Hughton has Norwich purring despite strong Swansea comeback in thriller
Swansea 3-4 Norwich
Published 08/12/2012 | 17:07
NORWICH held off Swansea's second-half fightback to extend their unbeaten run to 10 games with a thrilling win at the Liberty Stadium.
The Canaries had stunned their high-flying hosts with goals from Steven Whittaker, Sebastien Bassong and Grant Holt giving them a 3-0 half-time lead.
Swansea rallied through strikes from Michu and Jonathan De Guzman, but Robert Snodgrass made sure of the win with an excellent free-kick, before Michu netted again in injury time.
Both sides' excellent recent form suggested a tight encounter, but Norwich blew those predictions out of the water with a superb first-half display to punish the sluggish Swans, who were without the injured Leon Britton.
The combination of a tigerish midfield effort from the likes of Snodgrass, Jonny Howson and Wes Hoolahan, and the same trio's neat link work in attack, proved too much for their hosts to contend with.
There were warning signs inside the opening seconds as Bradley Johnson met Snodgrass' corner to force a save from Gerhard Tremmel.
The pressure built as Swansea were hassled and harried out of their rhythm and Howson rattled the base of the post after seizing on Ben Davies' weak defensive header.
The Canaries took a deserved lead in the 16th minute. Snodgrass laid the ball off to Whittaker, and the ex-Rangers man was allowed to run and run before cutting in and firing low past Tremmel for his first Norwich goal.
Snodgrass forced another save from Tremmel as he cut in from the right flank, before Swansea briefly rediscovered some of the zip that had seen them rise as high as seventh in the table.
Their first genuine goalscoring chance came after 28 minutes. Danny Graham did well to connect with De Guzman's flicked cross, only to see his header come back off the bar.
Michu almost lucked into an equaliser five minutes later, the Spaniard's drive took a huge deflection off Wayne Routledge to leave Mark Bunn stranded, but the ball spun just wide of his right-hand post.
Swansea had been building momentum, but they were stopped in their tracks as Bassong struck for the third time in four games.
Holt hoisted a cross to the far post, where the defender rose above Davies to beat Tremmel at the German's near post.
Just two minutes later it was 3-0. Snodgrass' perfectly delivered free-kick picked out an unmarked Holt, who easily steered his header beyond Tremmel to cap a superb first half for the Canaries.
Johnson almost made it 4-0 just two minutes after the break.
Angel Rangel gifted the ball to the visitors on the edge of his own box and Howson's delightful lobbed pass picked out his midfield partner who manufactured an outside of the foot volley which struck the bar.
Michu gave Swansea a route back into the game as he slotted into the far corner from Davies' low ball across the box in the 51st minute.
The Spaniard almost turned provider for Graham, and Bunn had to make a sharp save to deny the striker with Norwich starting to show signs of nerves and the game bearing little resemblance to the opening 45 minutes.
Those nerves only increased as Swansea got back within a goal on 59 minutes. Nathan Dyer outpaced Javier Garrido down the flank, and when his cross was not cleared De Guzman volleyed in.
Graham could have levelled eight minutes later but Garrido did superbly to intervene as the striker ran in on goal.
His replacement Itay Shechter had the ball in the net soon after as Bunn failed to hold the ball under pressure from Michu, but referee Howard Webb ruled the Spaniard had fouled the keeper.
Michu then headed wide as he made a trademark late arrival into the box, before Norwich doused Swansea's fire with their fourth of the afternoon.
Ashley Williams was adjudged to have hauled down Holt, but was only booked by Webb despite clearly being the last man.
Snodgrass stepped up to curl home a beautiful strike from the resulting free-kick and secure the points for Norwich, meaning Michu's second in injury time was not enough for Swansea.