Norwich v SAFC

Norwich 2 Sunderland 1

Black Cats denied at Carrow Road.

Sunderland slipped to defeat at Norwich in a stereotypical game of two halves at Carrow Road.

The first period belonged to the hosts, who got off to a quick start when Sebastien Bassong turned in a Robert Snodgrass free-kick.

Chris Hughton's side doubled their money eight minutes before the break when Anthony Pilkington latched onto a through ball to finish well.

Sunderland struggled into the opening period but did reduce the arrears moments before half time through Craig Gardner's third goal of the season.

The goal energised the visitors, who were much better after the break and carved out a number of excellent opportunities to level.

Gardner struck the post with a wonderful free-kick, with Matt Kilgallon blazing over in front of an open goal on the rebound.

Martin O'Neill's side bossed the second period but just couldn't fashion an equaliser as Norwich extended their unbeaten run to eight games.

O'Neill opted to select James McClean to replace the injured Lee Cattermole ahead of Jack Colback, who came off the bench following the Sunderland captain's injury against QPR.

Adam Johnson blasted over early on for Sunderland, cutting in off the right wing and fizzing a shot over Mark Bunn's crossbar.

But it was Norwich who struck first through Bassong to open the scoring after only eight minutes.

Snodgrass's free-kick was flicked on by Bradley Johnson and clipped Carlos Cuellar before finding its way to the former Spurs defender, who hooked the ball in from close range for his second goal for the club.

Norwich continued to press and Sunderland didn't have history on their side – the away team had failed to score in six of the last seven meetings between the teams.

The visitors struggled to gain traction going forward although they did test Norwich keeper Mark Bunn just before the half hour.

Seb Larsson found Danny Rose with a neat short corner and the defender's low drive through a crowd of players was well fielded by Bunn, who clung on to make the save.

But Norwich hit back and a quick back-to-front move handed the hosts their second goal seven minutes before the break.

A long ball forward released Pilkington – played onside by Kilgallon – and he swerved past the covering Cuellar before planting the ball into the far corner.

Sunderland were teetering – but all of a sudden there was a chink of light as Gardner reduced the arrears with a fine strike from the edge of the box.

Johnson beat two men down the left and nudged the ball into the path of the midfielder, who drilled a left-footed shot first time into the far corner of the goal.

The goal came at a key moment for Sunderland, who made a change at the break with former Ipswich man Connor Wickham replacing Steven Fletcher up front.

And the substitute could have been on the scoresheet within minutes only for Stephane Sessegnon's low cross to be intecepted just before Wickham could pull the trigger.

Then Cuellar saw a shot on the turn blocked before goalscorer Pilkington forced a good save from Simon Mignolet at the other end.

But it was Sunderland who were in the ascendancy – and they were inches away from levelling just before the hour.

Gardner drilled in a free-kick from fully 30 yards which beat Bunn only to smash off the post, and the handily-placed Kilgallon blazed over with the goal at his mercy.

Midfielder Gardner, who could have had a hat-trick, was denied again soon afterwards, blasting the ball towards goal in a scramble only to see the effort kicked off the line.

And Sessegnon drilled a shot at Bunn from 15 yards out after turning decisively into space with a lovely drop of the shoulder.

But Sunderland just couldn't break through, and when they did – Wickham blasting home after Rose's volley was spilled – the visitors were denied by the offside flag.

Grant Holt blazed over for the hosts at the other end, but it was all Sunderland as the Black Cats pushed on looking for an equaliser.

But the break O'Neill's men so desperately needed just wouldn't come as Norwich held out for a fourth home league win of the season, with Bunn making a key save from another Gardner free-kick in injury time to secure victory.

SAFC's tweets

Norwich
Sunderland AFC

Team Sheet

Bunn
28
Bennett
24
Garrido
18
Whittaker
3
Bassong
5
Johnson
4
Tettey
27
Pilkington
12
Snodgrass (Bennett)
7
Holt
9
Hoolahan (Howson)
14
Mignolet
22
Kilgallon Yellow
12
Bardsley Yellow
2
Cuéllar
24
Rose
3
Larsson (Vaughan)
7
Gardner
8
Johnson
21
McClean (Campbell)
23
Sessegnon
28
Fletcher (Wickham)
26

Substitutes

Martin
2
Bennett
17
Howson
8
Rudd
13
Jackson
10
Morison
16
Barnett
20
Campbell
9
Wickham
10
Colback
14
McFadden
11
Bramble
19
Vaughan
15
Westwood
20