- Manchester City 7-0 Norwich City, Premier League
No Hart, no problems for City
At the end of a week dominated by talk about their goalkeeping, Manchester City's strikers stole the headlines with a scintillating display against Norwich City.
Joe Hart, as had been rumoured all week, was dropped by manager Manuel Pellegrini after the latest in a string of errors cost City a last-minute defeat to Chelsea last Sunday. However, City could have played without a goalkeeper at all, given their dominance against Norwich.
A deflected goal from Sergio Aguero, later credited as a Bradley Johnson own goal, opened the scoring after 16 minutes, and four minutes later David Silva added a second. It was 3-0 after 25 minutes through Matija Nastasic, and the embarrassment kept on coming as Alvaro Negredo made it four with nine minutes still to go in the first half.
Yaya Toure made it 5-0 on the hour mark before Aguero finally did get on the scoresheet with No. 6 with almost a quarter of the match still remaining. Edin Dzeko completed the scoring with five minutes to go.
It was an emphatic return to form for City after last week's loss at Chelsea and the continued absence of captain Vincent Kompany was barely noticed as Norwich struggled to muster an attack. And while Costel Pantilimon had little to do after being preferred to England No. 1 Hart after much speculation, his opposite number John Ruddy had a match to forget.
In the absence of Hart, Ruddy might have hoped to audition for that international place for this month's friendlies against Chile and Germany, but he fared badly as the Canaries fell 4-0 behind inside 36 minutes.
So strong was City's start that Norwich were probably fortunate to keep the game goalless for 16 minutes. The tone was set early on as City won a corner and Martin Demichelis glanced a header wide from Samir Nasri's cross. Silva then weaved his way into the box on a tricky run but could not pick out a team-mate with his cross. Nasri then played a nice one-two with Silva and powered forward only to slam a shot against the post.
They were stark warnings for Norwich, but the visitors could do little except sit back and try to soak up the pressure. It proved to no avail as Silva cut through on the right and picked out Aguero, whose shot was blocked by Michael Turner and then rebounded off Bradley Johnson to loop over Ruddy for the opener.
The second followed in soon after as Aguero raced onto a long ball from Nasri and pulled back a fine ball for Silva. The Spaniard did not break stride as he connected with a first-time shot which whistled through Ruddy's fingers.
The third goal came as Nastasic rose unchallenged to meet a Nasri corner and head past Ruddy, albeit with the aid of a wicked deflection off Russell Martin. Ruddy's horror show continued as he dropped a corner to present Aguero with another shooting chance but the Argentinian fired into a crowd of bodies.
It was not long before the Canaries were breached again as Toure chipped through for Aguero and he pulled back for Negredo to tap in a fine fourth.
After 38 minutes, Norwich finally showed some life and gave Pantilimon some work to do as the Romanian was called upon to tip a long-range Anthony Pilkington shot wide. Normal service was soon resumed as Aguero fed Toure but the Ivorian turned to shoot straight at Ruddy, earning the Norwich keeper a round of sarcastic applause.
Norwich at least started the second half brightly and Pantilimon came off his line to punch away a floated free-kick from Pilkington. Substitute Johan Elmander should then have done better after a Martin Demichelis mistake allowed Johnson to cross but the Swede shot wide from close range.
City went back on the attack and Ruddy saved well from Nasri before Aguero put the rebound into the side-netting. When substitute Dzeko was fouled on the edge of the box, Toure immediately fancied his chances of adding a fifth. In what is almost becoming a trademark finish, the Ivorian curled a fine shot into the top-left corner, a strike almost identical to efforts against Newcastle, Hull and Wigan already this season.
Aguero finally, and deservedly, got on the scoresheet after 71 minutes when Sebastien Bassong's poor attempt to cut out a Silva cross fell to the Argentinian and he lashed in a volley.
City did not ease up and Jesus Navas raced onto a long ball to bring a fine save from Ruddy. The besieged Ruddy then did well to save again from Demichelis after another Toure free-kick had hit the wall but he was beaten again four minutes from time. This time Dzeko was the scorer, turning sharply from a Navas pass to fire home.
It means City go into their crucial Champions League encounter with CSKA Moscow in fine fettle, while Norwich remain in the relegation zone with just eight points so far this season.
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