-season yellow card, although Levy Madinda’s theatrics did the City midfielder few favours.
Lafferty was withdrawn just prior to the hour mark for Elliott Bennett which pushed Redmond into a more advanced role alongside Grabban.
The England Under-21 starlet twisted his way free but dragged a right-foot shot wide in a positive sign of intent following his re-deployment.
Ruddy was at his imperious best twice inside a minute to deny Yelko Pino before gathering Gustavo Cabral’s powerful header after the Vigo centre back rose unmarked from a visiting corner.
City’s reversion to the midfield diamond triggered more parity in possession as the game entered the final quarter with Hoolahan now able to forage in far more penetrative areas of the Vigo half.
Fabian Orellana’s mazy run and 74th minute strike at Ruddy was a timely reminder of the Spaniards’ threat before Ruddy opted to tip over Hugo Mallo’s dipping shot.
Grabban’s exit for Gary Hooper was greeted by a huge ovation from the home fans, who had clearly enjoyed watching him in Carrow Road friendly action this week, before Anthony Pilkington - the Republic of Ireland international later foreced to clear off his line deep in stoppage time - and Jamar Loza were also given a run-out as Adams put the final touches to this preparations for the Championship opener at Wolves on August 10.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin (R Bennett 84), Turner, Olsson (Garrido 75), Johnson, Redmond (Loza 84), Surman, Hoolahan (Pilkington 81), Lafferty (E Bennett 56), Grabban (Hooper 75). Subs (not used): Rudd, Josh Murphy.
• Goals: Grabban (6, 11)
• Booking Johnson (54)
• Celta Vigo (starting line up): Blanco, Fontas, Mina, Lopez, Nolito, Larrivey, Planas, Castro, Gomez, Krohn-Dehli, Fernandez.
• Goals: Nolito (27), Krohn-Dehli (43)
• Referee: G Horwood (Beds)
• Attendance: 9,829