Photo Gallery: Krul afternoon for Norwich City’s John Ruddy
09:46 19 March 2012
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Newcastle United 1, Norwich City 0: The Angel of the North greets visitors as they arrive in Newcastle, a huge figure of reddish hue towering over the A1 with a wingspan almost as broad as a jumbo jet.
Norwich City had their own imposing red giant on duty at St James’ Park yesterday, and when he spread his arms out wide there was just a passing resemblance to one of Britain’s best-known landmarks.
Alas, the very best efforts of goalkeeper John Ruddy were not quite enough to earn his team a valuable Premier League point against the Magpies, for the one occasion on which he was beaten – by Senegalese striker Papiss Cisse in the 11th minute – was sufficient to settle the contest.
Ruddy’s safe hands were responsible for three or four fine saves to guarantee that the Canaries and their remarkable 1,900 travelling fans, sitting almost in the stratosphere, were always in with a chance of taking some reward from one of their longest trips of the season, but with his Dutch counterpart, Tim Krul, in equally impressive form at the other end, it was not to be.
It was a much better showing from Paul Lambert’s men than in the previous two league games against Stoke and Wigan, but with just three goals in five matches in all competitions since their stirring 3-2 win at Swansea five weeks ago, City’s touch in front of goal seems to have deserted them a little, and the introduction from the bench of this week’s Hall of Fame inductees, Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan, perhaps came a bit too late to salvage a draw.
So two televised games in the North East have yielded nil points for the Canaries and though yesterday’s performance was a big improvement on that at Sunderland last month, the result made it just one point from the last four league matches. They will be keen to arrest that slide at home to struggling Wolves next Saturday.
Cisse struck the crucial blow when he fired home from a cross by Jonas Gutierrez, and the closest City came to levelling was eight minutes into the second period when Krul first foiled Anthony Pilkington, then brilliantly tipped over a Zak Whitbread header.
Cisse had almost broken the deadlock after little more than a minute when Yohan Cabaye’s through-ball left him clear of the City defence, who waited in vain for an offside flag, but as he tried to lob Ruddy, the ’keeper managed to knock the ball up and grab it.
The goal duly came, however, when Gutierrez, attacking from left-back, managed to get the better of Kyle Naughton and his cross into the six-yard box found Cisse getting ahead of Whitbread to shoot first time past Ruddy.
United had a lucky escape in the 19th minute when the dithering Mike Williamson was caught in possession by Steve Morison, and the recalled Jonny Howson, following up, rifled a powerful effort just past the angle of post and bar.
Ruddy, however, was called upon twice before half-time to prevent further damage. First Cabaye took a pass from Gutierrez and fired in a shot that Demba Ba managed to flick on, but the ’keeper dived to his left to push the ball round the post.
There were vain appeals for a penalty when Danny Guthrie’s shot was blocked by the falling Elliott Bennett, but Ruddy saved City again four minutes before the break when Gutierrez played the perfect through-ball for Cisse, only for the ’keeper to come out and block.
City spurned the chance to equalise a minute before the interval when Bennett’s perseverance enabled him to cross from the right, Pilkington challenged Danny Simpson in the air and the ball dropped for Andrew Surman, but he screwed his shot across the face of goal.
After the break, Krul excelled twice in a minute, first when David Fox’s pass enabled Pilkington to get ahead of Simpson and the ’keeper had to save at his near post, then when the tireless Bennett crossed from the right and he palmed Whitbread’s powerful header over the top.
As City began to threaten more, Coloccini had to be alert to cut out Surman’s cross into the six-yard box with Krul out of his goal.
Late on, Ruddy saved again from Cabaye and Ba was just unable to force home the rebound, while Morison missed City’s last real opening in the final minute when he failed to connect cleanly after Whitbread had headed Krul’s kick into his path, the ’keeper making an easy save. It was a Krul ending for City and their travelling army of fans.