BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: An Eventful Festive Season Trip To Norwich

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

A ding-dong battle in Norfolk is the game for day 19 – though it looked like it was going to be a hell of a lot easier than it turned out to be, as Roberto Mancini’s City stormed the early stages of the match…

Norwich City 3-4 Manchester City
Saturday 29 December 2012
City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Barry, Y Toure, Nasri, Silva (Milner 56), Dzeko (Lescott 81), Aguero (Garcia 90).
Unused: Pantilimon, K Toure, Sinclair, Tevez
Goals: Dzeko (2, 4), Aguero (50), Bunn (og 67)

Manchester City were struggling in the 2012-13 season. Despite being defending champions, the Blues weren’t able to put a decent run together to put an assault on the top of the table, as Manchester United looked to retake the title from their rivals. When City travelled to Norwich at the end of December, it looked like they were going to stroll to victory to get back on track – but, of course, the game took a twist in the first half, and it meant the visitors had to work hard to stay ahead.

The match was barely 90 seconds old when the Blues opened the scoring. Pablo Zabaleta’s long clearance towards Sergio Aguero saw the striker dummy a header and spin around the back, leaving it for Edin Dzeko to collect. The Bosnian nodded it into the Argentinian’s path, and set off the box. Aguero carried it, before chipping a cross to the back post for David Silva – the Spaniard’s first time cushioned pass to the penalty spot found Dzeko, who rolled it home.

It got better two minutes later, though not without a hint of controversy. Vincent Kompany won back possession on the edge of his own box and then brought the ball forward. A poor touch in midfield let it escape his control and he lunged into the challenge with Bradley Johnson, but the referee deemed it a fair tackle. The captain continued forward, sliding a through-ball into the path of Aguero to send him one-on-one.

The pace on Kompany’s ball took the striker wide, but as Mark Bunn closed down the angle, the Argentinian had the presence of mind to roll a short pass back for Dzeko. The Bosnian fired home into the empty net from a tight angle to double his and City’s tally, after just four minutes of the match.

It was Norwich’s turn to benefit from a controversial decision on 15 minutes. Kompany stepped in front of Robert Snodgrass to win possession, but the referee deemed the tackle a foul – it wasn’t, the captain clearly took the ball cleanly. Anthony Pilkington drove a low shot at goal from the free kick, which flicked off Gael Clichy’s ankle and the deflection took the effort past Joe Hart for 2-1.

There was more hope for the hosts on the stroke of half time. A late challenge by Sebastian Bassong on Samir Nasri enraged the City midfielder, and he reacted by squaring up to the Norwich man. There was a little flick of his head, though no connection was made, and the referee – after deep discussion with his assistant – decided it was worthy of a dismissal for Nasri. Bassong was booked for the challenge, and City were down to ten men for the second half.

It didn’t seem to phase them, though. It was 3-1 just five minutes after the restart, as Aguero pulled off one of the best finishes of the season. Yaya Toure pinged a beautiful ball over the top for the striker to run on to and, again as Bunn came to meet him, the Argentinian held off the pressure from Bassong and dinked a shot over the goalkeeper, into the net.

But the game was far from done. Just after the hour mark, Norwich had cut the deficit again. City were slow to react to a short corner and, after a cross was flighted to the back post and nodded back into the middle, Russell Martin flicked a second header past Hart into the far corner. The home side again had their tails up and the pressure was back on Roberto Mancini’s team.

However, City we back in control just a few minutes later. Clichy, under pressure from the Norwich attack, hoofed a ball forward towards the right flank. Dzeko looked a mile offside – but replays showed was well onside – ran on to it and chested it down inside the area. The Bosnian thought he’d bagged his hat-trick, but his shot hit the post and bounced out, only to hit the goalkeeper on the back and rebound into the goal. It would later be credited as an own goal.

The two-goal advantage lasted less than ten minutes. The weakness for the visitors was another corner kick – it was floated into the box and headed down towards goal. Matija Nastasic slid across to block and the ball squirmed to the edge of the area. It was smashed back in by Bradley Johnson, where Martin stuck a foot out to divert it on target. The effort hit Hart in the face, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out – and the hosts were back to within one at 4-3.

It was a pressure cooker environment for the visitors for the final 15 minutes, but the ten men hung on for the victory. The season would turn out to be a disappointing one, but the excitement of the match at Carrow Road was one of the highlights.

After the game, Mancini was baffled by the red card: “Both players came forward with their heads, so if you are going to send off one, then you have to send off both, not only Samir. Samir said he touched his head, okay, but the other player has done the same.

“The linesman has a big responsibility also, because it was not a good decision, it is incredible. You want to send off both players? Then, okay, the referee was there, he saw everything. The linesman was behind [the players], he could not see. We will appeal, sure.

“I am disappointed with Samir, and he will pay his fine, but the decision was not correct. Samir did a mistake, okay, but after why when the other player did the same thing, does he send off only one? There are two rules for different teams, and I hate this in football and cannot accept this.

“In life, there is only one rule for everyone. This season, I have seen things which are not good. For the referees, this is the most easiest thing to do, but I do not want to talk about the referees too much, because I said last time that they had a big lunch for Christmas, and I don’t know what [will happen].”

Written by David Mooney

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