When your team comes up against an opponent of giant proportions, there are two possible mentalities available to the coach; buckle down and prepare for damage limitation or play your own game and hope to get something for your bravery. In Saturday’s game away at Stamford Bridge, Paul Lambert made it clear, we will pursue the latter.
We may have lost 3-1 to a Chelsea side that really failed to inspire the imagination, but the performance was competitive and deserving of more than the nothing we received.
Steve Morrison came on to decent effect, his final touches were just not there this week. He could have had a couple of goals and a couple of assists. At one point, a premier pass from Holt over the top put Morrison one-on-one with Hilario in the Chelsea goal. Morrison’s touch too many gave John Terry the chance to be the hero when Morrison should have been claiming the plaudits in front of the boisterous travelling City fans behind the goal.
Up until that point, we were worthy of a point and arguably the more likely to take all three points.
The unfortunate collision between Ruddy and Drogba made my stomach churn. The way the Ivory Coast international hit the ground was a frightening site and a speedy recovery will be in the best interest of the Premier League. Not least of all, for John Ruddy. Psychologically, the guilt of causing harm to a fellow professional is difficult to shake and it could be argued that the sickening incident was still in Ruddy’s mind as he slid out to concede the penalty to Ramires, who couldn’t wait to lie on Stamford Bridge’s luscious green grass.
Our third penalty conceded in as many games and second red card of the season is enough to make us feel a little bullied. With the world's eyes watching, referees seem determined to give the benefit of the doubt to the attacking players and, dare I say, to the bigger name team. I'm not about to claim ill-treatment so early in the season, but let's hope this unfortunate run of decisions has reached its end.
As it was against Stoke, the red card was the turning point in the match. We could argue all day about whether Ramires was going away from goal and if there was in fact covering defenders, but the fact remains that in a pivotal moment, we were caught by an electrifying counter attack. The outcome saw John Ruddy fail to get an important touch on the ball. From then, the game should have been all over.
This is why Norwich will prove to be among the most enjoyable teams to follow in this year’s Premier League. Losing 2-1, down to 10 men, with about 20 minutes to play, away to one of the biggest teams in Europe, we left Steve Morrison and Grant Holt up front and continued to chase an equalizer and the City strikers almost found it.
There is great pride in a heroic performance, but it does little to ease the pain of a loss. There were errors and this will take some of the shine of an enjoyable visit to London.
Just as they were at the end of the Stoke match, the defence started with an extremely deep defensive line against the Blues and again we were punished for it. Taking nothing from Bosingwa’s phenomenal long-range strike, we will learn quickly not to give players of his quality the time to line-up those shots.
Missed opportunities and conceding a penalty hurt us, again, it was a late defensive gaffe from the otherwise outstanding Ritchie De Laet that cost us the third goal and cemented our first loss of the season. These defensive errors have been consistent among all of the newly promoted teams. While watching QPR and Swansea in the openings games, it was abundantly clear that the step up to the Premier League requires more assertion at the back. There’s zero room for hesitation or misplaced passes in this league. They almost always get punished.
While the positives that come from a game like Saturday’s are many and substantial, City now find themselves in somewhat of a predicament ahead of the West Brom game in two weeks.
With Ruddy injured, Declan Rudd will make his first Premier League start without a backup keeper on the bench. Zak Whitbread has been added to the injury list, alongside fellow centre backs Elliott Ward and new signing Daniel Ayala. With goals seemingly hard to come by, the absence of James Vaughan is of increasing interest. Norwich will look to him to bring some pace to a physically strong City frontline the could use an injection of speed.
The hope is that the two week international break will give one or two players a chance to find match fitness and for Lambert to work some more magic at our Colney training facility. One thing is not up for debate; a Premier League win is not far away.
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