Leeds United vs Norwich City 2-2 19. feb 2011

Norwich withstand Leeds storm in breathless encounter at Elland Road

Leeds United 2
  • Becchio 16,
  • Somma 75
  • Norwich City 2
    • Lansbury 45+1,
    • Hoolahan 69

    Among the conclusions that could be legitimately drawn from this match of furious commitment and pace was that if either or indeed both of these sides are promoted at the end of this season they will add considerably to the entertainment value of the Premier League.

    “Over the course of the game we made enough chances to be disappointed not to have won it, but it was a fantastic game between two teams trying to win it right to the end and to play the game in the right manner,” said the Leeds manager, Simon Grayson.

    Strength in depth is likely to be an important factor during the run-in, and it was always going to be interesting to see how Norwich would cope without their central defender Leon Barnett, whose form since arriving on loan, and subsequently permanently, from West Bromwich Albion has been impressively solid. The American Zak Whitbread – who has had injury problems of his own – started in Barnett’s place alongside Adam Drury.

    Much of the focus in the run-up to the game was on the Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass, and the 23-year-old Scot was influential throughout. Jonathan Howson had already gone close when, after Max Gradel was fouled, Luciano Becchio got in front of Whitbread to get his head to Snodgrass’s free-kick. John Ruddy, the City goalkeeper, reacted superbly to deflect the ball on to his left-hand post before grabbing the rebound.

    United’s pace and urgency when given any space going forward was causing Norwich constant problems, and it was no surprise when Gradel’s cross from the left was glanced on by Snodgrass for Becchio, jumping at the far post, to bundle over the line. It was the Argentine’s 15th league goal of the season, which means he has already matched his return in each of the two previous seasons.

    Norwich came within inches of equalising almost immediately, Elliott Ward’s slow-motion header bouncing high as it passed Kasper Schmeichel’s outstretched hand before hitting the outside of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post.

    Shortly after the half-hour David Fox brought a diving save from Schmeichel with a dipping, swerving 30-yard drive, but otherwise, United’s dominance was almost total.

    Eight minutes before half-time they could not have come closer to extending their lead, when Eric Lichaj, played into the penalty area by Snodgrass cut the ball back into the six-yard box. Howson’s first close-range shot was blocked by a defender, but the goalkeeper had no chance with the second, and could only watch as it came back off the underside of the bar. Howson had a third go at the ball as it bounced up, but his attempted scissors kick flew wide.

    That Norwich would go in level could not have been easily predicted, but Paul Lambert’s team is nothing if not resilient. In stoppage time Grant Holt got his head to Andrew Crofts’s deep cross, teeing the ball up for Henri Lansbury, unmarked in the area, to thump past Schmeichel. It was the on-loan Arsenal youngster’s third goal in three games.

    It seemed unlikely that the second half could be as breathless, but it was. Norwich emerged re-energised, and with Leeds also continuing to attack, the game swung from end to end with bewildering rapidity.

    Schmeichel’s save from Wes Hoolahan’s shot was unconvincing and it took a fine block by Whitbread to deflect Howson’s shot just wide.

    Shortly after the hour Norwich took the lead. Ward won the ball in midfield, Crofts picked out Hoolahan running into the area, and the midfielder squeezed his shot beyond Schmeichel and over the line.

    Back came Leeds, and Grayson sent on Davide Somma, the South Africa striker whose goalscoring record off the bench this season is extraordinary.

    Becchio jumped with Whitbread, the ball looped up into the air, and with his first touch, Somma volleyed the ball past Ruddy from the edge of the penalty area.

    Both sides might have scored the winner, but Leeds went closest when Billy Paynter’s stoppage-time shot was pushed just past the post by the Norwich goalkeeper, John Ruddy.

    “You’re not going to come here and not have to withstand a storm, but all credit to my team, we did that and gave as good as we got,” said Lambert. “We’re in the mix with Leeds and a few others, and it’s going to go to the end of the season.”

    He paid particular tribute to Whitbread, and also to Hoolahan, who covered a genuinely extraordinary amount of ground for the Canaries.


    Saturday 19 February 2011 15.00

        Score line  
    Score Leeds United 2 – 2 (HT 1 – 1) Norwich City
    1. Becchio 16
    1. Somma 75
    1. Lansbury 45+1
    1. Hoolahan 69
      Johnson 66 McCartney 70
      Lansbury 44 Ward 50
    Leeds United
    • Kasper Schmeichel,
    • Alex Bruce,
    • George McCartney,
    • Eric Lichaj,
    • Andy O’Brien,
    • Max Gradel,
    • Neil Kilkenny (Davide Somma, 73),
    • Bradley Johnson,
    • Jonathan Howson,
    • Robert Snodgrass,
    • Luciano Becchio (Billy Paynter, 91)
    Norwich City
    • John Ruddy,
    • Zak Whitbread,
    • Elliott Ward,
    • Russell Martin,
    • Adam Drury (Marc Tierney, 91),
    • David Fox,
    • Andrew Crofts,
    • Henri Lansbury (Andrew Surman, 74),
    • Wes Hoolahan,
    • Grant Holt,
    • Aaron Wilbraham
    Referee Neil Swarbrick
    Venue Elland Road
    Attendance 31,601


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