Robbie Brady shines, Norwich drop points from a winning position again
Norwich City have cornered the market in Premier League entertainment but the Canaries may rue more dropped points in a pulsating 2-2 draw against West Ham Saturday.
Alex Neil's side were 2-0 up just past the hour mark at Carrow Road with Robbie Brady thumping a long-range strike past Adrian before Wes Hoolahan slotted a low effort past the West Ham keeper after anticipating Steven Naismith's deflected strike.
But in the same manner they contrived to let Liverpool back into a league game that finished 5-4 to the Reds last month, Norwich crumbled again.
Dimtri Payet celebrated signing his new long-term West Ham contract with a sliding far post finish after Victor Moses had powered away from Timm Klose.The Swiss international was then slow to close down Payet two minutes later, who picked out the late-arriving Mark Noble to crash an unstoppable finish past the recalled John Ruddy.
Emmanuel Emenike should have won it for Slaven Bilic's side when he miscued from point blank range but it was the hosts who almost snatched an improbable win deep in stoppage time when Adrian foiled Nathan Redmond.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK John Ruddy, 6 -- Ruddy re-joined the Norwich starting XI for the first time since November 29. He mustered a fine tip over from Enner Valencia in the first half and deserved better luck when Dimitri Payet pounced on his parry from Victor Moses for West Ham's first goal.
DF Russell Martin, 6 -- The full-back had a tough assignment up against West Ham's Dimitri Payet. Martin subdued the French international for over an hour but left him unattended to score the first and to set-up the second Hammers' goal.
DF Timm Klose, 5 -- Turned too easily by Victor Moses and then no match in a leg race during the build up to West Ham's first goal. Failed to prevent Payet from picking out Mark Noble to lash West Ham level.
DF Seb Bassong, 6 -- Could have earned Norwich a remarkable win deep in stoppage time when his close range shot was deflected behind. Struggled with the powerful intent of substitute Emmanuel Emenike.
DF Robbie Brady, 8 -- This was Brady's best outing in a City shirt for many a week. Superb right-footed finish off the underside of the bar put Norwich ahead after robbing Michail Antonio in central midfield. Denied the wide player at the other end with a last-ditch block. Clipped two free kicks just over the bar as well. Action-packed.
MF Jonny Howson, 7 -- Moved into a central role and seemed to relish being back in familiar surroundings. Whipped a half-volley just over the bar prior to the interval.
MF Gary O'Neil, 6 -- Keen to impress against his old club. Covered many an acre in front of Norwich's back four but simply too many fires to put out when West Ham swarmed forward in the final quarter.
MF Nathan Redmond, 6 -- More defensive protection gave him the licence to roam forward. Careless at times in possession but a clever back heel triggered Norwich's second goal.
MF Wes Hoolahan, 7 -- Slotted a cool second goal after a fortuitous deflection dropped into his path. A rare miscued pass just prior to that, however, with Cameron Jerome free in a central position.
MF Steven Naismith, 6 -- His deflected shot spiraled towards Wes Hoolahan to put Norwich 2-0 up. Great work-ethic in tracking back to support Robbie Brady down the left.
FW Cameron Jerome, 7 -- Harassed West Ham's two centre-backs from the start. Worked the channels all game and carved out three tempting crosses, but there were no takers in green and yellow.
DF Martin Olsson, n/a -- Introduced for the tiring Steven Naismith in a bid to shore up City's back-line after conceding a first goal, but within seconds of his arrival Mark Noble had leveled for the visitors.
FW Dieumerci Mbokani, n/a -- Provided extra ballast and an out-ball in the frantic final moments.
MF Graham Dorrans, n/a -- Precious little time to make any impact or pick up the fraught tempo.
Paddy is the chief Norwich City correspondent for media group Archant. He has covered the Canaries for more than 10 years. Twitter: @paddyjdavitt.