City ends season with loss to Norwich
Jack Rodwell struck two excellent equalizers as last season’s Barclays Premier League champions threatened to finish with a flourish, but the Canaries deservedly finished on top at the Etihad Stadium.
City lacked bite after the dispiriting events of the past week – which included the sacking of manager Roberto Mancini – and Norwich won through Anthony Pilkington, Grant Holt and Jonny Howson goals. The atmosphere was a far cry from that famous tension-filled final afternoon a year ago although Norwich fans were in party mood.
The City supporters, after an emotional few days, were far quieter but a few Italian flags and Mancini chants made clear their former manager was not forgotten. For their part, City acknowledged the contribution of Mancini with some tributes in the programme.
The action began slowly but Norwich came to play and made the encounter an entertaining one. With referee Mark Halsey doing his best not to use his cards in his final match, it flowed reasonably well.
The area of most uncertainty was in City’s defense. Again without Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic for unspecified reasons, Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards made an unfamiliar centre-back pairing.
The Canaries also had their own notable absentee in Sebastien Bassong, who was named their player of the season this week, but the disruption was minimal. Aside from a couple of early headed chances for Edin Dzeko which did not trouble John Ruddy, Norwich had the best of the early chances.
Holt turned Lescott and shot across goal before Halsey had penalty decisions to make after a challenge on Pilkington by Pablo Zabaleta and a handball by Richards. Both were declined by the veteran official in favor of corners and from the second of those Ryan Bennett had a header cleared off the line by Lescott.
The visitors were rewarded for their spell on top after 25 minutes when Wes Hoolahan robbed Yaya Toure and fed the ball through to Pilkington, who struck firmly past Joe Hart. City produced a quick response and leveled within four minutes as Samir Nasri found Dzeko and his neat lay-off rolled perfectly for Rodwell to lash home.
That brought the game to life and Hart tipped over a Robert Snodgrass free-kick before Tevez shot wide after a mazy run. James Milner and Tevez then combined to set up Dzeko but the Bosnian guided wide and Snodgrass missed the target at the other end.
Halsey showed leniency towards the end of the first half after a bad challenge by Milner on Javier Garrido and after a minor scuffle between Tevez and Howson. Hart was in action early in the second half as Bradley Johnson met a Snodgrass cross with a good header.
Kidd made his first change after 50 minutes as he withdrew Tevez for Sergio Aguero. Tevez left to a huge ovation with a broad grin. If he does leave this summer, as has been rumored, he knows he will do so having won fans over after last year’s troubles.
Norwich reclaimed the lead when Snodgrass found space on the right and delivered a low cross for an unmarked Holt to tap in at the far post. Again City were quick to reply as Rodwell raced onto a long ball from Toure and outpaced Steven Whittaker to fire into the far bottom corner.
But City’s deficiencies were at the back and Howson slalomed through some ineffective challenges from Lescott and Richards to finish clinically. Halsey smiled wryly when he was forced to take over his yellow card after Lescott bundled over Pilkington.
Substitute Alexander Tettey almost added a fourth for Norwich but shot wide late on.