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Dec, 29, 2012

10-man Manchester City holds off Norwich

Manchester City overcame the controversial sending-off of midfielder Samir Nasri to beat Norwich 4-3 in a thrilling Premier League clash at Carrow Road on Saturday.

City, coming off a loss at Sunderland on Boxing Day, was off to a flying start when it went up 2-0 inside four minutes after Edin Dzeko's quick brace.

Norwich reduced the deficit through Anthony Pilkington's deflected free kick, before Nasri was shown a red card by referee Mike Jones on 44 minutes for putting his head into the face of Sebastien Bassong.

Sergio Aguero's neat flick made it 3-1 at the start of the second half, before Russell Martin's header reduced the deficit again.

Dzeko put City back in command at 4-2 after his shot cannoned off the post and in off goalkeeper Mark Bunn, only for Martin's scrambled effort to set up a grandstand finish.

However, Norwich -- which had beaten both Arsenal and Manchester United at Carrow Road during a 10-match unbeaten run -- could not conjure an equalizer as it suffered a third successive league defeat.

City boss Roberto Mancini -- who is already facing a Football Association probe for comments after the Sunderland game that referee Kevin Friend had "ate too much for Christmas" -- felt City was hard done by and will appeal against what is set to be a three-match ban.

"Both players came forward with their heads, so if you are going to send off one, then you have to send off both, not only Samir," Mancini said. "Samir said he touched his head, okay, but the other player has done the same. The linesman has a big responsibility also, because it was not a good decision, it is incredible. You want to send off both players? Then, okay, the referee was there, he saw everything. The linesman was behind [the players], he could not see."

City was ahead inside two minutes.

A long ball down the left was worked back inside by Aguero and David Silva for an unmarked Dzeko to sweep home from six yards.

The champions swiftly doubled their lead as play was allowed to continue after a crunching tackle from Vincent Kompany on Bradley Johnson.

Aguero was away again, darting into the right side of the Norwich penalty area before drawing the goalkeeper and then cutting the ball back to present Dzeko with another tap-in.

The Canaries had been thrashed 6-1 here by City last season, and another such defeat looked on the cards as the Blues continued to press.

There was some brief respite on 13 minutes when Kompany tripped Robert Snodgrass just outside the Manchester City penalty area.

Snodgrass looked to take the free kick himself, but instead ran over the ball and Pilkington drove in a low shot that deflected off Gael Clichy and past Joe Hart.

Bunn then needed to be alert to tip over a spooned clearance from former City full back Javier Garrido that was dropping into the Norwich net following another break from City.

City remained a threat as Yaya Toure flashed a 20-yard drive just wide following more patient build-up.

Things got ugly again just before the break when Bassong upended Nasri on the far touchline.

The duo squared up face-to-face, with Nasri pushing his head into the Norwich defender -- which on consultation with the assistant referee resulted in a red card for the France midfielder, and a caution for Bassong.

The decision perplexed City boss Mancini, and left him with some changes to mull over at halftime as the rain started to lash down.

"I am disappointed with Samir, and he will pay his fine, but the decision was not correct," Mancini said. "Samir did a mistake, okay, but after why when the other player did the same thing, does he send off only one? There are two rules for different teams, and I hate this in football and cannot accept this."

Norwich made a substitution just before the interval, with striker Steve Morison hobbling off because of what appeared to be a thigh problem and on-loan Harry Kane replacing him for a first appearance since breaking his metatarsal in September.

City was soon back on the offensive following the restart and restored its two-goal cushion on 50 minutes.

Toure delivered a perfectly-weighted angled ball that Bassong could not cut out and dropped into the path of Aguero. The Argentina forward produced an exquisite chip to beat the advancing keeper and put City back in control.

To its credit, Norwich continued to look to get back into the match, as a low shot from substitute Jonny Howson's was touched wide by Hart.

From the resulting short-corner, it was 3-2 when Bassong's header back across the six-yard box from Snodgrass' clever center was guided into the top right corner by Martin on 63 minutes.

However, City quickly restored its advantage with a breakaway down the right.

Dzeko sprung the offside trap to burst into the Norwich penalty area to beat Bunn at the near post, with the ball bouncing off the woodwork, then the keeper's back and into the net.

The match sparked into life once more with 15 minutes left when another Norwich corner caused panic in the City six-yard box as Hart could only half punch clear before Martin swept the ball in again from point-blank range.

Mancini looked to shore things up when he replaced Dzeko with defender Joleon Lescott.

Bunn redeemed himself with a brilliant one-handed save from Aguero at point-blank range.

Despite five minutes of stoppage time, there was to be no more drama as City closed out what could prove to be a crucial victory.

"I am delighted with the result and the performance," Mancini said. "In the first few minutes, we played some fantastic football and scored two goals, but after the sending off it was difficult, however, we fought well."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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