Manchester City 7 Norwich 0
Manchester City’s largest top flight victory in 45 years vindicated Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to cast aside England goalkeeper Joe Hart but, for two other managers, events at the Etihad were far less palatable.
The size, and manner, of the defeat places more pressure and speculation upon the Norwich’s Chris Hughton, reportedly already on shaky ground with chief executive David McNally who, tellingly, cancelled his own twitter account to avoid his customary interaction with fans post-match.
Meanwhile, the England manager Roy Hodgson, who may have to seek a new starting goalkeeper himself should Hart face an extended spell out of the City side, will not have taken encouragement from the display of one of his potential replacements, Norwich’s John Ruddy.
From the moment Ruddy was deceived by a deflection off team mate Bradley Johnson for the first of City’s seven, the 24-year-old, who signed a new contract on Friday, was floundering.
“It was a tough day for him today but John has been excellent for us,” said Hughton. He has just signed a new contract. I am confident he will continue to be in that England frame.
“We have all had a tough day but John has been excellent for us, which is why he has been in the last seven or eight England squads.
“I expect him to be in future England squads and I am quite sure if the manager is going to use other goalkeepers then John will be right in the frame.”
For Hughton, a home game against West Ham — two points above them in the table — on Saturday now takes on added significance. Surely, another display of this calibre would render his position untenable.
“I am manager of this football club and I have to take criticisms,” said Hughton. “I speak to David all the time, maybe not every second day but regularly and I will expect to do so after today’s game.
“I can only be confident that the owners share my belief. I am the man who has to take full responsibility. Right at this moment it is hurting because it is something I am not used to.”
Like Hughton, Pellegrini was moved to provide assurances for his own goalkeeper, Hart, although given two solid outings this week from his deputy Costel Pantilimon, there appears to be no immediate route back into the first team for him.
“Of course I have confidence in Costel Pantilimon, that’s why he’s the second goalkeeper,” said Pellegrini when asked who will start tomorrow’s European tie with CSKA Moscow. “If I don’t have trust in him, I will change it. It’s done and I am sure he will do very well. Joe made a lot of mistakes, he knows. Not just this year, also last year. So I think for Joe, it is a good moment to stop. But I am absolutely sure that working hard he will, I don’t know when, but in a moment he will return to his normal position.”
Still, this was a result that owed as much — arguably more — to Norwich’s inadequacies as it did City’s excellence. Ruddy dived over Silva’s shot for the second goal, was rooted to the spot as Matija Nastasic headed home and left exposed as Alvaro Negredo turned in a fourth before half-time. A superb Yaya Toure free-kick, Sergio Aguero volley and Edin Dzeko turn and shot completed the rout.
MANCHESTER CITY: Pantilimon 7; Zabaleta 7, Demichelis 7, Nastasic 7, Clichy 7; Toure 8, Fernandinho 7; Nasri 7 (Milner 70, 7), Aguero 8, Silva 9 (Navas 72, 7); Negredo 7 (Dzeko 45, 7).
NORWICH: Ruddy 4; Martin 5, Turner 5, Bassong 4, Olsson 5; Fer 6, Johnson 6; Whittaker 5 (Murphy 45, 6), Howson 5, Pilkington 6; Hooper 4 (Elmander 45, 4).
Referee: Phil Dowd 6.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved