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2 December 2012
• Carrow Road, Norwich, Norfolk
Referee: P. Dowd
• Attendance: 26228
S. Bassong 8'
A. Pilkington 37'
C. Gardner 44'
Anyway, that'll be all from me, Sam Wells, thanks for listening and head to goal.com for post-match reaction from today's game.
The loss piles pressure on O'Neill and, arguably, for good reason. Up until the Gardner goal, they barely featured in the game, though they may well feel unfortunate that they didn't manage to capitalise on their second-half performance and find that elusive equaliser. The open-goal miss from Kilgallon in particular seemed emblematic of the Black Cats' wastefulness - a wastefulness O'Neill will have to eradicate if he wants to avoid more relegation-related strife.
And Phil Dowd brings the game to a close here at Carrow Road. It was truly a tale of two halves; Sunderland were abject in the first but strong in the second, but remained unable to get that vital equaliser. A goal apiece from Bassong and Pilkington ultimately proved to be too much of a deficit to overturn for the Black Cats.
90' + 4'
Gardner whips it in low and straight into Bunn's arms; a disappointing end to a disappointing game for O'Neill's outfit.
90' + 3'
With a minute remaining, Sessengon buys a free-kick off Bennett; it's in a dangerous wide position and Gardner limbers up to take it.
90' + 2'
Danny Rose puts in a decent cross and it's headed back by Gardner but it's behind Campbell and he can't divert it goalwards.
Four minutes injury time here and Sunderland are piling the pressure on but Adam Johnson overhits his cross. Substitute Frazier Campbell does well to retrieve it, playing it into Sessengon but the forward's cross unfortunately rebounds off him for a goal-kick.
Danny Rose, getting forward once again, gets into the Norwich box and goes down hopefully. He gets nothing and there isn't much of an appeal; a fairly pathetic attempt at a dive.
Hoolahan remains a thorn in Sunderland's side as he retains possession to buy some time for the home team. He then earns a free-kick from Danny Rose - a silly challenge given how little time the away side have left
Sunderland remain camped outside the home side's area and it takes a speculative effort from Danny Rose to relive pressure for Norwich as it flies well wide of goal.
It remains end-to-end stuff here, both sides could easily grab another goal. As cliched and obvious as it may seem, the next goal is truly vital.
Holt fires over after good wing-play from Bennett, a difficult chance and Pilkington is unhappy as he felt he was in a better position.
Absolutely brilliant play from Hoolahan as the diminutive playmaker manages to worm his way past opposition players, but the ball to Holt was just too strong.
The ensuing corner eventually comes out to Rose who, from thirty-yards out, fires a sublime volley at Bunn. Bunn spills it and Wickham taps home the rebound, only to be ruled offside. He was a couple of yards off but a lovely effort from the Sunderland left-back!
Sessengon's beginning to enjoy himself out there, causing the home side problems. Nice hold-up play from the Benin international leads to a corner.
Norwich almost capitalise on yet another set-piece. Bassong flicked it across the face of goal and it ended up coming out to Hoolahan but the forward's effort was deflected out for a corner.
Sessengon then puts Rose through but, advancing on the area, he tries to find Wickham, only for an excellent Bassong challenge to prevent the former Ipswich man getting anywhere near it.
A long-ball flicked on by Wickham bounces up in the area and, with Norwich's defence all at sea, Sessengon tries an extravagant overhead kick but it goes well wide.
However, Sunderland are getting increasingly frustrated. Sessengon launches himself into a rash challenge after a misplaced pass gifts Norwich possession.
Norwich's passing is going increasingly askew here; that goal from Gardner has changed the colour of this tie completely - the second half has been unrecognisable from the first.
It's end-to-end stuff here, both sides are losing the ball and winning it back in quick succession. It's becoming increasingly scrappy as Norwich look to stifle the away side's threat.
The tempo is high, surely it's just a matter of time before the next goal gets in - you'd expect it to be Sunderland but it could go either way here!
The pressure is relentless as Rose puts a lovely ball into the feet of Sessengon. A lovely touch from the forward takes it past Bennett but, on his left, he can only fire into the hands of Bunn.
And from that corner, the ball is cleared off the line by Norwich! Bunn punches uneasily and an effort from Gardner finds it way past him, only to be cleared from the line by Garrido.
This is end-to-end stuff as Sunderland earn a corner through good work from Sessengon. The corner is headed behind by Bassong for yet another corner.
