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Manchester City overcame the sending-off of midfielder Samir Nasri to beat Norwich City 4-3 in a thrilling Barclays Premier League clash at Carrow Road.
The champions, beaten at Sunderland on Boxing Day, were off to a flying start when they went 2-0 up inside four minutes through Edin Dzeko’s quick brace. Norwich reduced the deficit through Anthony Pilkington’s deflected free-kick before Nasri was shown a red card by referee Mike Jones after 44 minutes for putting his head into the face of Sebastien Bassong.
Sergio Aguero’s neat flick made it 3-1 at the start of the second half before Russell Martin’s header cut the deficit again. Dzeko put City back in command at 4-2 after his shot cannoned off a post and in off goalkeeper Mark Bunn, only for Martin’s scrambled effort to set up a grandstand finish. However, Norwich - who had beaten Arsenal and Manchester United at Carrow Road during a 10-match unbeaten run - could not conjure an equaliser as they suffered a third successive league defeat.
City were ahead inside two minutes. A long ball down the left was worked back inside by Aguero and David Silva for an unmarked Dzeko to sweep home from six yards
The champions swiftly doubled their lead. Play was allowed to continue after a crunching tackle from Vincent Kompany on Bradley Johnson. Aguero was away again, darting into the right side of the Norwich penalty area before drawing the goalkeeper and cutting the ball back to present Dzeko with another tap-in.
Norwich had been thrashed 6-1 here by City last season and another such defeat looked on the cards as Roberto Mancini’s side continued to press. There was some brief respite after 13 minutes when Kompany tripped Robert Snodgrass just outside the Manchester City penalty area.
The Scotland midfielder shaped to take the free-kick himself but instead ran over the ball as Pilkington drove in a low shot that deflected off Gael Clichy and past Joe Hart.
Bunn needed to be alert to tip over a spooned clearance from former City full-back Javier Garrido which was dropping into the Norwich net after another lighting break from the visitors. City remained a threat as Yaya Toure flashed a 20-yard drive just wide following more patient build-up from the champions.
Just before the break when Bassong upended Nasri on the far touchline. The duo squared up, with Nasri pushing his head into the Norwich defender - which on consultation with the assistant referee resulted in a red card for the France midfielder and a caution for Bassong.
Norwich made a substitution just before the interval, with striker Steve Morison hobbling off because of what appeared to be a thigh problem and on-loan Harry Kane replacing him for a first appearance since breaking his metatarsal in September.
City were soon back on the offensive following the restart and restored their two-goal cushion after 50 minutes. Toure delivered a perfectly weighted angled ball that Bassong could not cut out and dropped into the path of Aguero. The Argentina forward produced an exquisite chip to beat the advancing Bunn and put City back in control.
To their credit the home side continued to look to get back into the match, as a low shot from substitute Jonny Howson’s was touched wide by Hart. From the resulting short-corner, it was 3-2 when Bassong’s header back across the six-yard box from Snodgrass’s centre was guided into the top right corner by Martin after 63 minutes.
City quickly restored their advantage as the broke away down the right. Dzeko sprung the offside trap to burst into the Norwich penalty area to beat Bunn at the near post, the ball bouncing off the woodwork, the goalkeeper’s back and into the net.
With 15 minutes left when another Norwich corner caused panic in the City six-yard box as Hart could only half-punch clear before Martin swept the ball in again from point-blank range.
Mancini looked to shore things up when he replaced Dzeko with defender Joleon Lescott. Bunn stopped another goal with a brilliant one-handed save from Aguero at point-blank range. Despite five minutes of stoppage time, there was to be no more drama as City closed out what could prove to be a crucial victory.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: "Manchester City showed why they spend the amount of money they do for the offensive players they have, but you can’t be 2-0 down so early on and expect to have a good day. However, we displayed great character and certainly at 4-3 it seemed it might be going our way, but again they showed real good quality. I cannot fault the endeavour of the players we have got, so now we will look to go again."
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: “We played fantastic football for 25 minutes and we deserved to score three or four goals. After the sending off for Samir Nasri, with 10 men it was difficult. Edin did very well today, he scored two or three goals. Clearly if the strikers score, it’s easy. We decided to play Edin in the last three days because now we play three or four games in 10 days, we need all of our players to be fresh.
“It’s not important to look at the table because it’s not final but we need only to work, to win and then maybe we’ll look again at the table in February. With ten players it’s difficult, Norwich are a good team but we showed we are there for the title. We fight for every game, the guys were fantastic.”
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