Manchester City 2 Norwich 3 match report: Over-achievers Norwich leave City all washed up
Norwich fully deserved their victory at the Etihad
The Etihad Stadium
Sunday 19 May 2013
The final game of last season is commemorated in vast photographs around the side of the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City lost and then won the title in an hour and a half.
Yesterday, the scoreline was the same, 3-2, although this time the away team won. The images would be very different. The deposed champions looked what they were, a rudderless group of talented individuals who between now and August will have to be forged into a team.
Paolo di Canio had described the Manchester City players as "piranhas" for the way they had undermined Roberto Mancini. Here, with the honourable exception of Jack Rodwell, they showed the aggression of a cornered Dover sole.
Championships do not come round very often at City, which is why the decision to fire Mancini had seemed so incomprehensible to the only part of the club that retains deep and authentic links to Manchester – the supporters.
Some had brought Italian flags and there was one banner with a picture of Mancini, wrapped in a blue-and-white scarf, with the words: "Veni, Vidi, Vici".Mancini might have reflected he had ended up much like Julius Caesar - knifed by those closest to him.
The sound of Mancini's name being chanted was the first thing the players heard as they came on to the pitch and it was sung loudest in the 61st minute to mark the 6-1 demolition of Manchester United in October 2011.
If Mancini was Caesar, then Joe Hart, whom his former manager had unwisely and publicly criticised, has been depicted as Brutus.
Here, he was wearing purple, a colour Mancini regarded as deeply unlucky, and was given absolutely no protection by his defence. Hart was beaten three times by a Norwich side that had so dreaded this fixture as relegation beckoned that they had cancelled their player-of-the-season dinner to concentrate on the penultimate game against West Bromwich Albion on the grounds that it was the one they might win. They won both comfortably.
The word around Eastlands was that Manuel Pellegrini, the man most likely to succeed Mancini, would represent a more "holistic" approach to management.
Norwich are the epitome of a holistic club. They a run by accountable directors with links to the county, their major sponsors, Aviva, Colman's and Lotus are based in Norfolk and they have never had a foreign manager - Chris Hughton may have played for Ireland but he was born in east London. Now, without much fanfare, they finished 11th, one place higher than they managed last season.
Norwich encountered a Manchester City side that looked as flat as it had in Mancini's final match, the FA Cup final against Wigan. The first goal came when Yaya Toure was less hungry for the ball than Bradley Johnson, the ball broke to Anthony Pilkington who beat Hart.
A low cross from Robert Snodgrass flew across the face of the City net and was finished off by Grant Holt, a man who has had his disagreements with Hughton without wanting him fired. For the third, Jonny Howson brushed aside Micah Richards and did not stop running until he scored.
Their last three fixtures had seen Manchester City score 15 times against Norwich and yesterday they twice pulled level through superbly taken goals from Rodwell, one of those summer signings who had so disappointed Mancini. This, however, was a glimpse of the player they knew at Everton. This summer's transfer policy will be rather more spectacular. Whether it will be enough for the season that follows is rather more questionable.
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