Yellow Card Phil Bardsley
Another set piece causes ample problems here, this time it's Norwich's turn. Garrido puts in a dangerous delivery from a deep free-kick and Mignolet isn't sure whether to come or not; Holt can't capitalise on the keepers indecision, ultimately heading it away from goal as he gets his angles wrong.
Instead it's Craig Gardner who causes them problems! From 30 yards out he fires a dipping shot onto the post; the rebound falls to Kilgallon and the centre-back misses a sitter, firing over after being practically presented with an open goal!
Sunderland have got a free-kick in a dangerous position here; Larsson could cause them problems here.
Pilkington fires a shot goalwards after impressive work from Tettey but Mignolet palms it wide easily enough.
Sunderland continue to dominate as an Adam Johnson cross is cleared by Bassong; he's had a good game at the back today and it looks like he's still got his work cut out for him out there.
The corner finds it way to Cuellar via a neat flick-on by McClean but Bassong's block puts paid to their hopes of an early second half equaliser, for now at least. But Sunderland look much more potent going forward this half.
The lively start continues as Wickham, to an even louder chorus of boos, forces a corner from Bassong.
In a frantic opening to second half, Norwich respond to Sunderland's pressure by going up the other end and returning the favour. They are unable to work an opening as Holt is called for offside.
Sunderland have already started better in the second half as they manage to work opening in the Norwich box, an excellent last-ditch Bennett challenge denying Wickham an easy finish.
Of course, having played for Ipswich Town, Wickham is welcome by a chorus of boos from the home side's support. The young striker will be eager to take his chance to impress, having featured rarely under O'Neill thus far.
Sunderland kick-off the second half, as Steve Fletcher is forced off with an ankle injury, Connor Wickham coming onto replace him.
Whether Sunderland can rectify those creativity issues in the second half is up for debate; a debate that will soon be answered as the teams prepare to come out for the second forty-five - this should be interesting!
Sunderland have actually had more shots than the home side - seven compared to Norwich's five - but they have predominantly been hopeful long-range efforts, with six of the seven coming from shots outside the area. The Canaries have done well to nullify the threat of Sessegnon with Fletcher looking isolated upfront, deprived of decent service.
Sunderland, on the other hand, will surely be buoyed by that goal after a completely lifeless first-half performance. Sessegnon has looked off the pace and, with McClean and Johnson, aside from that assist, being fairly anonymous, the Black Cats have looked dangerously short on creativity. Perhaps that late goal can change that.
As the referee blows for half-time, Norwich are still reeling from that Craig Gardner goal, which, though against the run of play, has brought this game back to life. Norwich will be bitterly disappointed to go into this half having conceded, with Bunn, other than the goal, only having been tested by one hopeful long-range effort from Danny Rose.
45' + 1'
Norwich go up the other end straight away and almost manage to work an opening through the impressive Wes Hoolahan. Rose puts in a decent challenge to prevent Holt from getting on the end of his ball.
Assist Adam Johnson
Goal Craig Gardner
Somehow, the away side have managed to get a goal back! A speculative effort from Craig Gardner after a good run from the thus far quiet Adam Johnson finds its way inside the right-hand post! Bunn should probably do better there to be honest. That could be the catalyst that Sunderland needed.
Norwich are sitting back but the away side don't seem capable of turning their possession into a chance as Johnson chips a hopeful cross into the arms of Mark Bunn.
Sunderland are beginning to get a foothold on the game but Gardner wastes it when he puts a simple pass out for a throw-in; the malaise is affecting the whole side.
That's better from the away side: Craig Gardner beats a man and fires a shot goalwards with his left foot but it flashes past the left post.
Sunderland look on the ropes here as a Whittaker cross finds it way into the arms of Mignolet, they need to find something from somewhere here - Norwich look comfortable out there.
Assist Bradley Johnson
Goal Anthony Pilkington
Goal! Norwich get their second after lovely play from Anthony Pilkington, Bradley Johnson setting the midfielder away and, with Cuellar tracking him, he turns the centre-back well and fires it past Mignolet into the corner. Took that really well.
Still, Sunderland are definitely coming more into the game after a submissive start. They're getting more possession but doing little with it.
Sunderland are in a dangerous position but Adam Johnson gives the ball away with a careless pass; that encapsulates Sunderland's first-half performance.
The free-kick comes to nothing as Kilgallon heads an Adam Johnson cross way over the bar.
Sunderland get another set piece in a dangerous position; this time a free-kick as Bradley Johnson gives away yet another foul.
