Stoke vs Norwich match report: Gary O’Neil moment of madness gifts Potters advantage

Stoke City 3 Norwich City 1

Jon Culley
Britannia Stadium
Wednesday 13 January 2016 23:21
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Norwich City midfielder Gary O'Neil walks off the pitch after receiving a red card
Norwich City midfielder Gary O'Neil walks off the pitch after receiving a red card

Stoke City climbed to seventh in the Premier League table with a third win in four matches after a red card for midfielder Gary O’Neil left Norwich to play for almost an hour with 10 men.

O’Neil took out Stoke’s Ibrahim Affelay with a senseless lunge from behind almost on the half-way line, to the dismay of Norwich manager Alex Neil, who saw his side equalise Stoke’s first goal early in the second half only to concede twice more, dealing a setback to the Canaries’ bid to draw clear of the relegation places after three wins in four.

Stoke had threatened an early breakthrough when an exquisite dinked pass from Joselu put in Marko Arnautovic, who had Declan Rudd stretching to push his shot round the post.

Yet until the red card for O’Neil it was Norwich who had looked the likelier side to go ahead, albeit with some generous help from Stoke’s frequent moments of carelessness.

Ibrahim Affelay got away with a sloppy pass in the centre of the field that Dieumerci Mbokani failed to make anything of. And Jack Butland had his heart in his mouth when he left his goal area to prevent a ball going out for a corner but then hit his clearance straight to Wes Hoolahan. Fortunately for the England goalkeeper, the Ireland attacker’s attempt to shoot into the unguarded net was off target.

Stoke City striker Joselu celebrates his goal

Joselu, running on to an Arnautovic pass, had gone close for Stoke but then more haphazard defending by the home side offered Ryan Bennett a clear sight of goal and Butland needed to be at his sharpest to punch the shot clear.

Given this encouragement from Norwich’s play, O’Neil’s moment of madness was all the more mystifying. An attempt to win the ball as Affelay sought to usher it out for a Stoke throw would have been reasonable, but O’Neil chose to do so by slided in two-footed from behind, upending the Stoke player mercifully. Referee Neil Swarbrick had little choice but to produce the red card. Affelay was only a few yards inside the Norwich half, so the challenge was not only reckless but quite unnecessary.

Stoke made the advantage pay four minutes into the second half when Arnautovic floated a superb cross and Jonathan Walters arrived at the far post to crash home his 11th goal of the season.

Yet Mark Hughes’s team were still inclined to be casual and it cost them an equaliser just six minutes later when Hoolahan, given time and space on the left, found Odjidja-Ofoe, who chested the ball to the feet of Jonny Howson, on the edge of the box, who arrowed a shot into the top left-hand corner that gave Butland no chance.

Alex Neil made a double substitution, sending on Nathan Redmond and Matt Jarvis as he sought now to take at least a point, but Stoke regained the lead on 67 minutes, Affelay picking up the ball from a half-cleared cross and slipping it to Joselu, who found the corner of the net with a low drive from 20 yards.

A third goal 13 minutes from time ended any hope of a Norwich recovery, Ryan Bennett heading into his own net from Affelay’s free kick after Alex Tettey had brought down Joselu.

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