SC Bastia 1, Norwich City 1
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Norwich City midfielder Anthony Pilkington hit back late to earn the Canaries a 1-1 draw in a fiesty friendly against French top flight side SC Bastia in Sallanches on Friday evening.
Neil Adams’ squad made the short trip over the border from their Italian training base for a competitive work-out that threatened to boil over at times with the influential Wes Hoolahan and Yannick Cahuzac both taken off late on after an ugly altercation.
Francois Kamano rifled the French in front in the 65th minute but Pilkington levelled with a composed finish five minutes from the end.
Adams lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation from the start at Stade Municipal in Sallanches with Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson sitting in front of a back four that featured Steven Whittaker, Ryan Bennett, Michael Turner and Javier Garrido. Elliott Bennett and Nathan Redmond flanked Hoolahan with Gary Hooper leading the line.
Bastia probed in the early exchanges but Howson in particular appeared keen to inject a competitive edge into the proceedings with two heavy challenges on his opposite number.
Captain Johnson was penalised for a tug back on Floyd Ayite after an impressive turn of speed from the Bastia wide player. Chris Maboulou glanced a header wide in the sixth minute from the dipping free kick.
Ryad Boudebouz then ballooned a cross out of play but there was no disputing the directness and pace in forward areas from the Ligue One outfit.
Adams was urging Hoolahan to get on the ball at every opportunity, with the Republic of Ireland needing little invitation to drop deeper in search of work but the promise of one clip over the top for Redmond ended when the Birmingham-bred flyer was signalled offside.
City were shading possession and territory in the opening quarter without really testing Jean-Louis Leca. Elliott Bennett’s heavy fall momentarily raised alarms after last season’s long term injury absence but the midfielder was able to take the free kick after treatment, only for Romaric to track Hooper’s near post run.
Howson’s latest strong challenge and Hooper’s defence of his team-mate sparked a minor altercation which sucked in a number of players from either side but order was quickly restored prior to a soothing word from the official.
Hoolahan and Hooper combined seamlessly on the half-hour mark before Whittaker was invited to range forward and feed Redmond but Hoolahan’s late run into the Bastia box was tracked by ex-Arsenal man Sébastien Squillaci.
Howson’s voracious appetite for work proved his undoing 10 minutes from the interval when he was caught heavily on his right knee trying to trigger a swift City raid. The Yorkshireman laboured on after treatment before a precautionary early exit prior to the interval.
Bastia looked to have broken the deadlock two minutes from the break when Johnson was levered off the ball to leave City’s backline exposed by Declan Rudd’s parry was despatched by Boudebouz in an offside position.
Norwich had a more fortuitous escape seconds later when Ayite’s rising strike cannoned Rudd’s left-hand post and bounced back into play.
Bastia enjoyed a better spell of concerted possession immediately after the restart but Hoolahan’s urgings carved out a corner Leca grasped at the second attempt under pressure from Hooper.
Adams made a double change two minutes prior to the hour mark with Josh Murphy and Jamar Loza replacing Redmond and Hooper respectively.
Josh Murphy’s pace immediately troubled the Bastia backline but his attempt to swerve around the on-rushing Leca allowed Squillaci to arrive on the cover.
Rudd parried from Bastia substitute Kamano after the teenage frontman eased Garrido off the ball on the edge of his own area.
Turner was adjudged to have hauled down Ayite but Guillaume Gillet’s free kick was charged by Hoolahan. Livewire Kamano stabbed Bastia in front in the 65th minute when City were unable to clear a deep free kick and the substitute reacted quickest to guide past the sprawling Rudd.
City were now forced to probe on the counter with the French side looking the more dangerous but Pilkington was denied a goalscoring chance by Squillaci’s despairing dive to cut out Josh Murphy’s thoughball.
Hoolahan was then struck off-the-ball in central midfield by Cahuzac which prompted an angry reaction from the Irishman and another inevitable flashpoint as the rain swept in across the Stade Municipal. The match official wisely ordered both to depart, but not before John Ruddy and Russell Martin were forced to act as peacemakers to defuse any further unsavoury aftermath.
City continued to probe and got their reward in the 85th minute when Jacob Murphy’s thunderbolt dropped into Pilkington’s path and the Republic of Ireland international calmly guided a left-foot finish past Leca.
• SC Bastia (starting line up): Leca, Peybernes (Kamano 53) Pacmieri, Squillaci, Romaric, Modesto, Cahuzac, Gillet, Bondebouz, Ayite, Maboulou.
• Goal: Kamano (65)
• Norwich City: Rudd (Matthews 77), Whittaker, R Bennett, Turner, Garrido, Howson (Surman 40), Johnson, E Bennett (Pilkington 66), Hoolahan (Jacob Murphy 75), Redmond (Josh Murphy 57), Hooper (Loza 57). Subs: Gafaiti.
• Goal: Pilkington (85)