Gary O'Neil sent off as Norwich crumble at Stoke
Published 13/01/2016 | 22:01
Norwich proved instrumental in their own downfall as they succumbed to a 3-1 Barclays Premier League defeat at Stoke.
With the score at 0-0, the Canaries were reduced to 10 men in the 31st minute when Gary O'Neil was sent off for an utterly needless slide tackle on Ibrahim Afellay.
After then falling behind to Jonathan Walters' 49th-minute effort, Norwich did well to level six minutes later through a cracking Jonny Howson strike.
But Stoke regained the lead via Joselu's smart finish in the 67th minute, and the away side then shot themselves in the foot again as Ryan Bennett's own-goal 12 minutes from time sealed victory for the hosts.
Norwich remain five points clear of the relegation zone in 15th place, but will be disappointed with their efforts here after registering three wins in their previous four league fixtures.
The Potters, meanwhile, now have three victories from four top-flight games themselves and are up to seventh.
Stoke - with most of the players rested for Saturday's FA Cup game back in their side, but not hamstring injury victim Xherdan Shaqiri - made a positive start to the contest.
Marko Arnautovic brought a decent save out of Declan Rudd having received a fine lofted pass from Joselu, who was then just unable to finish on the stretch as the same Potters pair combined again.
Howson sent Norwich's first real effort into the stand, before both Walters and Joselu put the ball wide from Arnautovic tee-ups.
The home side seemed in control, but they survived a scare when Wes Hoolahan collected the ball direct from a poor Jack Butland kick only to send it wide.
Butland then quickly redeemed himself, pulling off a great diving stop to push away Bennett's strike.
Moments later, Norwich found themselves a man down in baffling circumstances after O'Neil opted to make a lunging tackle from behind on Afellay, despite the ball having already more or less run out of play in front of them down by the dugouts.
The challenge absolutely clattered Afellay and left referee Neil Swarbrick with little option but to produce the red card for O'Neil.
Walters looped a shot over the bar, then Arnautovic completely miss-kicked in a decent position as Stoke looked to make their man advantage count.
And soon after the break it was that duo who fashioned the opener, Arnautovic whipping in a delightful cross that Walters tucked away with the visitors' defence static.
Things looked grim for Norwich, but the 10 men then shocked their hosts with a swift and emphatic response as Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe chested a Hoolahan cross down on the edge of the box and Howson lashed into the corner.
Canaries boss Alex Neil looked eager to seize the moment as he sent Matt Jarvis and Nathan Redmond on not long after, but within only a few minutes of that, Stoke's lead was restored, Sebastien Bassong's attempt at a clearance only coming to Afellay, whose pass was slotted in coolly by Joselu.
Bennett then inadvertently made the points safe for the opposition, nodding Afellay's free-kick past Rudd, who did well late on to deny Stoke substitute Peter Crouch.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Not the result we wanted always up against it with 10 men big game sat another tough away game. Great travelling fans get home safe." - Cameron Jerome thanks the travelling Norwich fans for their efforts after a disappointing defeat.
Jack Butland: 6
Glen Johnson: 6
Ryan Shawcross: 6
Philipp Wollscheid: 6
Erik Pieters: 6
Glenn Whelan: 6
Ibrahim Afellay: 7
Jonathan Walters: 8
Bojan Krkic: 5
Marko Arnautovic: 8
Peter Odemwingie: 6
Marco van Ginkel: 6
Peter Crouch: 6
Declan Rudd: 6
Russell Martin: 6
Ryan Bennett: 6
Sebastien Bassong: 5
Robbie Brady: 6
Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe: 7
Gary O'Neil: 4
Jonny Howson: 7
Alexander Tettey: 6
Wes Hoolahan: 6
Dieumerci Mbokani: 6
Nathan Redmond: 5
Matt Jarvis: 5
Cameron Jerome: 5
Joselu. Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters were also key performers, but certainly this was a fine display from the Spaniard on what was only his fourth Premier League start, and first since October. His neat goal was just reward for his efforts.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Jonny Howson's goal. It was rendered meaningless in the end, but Norwich's equaliser featured nice build-up and a wonderful finish from Howson.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Gary O'Neil's red card was a true moment of madness from the midfielder as he took down Ibrahim Afellay. It made an already tricky-looking task for his side all the more difficult - and was entirely unnecessary.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Mark Hughes will be delighted to see his Stoke side build upon their FA Cup win on Saturday, having not let the opportunity presented by the red card go to waste. Things are looking very promising for the Potters, with them now sat in seventh position.
While Norwich boss Alex Neil will surely be livid at O'Neil for his sending-off, Ryan Bennett's own-goal was more unfortunate than anything else - but ultimately, the Canaries were left to rue mistakes as they failed to extend the gap between them and the drop zone.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Stoke City v Arsenal (Barclays Premier League, January 17)
Bournemouth v Norwich (Barclays Premier League, January 16)