Norwich have had mixed fortunes in their visits to Manchester City in the past. In the Premier League, they’ve won unexpectedly – but they’ve also taken a couple of right beatings in their time, one from Roberto Mancini’s team and one from Manuel Pellegrini’s. Come win, lose or draw, however, there’s very rarely been any bad blood between the two sides.
That wasn’t the case when this fixture was played in January 2002.
Kevin Keegan’s City had just gone back to the top of the league, following an unbeaten run that saw the club take 25 points from nine games. The Canaries arrived at Maine Road to try and put the home side under pressure and there was a hostile environment created inside 12 minutes.
The incident happened right in front of the dugouts. Danny Tiatto played a ball inside to Stuart Pearce and tried to make a darting run to provide an option for the left-back to give a return pass. Steen Nedergaard stepped across the Australian to block him and the City man reacted. He grabbed the shirt of the Norwich defender and dragged him back, before shoving him to the ground. There was very little in it, but that didn’t stop Nedergaard from holding his face and staying on the ground – something that riled Pearce, who grabbed his hands away from his face and shouted a few forceful words into his face.
After consulting with the fourth official, the referee showed Tiatto a straight red card. It was a harsh call and one greeted by derision from the stands. The player himself was incensed – and he booted a stand of drinks in frustration, sparking more confrontations on the touchline. In the end, he had to be escorted down the tunnel by Keegan.
On the stroke of half time, the home side took the lead. The atmosphere was already fiery and it was ramped up a notch as Paulo Wanchope ran at the Norwich defence. There were two attempts to swipe the ball away, but he managed to sneak it to Shaun Goater on the left flank as he lost a boot in the process. He crossed to the back post, where Eyal Berkovic hit it first time with the outside of his foot. It beat Robert Green at his near post.
The equaliser came just after the break. A short corner on the right flank caught the City defence napping and a cross into the six yard box wasn’t dealt with, as Carlo Nash elected to stay on his line. David Nielsen headed it in from two yards out.
However, Keegan’s City were made of much tougher stuff. Earlier in the season, they may have folded – but the Blues were now on a roll, and they retook the lead through Wanchope 14 minutes later. It came from the penalty spot after Green came flying off his line and chopped down Goater mid-flow. The fans wanted a red card, but the referee didn’t agree – instead they got the Costa Rican sliding the ball under the goalkeeper for 2-1.
Four minutes later, Berkovic scored one of the goals of the season and one of the best that Maine Road had seen for many years. Boos turned to cheers as Nedergaard’s cross landed straight into the arms of Nash and the City goalkeeper wasted no time in setting up the counter attack. Of course, Berkovic wasn’t famed for having blistering pace; in fact he wasn’t famed for having any pace, so when he received possession on the halfway line and had nothing but Norwich defenders ahead of him, many wouldn’t have been expecting what happened next.
With no support whatsoever, the Israeli carried the ball forward down the flank. As the five defenders closed in on him, he continued to run at the goal and entered the box on the left corner. A shimmy to the left beat the final defender and, when one-on-one with Green, he slipped the ball through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the net. “You don’t need pace when you’ve got skill,” Alistair Mann shouted in commentary, and he was spot on.
Despite playing with a man less for the best part of 80 minutes, City were just too good for the visitors. Speaking at the end of the season, man of the match Berkovic was delighted:
“I remember this Norwich game for one reason – my mum came to visit me and it was the first time she saw me play in a Manchester City shirt. It was a good game for me and the team after the sending off and after all of the dramatics.”
“I felt Danny was more sinned against than sinner when he got sent off, but I’m more concerned about what he did afterwards, kicking bottles into the dugout and wanting to fight the world. That’s no good at all.
“If he had carried on a minute longer, he would have got himself into even worse trouble. It’s no good having quality players if their temperament is going to let the team down like that.”
Norwich boss Nigel Worthington thought the home side were very impressive:
“They were down to ten men, but it didn’t make any difference because they’ve got world-class players. For my money, it’s Manchester City and one other for automatic promotion.”
Here are the highlights from the game.
City: Nash, Pearce, Dunne, Howey (Ritchie 23), Tiatto, Horlock, Benarbia, Berkovic (Killen 87), Wright-Phillips, Goater (Huckerby 64), Wanchope.
Unused: Weaver, Negouai
New Zealand born artist Daniel Beddingfield will no doubt have been cheered up by this result, as his song Gotta Get Thru This was knocked off the number one spot and was at number three this week.
Black Hawk Down was at the UK cinema when this match was played.
Written by David Mooney.