Hoolahan inspires Canaries to victory over Leeds during memorable Carrow Road finale to a wonderful decade
PUBLISHED: 19:32 28 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:03 29 April 2018
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One goal, one assist and a standing ovation which could be heard across the whole of Norfolk made for a truly memorable – and victorious – swansong for Norwich City icon Wes Hoolahan against Leeds this afternoon.
Kalvin Phillips had lashed the visitors ahead in style in the 39th minute, only for the main man Hoolahan to spark delirious celebrations on the stroke of half-time as his deflected shot crept in off both posts at the Barclay end.
The former Republic of Ireland international was then in the thick of the build-up play before teeing up Josh Murphy to lash the Canaries in front, as he enjoyed a special farewell.
Ahead of kick-off James Maddison was confirmed as player of the season, with Grant Hanley runner-up in the fan vote and Angus Gunn third.
Hoolahan was handed a start and the captain’s armband as one of two changes to Daniel Farke’s starting line-up, with Nelson Oliveira also returning, starting ahead Dennis Srbeny.
A largely uneventful first half saw Gunn have to push away an Ezgjan Alioski cross from under his crossbar in the seventh minute and Maddison lash a shot well over for the hosts in the 23rd minute.
Leeds took the lead with six minutes of the half remaining in spectacular style. Gunn punched a Pablo Hernandez free-kick clear, Ronaldo Vieira tried to shoot but fluffed his effort, only as far as midfield colleague Phillips, who bent a wonderful shot into the bottom-right corner from 20 yards.
Within a minute it was almost two, when Timm Klose’s poor pass allowed Vieira to send Kemar Roofe through the middle, who lashed a low shot which flicked the outside of the bottom-right corner of the net – prompting Leeds fans to celebrate briefly before realising it was wide.
Leeds just about deserved their lead but the football gods smiled on Carrow Road in the final minute of the first half, as a wonderful moment lifted the roof off the stadium.
Mario Vrancic did well to win possession back on halfway and Murphy sent Hoolahan on the charge, the man of the day fired a shot goalwards from 25 yards and saw the ball loop high off Pontus Jansson’s heel, strike the left post, roll along the line and go in off the right post.
The smile on the Irishman’s face said it all as the Canaries faithful celebrated wildly, looking to the skies in thanks as he made his way back into position for the restart.
It was the 35-year-old’s second goal of the season and first league goal of the campaign, as his final half of 10 seasons with Norwich loomed.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell made a wonderful save to deny Maddison in the 56th minute, after the playmaker had linked well will Oliveira, sprawling to his left to deflect the ball behind.
Three minutes later Reed was relieved to see Roofe was unable to make proper contact with a Hernandez cross from the left, after the Southampton loanee was unable to keep pace with the Spaniard.
Peacock-Farrell again denied Maddison in the 65th minute, saving with his feet at his near post after the youngster had linked well with Hoolahan.
Hernandez and Saiz both tested Gunn with stinging shots and Oliveira curled an effort over the bar for City as the game opened up, before the hosts claimed the lead.
Hoolahan was involved in the thick of the action in the build-up, before a simple pass allowed Murphy to lash a low shot from 10 yards that the keeper could only deflect into his net, notching his 11th of the season and seventh in the league.
Leeds boss Paul Heckingbottom was being told ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ by the travelling supporters in the aftermath, as he replaced Alioski with the giant Jay-Roy Grant, followed by chants of ’Leeds, Leeds are falling apart, again’.
Another substitute, Adam Forshaw, forced Gunn into a diving save in the 78th minute as he drilled a low shot from 30 yards – with Vrancic lashing a shot just over in response two minutes later.
The standing ovation for Hoolahan came in the 85th minute, as all of Carrow Road rose to wave farewell to their hero of the past decade, the playmaker covering his face with his shirt as he tried to hold back the tears as the thunderous applause rang around the stadium where he will forever be talked about as a great.
Maddison followed two minutes later to a similarly huge ovation – in what could also be his final Carrow Road game – as he was replaced by Onel Hernandez as Farke continued to run down the clock.
The victory saw the Canaries move above their opponents into 12th place in the Championship table but with Ipswich winning at Reading, the mission to finish above their local rivals is still not yet quite complete.
The Canaries conclude their Championship campaign against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Sunday, May 6.
Norwich: Gunn; Reed, Hanley, Klose, Lewis; Leitner; Vrancic, Maddison (Hernandez 87), Hoolahan (C – Trybull 84), Murphy; Oliveira (Srbeny 82). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Zimmermann, Pinto, Husband
Booked: Hanley (foul on Saiz, 34)
Goals: Hoolahan (45), Murphy (69)
Leeds: Peacock-Farrell; Pennington, Jansson, Cooper (C), Pearce (Lasogga 83); Phillips, Vieira (Forshaw 74); Alioski (Grot 70), Saiz, Hernandez; Roofe. Unused subs: Lonergan (GK), Anita, O’Connor, Ekuban
Booked: Pennington (foul on Murphy, 43), Jansson (dissent 40+4)
Goals: Phillips (39)
Referee: John Brooks (Leicestershire)