And it almost leads to a goal! A clever ball to the unmarked Danny Rose on the edge of the area means that Bunn is tested for the first time, the on-loan left back driving it into the goalkeepers arms, who just manages to hold onto it.
Sunderland earn their first corner of the game.
Another one of Sunderland's pass goes awry and Norwich are gifted possession once again. The home side are playing with confidence here, completely in contrast with the away team.
Sunderland are finally getting some possession but it's all fairly aimless with no real penetration from O'Neill's side.
Adam Johnson and James McClean have switched wings, the latter coming to the right and the former to the left; illustrating how little joy the away side have had so far.
A long-distance effort from hitherto impressive Tettey is blocked by Larsson but Sunderland are living dangerously here.
Sunderland look very uneasy out there; a poor Mignolet clearance leads to a driving Snodgrass run but the chance eventually comes to nothing.
After Norwich's pressure finally abates, a long-ball finds its way to Sessegnon about 35 yards out - the forward's awful effort sliced out for a throw-in.
Perhaps not though as Norwich continue to probe just outside Sunderland's area, the nimble footwork of Snodgrass and Hoolahan causing the away side problems.
James McClean tries an extravagant overhead kick after a Fletcher flick-on from a long ball but to no avail. Very ambitious and not particularly well executed. Perhaps a sign of better things to come though?
It will be interesting to see how the Black Cats react to that early blow. It doesn't appear as if it will stoke any great comeback from them at the moment, as they concede their first corner of the game, Bassong eventually heading wide after a short corner.
Norwich's strong start warranted a goal but Sunderland will be disappointed as to how they conceded it. Their were claims for offside but the flick-on from the free-kick came from Cuellar's arm so they were unjustified claims.
Goal S. Bassong
And he does! A whipped in cross from Snodgrass finds its way to Bassong who turns it home from close range, a scrappy opener but an opener nonetheless!
Rose commits a foul in a dangerous position after nice interplay from Norwich's midfield. He could live to regret that.
Sunderland finally find themselves in Norwich's half but Adam Johnson fires wastefully over from 30 yards out.
Norwich almost find an opening through a long-ball up to Holt but the header finds Mignolet's arms. The big man already appears to be causing problems for the away side.
Yellow Card Matthew Kilgallon
Holt turns Kilgallon well and the Sunderland centre-back rashly dives in, earning himself the ignominy of an early booking in the process.
Norwich have started the game in the ascendancy, retaining possession well but not really doing anything with it.
Norwich have kicked off, kicking from left to right.
The teams are now out on the pitch as both sides prepare for kick-off. Our man Ryan Benson is enjoying the atmosphere: "Teams now coming out with Grant Holt and Phil Bardsley leading their respective sides out. Carrow Road is as packed as ever and the crowd greet the players with great applause."
Ryan Benson is live at Carrow Road, let's hear from him as he awaits the teams' imminent arrival: "The teams are just about to come out here with the Carrow Road stands filling up nicely. Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill was adamant in the build-up to this match that he wouldn't be quitting his post anytime soon, but with just two Premier League wins so far this season and a far-from-easy test here today, he is under pressure."
The away side make one enforced change from the team that drew 0-0 against Stoke as, with Lee Cattermole ruled out with a knee injury, James McClean comes into the side on the wing, pushing Sebastian Larsson into the centre of the park alongside Craig Gardner.
The hosts name an unchanged side from the team that earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Southampton last Wednesday, with Mark Bunn continuing to deputise for the injured John Ruddy in goal.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Bardsley, Kilgallon, Cuellar, Rose; Johnson, Gardner, Larsson, McClean; Sessegnon, Fletcher. Subs: Westwood, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Colback, Vaughan, Bramble.
Norwich: Bunn; Whittaker, Bassong, Ryan Bennett, Garrido; Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson, Pilkington; Hoolahan, Holt. Subs: Rudd, Martin, Howson, Jackson, Morison, Elliott Bennett, Barnett.
And here are the team lineups...
It is likely to be a tense encounter with only three points separating the two sides as Sunderland sit just one point above the relegation zone, compared to Norwich's four. However, the Canaries are on a good run of form, having not lost in eight games; this in stark contrast with Sunderland, who have managed a solitary win from their last eight and are slowly drifting towards the foot of the table. Let's hope for an entertaining game anyway!
Good afternoon and welcome to goal.com's live coverage of today's Premier League clash between Norwich City and Sunderland, I'm Sam Wells and I'll be guiding you through today's proceedings.
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