Norwich City 2 Sunderland 0
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Norwich City overwhelmed Sunderland in a stirring 2-0 Premier League win that injected renewed belief into their own survival battle at the Black Cats’ expense.
Robert Snodgrass rolled home Johan Elmander’s cut back before Alex Tettey unleashed a stunning 30-yard volley to spark delirious scenes at Carrow Road. City comfortably played out the second period against a lacklustre visiting outfit who had Marcos Alonso sent off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time to move seven points clear of the third-from-bottom Wearsiders.
Hughton made another five changes to his starting line up in an echo of his experiment against Southampton the previous weekend. Captains Seb Bassong and Russell Martin came back into defence at the expense of Ryan Bennett, who dropped out of the matchday squad, and Steven Whittaker.
Wes Hoolahan was drafted in with Bradley Johnson making way and Johan Elmander’s goalscoring cameo at St Mary’s earned him a recall with Anthony Pilkington another notable absentee from the squad.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel was preferred up top for Gary Hooper with the former Celtic striker dropping to a substitutes’ bench that included the fit-again Jonas Gutierrez-
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet brought back in Jozy Altidore for the injured Steven Fletcher, with Jack Colback replacing Seb Larsson in the two changes from the Black Cats’ goalless Premier League home draw against Crystal Palace.
Snodgrass clubbed a free kick over inside the opening two minutes with City showing a refreshing desire to get on the front foot. Elmander harried Vito Mannone into a rushed clearance before Bassong earned a lecture from Phil Dowd for contesting a free kick awarded for hauling down Altidore.
Snodgrass cleverly switched play for Martin Olsson who whipped in a cross Mannone pawed behind with none of City’s strikers taking a gamble inside six yard box.
Sunderland’s willingness to play out from the back was nearly their undoing in the 12th minute when Hoolahan pounced on Ki’s weak pass before unleashing a strike that deflected against Wes Brown into Howson’s path, who gathered to test Mannone with a rising shot.
Phil Bardsley halted Hoolahan’s progress 25 yards out but Mannone was again proactive to punch the ball off Bassong’s head at the far post from Snodgrass’ free kick.
City’s team captain was then required on defensive duty at the opposite end when Altidore threatened to burst through and test John Ruddy.
Martin’s strange square pass landed in the vicinity of the dangerous Adam Johnson who drove forward before inviting Ki to clip in a cross dealt with comfortably by Olsson.
City broke through in the 20th minute when Snodgrass sidefooted into the bottom corner from eight yards, but the finish owed everything to Elmander’s instant control and vision to pick out the Scot after Brown could only half clear Olsson’s initial cross.
Sunderland looked for an instant riposte with Johnson’s teasing free kick, but Tettey did superbly to prevent Brown get a clean header at the far post.
Fabio Borini escaped detection in the 24th minute but Ruddy got his angles correct to cut out the cross at his near post. Howson then tested Mannone from the edge of the Black Cats’ area before van Wolfswinkel was unable to apply a decisive touch to Olsson’s cut back on the six yard line.
Hoolahan’s left-footed shot veered wide seconds later with Norwich emboldened since Snodgrass’ opener. City’s soaring confidence was illustrated by Howson’s attempted lob from fully 35 yards after a cute chest control and lift over Liam Bridcutt with Sunderland committing men forward on a free kick.
Tettey’s thunderbolt rocked Carrow Road to its foundations to double Norwich’s lead in the 32nd minute when he hammered a volley past Mannone after John O’Shea’s header dropped to the Norwegian.
Poyet’s displeasure was evident with a double change in the immediate aftermath. Lee Cattermole and Larsson were introduced for the ailing Colback and Ki – and Cattermole took four minutes to earn his regulation yellow card.
Sunderland’s players emerged fully five minutes before City during the interval, no doubt with Poyet having underlined his unhappiness after a dominant first half from the hosts. Van Wolfswinkel forced Mannone to tip over his header in the 48th minute after Hoolahan’s teasing cross picked out the Dutch international.
City were indebted to Ruddy’s sharp reactions to foil Brown with a point blank reaction stop after the centre back stooped to connect with Larsson’s corner.
Sunderland pinned Norwich back for a five minute spell with the Black Cats’ desperately throwing men forward but Elmander was inches from a third when Hoolahan dropped an inviting ball in behind the retreating visiting defence only for Mannone to sweep up on the edge of his area.
Martin and Snodgrass then surged down the right flank forcing Brown to take evasive action at the concession of a corner.
Van Wolfswinkel bravely won back possession at the feet of Bridcutt before desperately trying to connect with Snodgrass’ far post cross in an energetic burst from City’s record signing. That was the Dutchman’s final meaningful act before departing to a rapturous ovation to be replaced by Hooper.
Hoolahan weaved his way into range but Mannone was down low to his right to gather before O’Shea subdued Elmander long enough for Bardsley to complete the clearance.
Hooper’s slaloming run was ended by Larsson 25 yards out but Snodgrass’ dipping free kick just failed to dip under Mannone’s bar. Elmander and Hoolahan left to another huge ovation with City looking to play out the final few moments with no alarms. Martin failed to read the script in stoppage time with an errant pass rifled over by Cattermole but Sunderland’s misery was completed seconds later when Alonso departed for a second yellow for deliberate handball.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson, Snodgrass, Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan (Redmond 88), Elmander (Johnson 87), van Wolfswinkel (Hooper 71). Subs (not used): Bunn, Whittaker, Gutierrez, Becchio.
• Bookings: Howson (foul on Altidore, 47); Snodgrass (foul on Alonso, 69).
• Goals: Snodgrass (20), Tettey (32).
• Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Alonso, O’Shea, Brown, Bridcutt, Colback (Larsson 39), Ki (Cattermole 39), Johnson (Scocco 71), Borini, Altidore. Subs (not used): Ustari, Celustka, Giaccherini, Vergini.
• Bookings: Colback (foul on Howson, 37); Cattermole (dissent 43); Bridcutt (foul on van Wolfswinkel, 65); Alonso (foul on Snodgrass, 77); Bardsley (foul on Hoolahan, 81).
• Sending off: Alonso (handball, 90)
• Added on time: 3 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
• Attendance: 26,654