An inspired substitution and good fortune helped Norwich City to a much-needed win over Everton at Carrow Road on Saturday.
Chris Hughton’s men ended a winless drought stretching back two months, and it eases some comfort from being dragged into a relegation battle – especially with defeats this weekend for Reading and Aston Villa.
With five goalless draws before this game in the Premier League this season, Norwich certainly knew how to keep a clean sheet, but also have severe problems in the scoring department. In Kei Kamara, they might have found a new weapon in the final third of the campaign to solve that issue.
The Sierra Leone international came on midway through the second half for the ineffective Luciano Becchio. He gave the Everton central defensive pairing of Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka some major headaches, and it was the on-loan MLS attacker who started the fightback going on East Anglia.
It was an end-to-end and bruising game, but Everton did feel they had a degree of control once they hit the front through Leon Osman shortly before the interval. Kamara’s introduction changed everything. Call it a tactical masterstroke by manager Chris Hughton, or a massive slice of luck – the result was still the same.
He escaped Maroualine Fellaini’s marking and powered home a header from a corner, with the training work the Canaries had since their last Premier League outing paying off.
Then, in added on time, the visitors couldn’t deal with an effective ball into the box from the in-form Russell Martin. Once again, Kamara caused chaos and captain Grant Holt scored his first goal in the Premier League since December 8. It was a poacher’s finish, and one that we saw regularly last season, but not so this campaign.
The winning goal did come in the fourth minute of added time – something that left David Moyes incensed at the final whistle, as it was longer than the planned stoppage time initially shown.
The one aspect of the performance that Hughton will be disappointed about, however, was the defending for Osman’s goal. Leighton Baines delivered a fantastic cross and Osman arrived unchallenged to head home past Mark Bunn. The marking was suspect to say the least. It will be severely punished next week if repeated at Premier League leaders Manchester United.
Midfielder Jonny Howson was also lucky to stay on the field in the first half for a dangerous challenge on Fellaini, leaving the Belgian with blood on his ankle.
Everton’s dismal record at Carrow Road extends to one win in 25 years and the result is a major dent in their European aspirations. For Norwich, it was a fortunate win, but recent improvements meant this triumph was deserved.
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