Goals from Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington secured a fourth successive home win for Norwich at Carrow Road, as Sunderland’s second half fightback was not enough after a meek opening 45 minute display.
The Canaries went into this match on the back of a seven game unbeaten streak, while Sunderland was sitting just above the relegation zone thanks to just one win in its previous eight games.
This contrast in fortunes was evident from the beginning, as the home side started with more far confidence.
It was therefore no surprise when the Norwich took the lead on eight minutes, when a fine piece of interplay between the influential Wes Hoolahan and Steven Whittaker resulted in a free kick on the right hand side of the box thanks to a clumsy challenge by Danny Rose.
Robert Snodgrass duly stepped up and delivered a wicked ball into the area with his left foot, which deflected off Carlos Cuellar to leave Bassong to gleefully tap home from two yards out with Simon Mignolet stranded.
Spurred on by a raucous home crowd, Norwich continued to dominate possession, and were rewarded with a second goal after a fine passage of patient passing play when Bradley Johnson played a precise long ball over the top to find Pilkington just onside and racing through on goal.
The former Huddersfield Town man made the finish look easy, jinking inside Cuellar’s challenge before striking the ball emphatically into the far post for his second goal in successive home games.
Things were looking ominous for Martin O’Neill’s men, but they were thrown a lifeline when Craig Gardner’s long-range effort squirmed through the hands of Mark Bunn and into the far post to halve the deficit just before the break.
Former Ipswich Town striker Connor Wickham replaced the injured Steven Fletcher at halftime, entering the Carrow Road field to a chorus of boos from the home crowd.
The 19-year-old almost silenced the Canaries faithful within a couple of minutes, as Stephane Sessegnon’s driven cross was brilliantly blocked by Ryan Bennett with the England Under-21 international lurking inside the six yard box.
Sunderland was certainly playing with more urgency after halftime, and should have pulled level when Gardner’s swerving free kick from all of 30 yards came back off the post to the feet of Matthew Kilgallon, who somehow managed to scoop the ball over the bar with the goal gaping.
The Mackems came close twice within the next few minutes, with Javier Garrido first clearing Gardner‘s shot off the line after Bunn’s weak punch from a corner, before the goalkeeper redeemed himself with a fine save from Sessegnon‘s shot after the Benin international was put through on goal by Rose.
The offside flag denied Wickham a dream goal when he was on hand to tap in Bunn’s fumble from Rose’s stinging volley after a half-cleared corner, as the guests continued to press.
However, despite the second half renaissance, the Sunderland was unable to get that crucial second goal, and left Carrow Road empty-handed with Martin O’Neill surely wondering why it took his players 45 minutes to show any ambition.
Follow GOAL.COM USA on Twitter
- Sports & Recreation