Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Norwich 2 Sunderland 1

Talk about upward mobility. Aged only 42 and only five years into his English management career, Paul Lambert has experienced all four divisions, his meteoric rise now taking in the top half of the Premier League. Modesty personified, Lambert deflects all praise on to his players, but nothing can hide his substance as a new force in the nation’s technical areas.

On a raucous night at Carrow Road, his well-organised, well-motivated Norwich City went ninth, following a deserved if briefly nervy victory over an alarmingly anaemic Sunderland. Next stop for Lambert’s neat side? Old Trafford.

Even against the champions, and with a team built for a fraction of a £17m Ashley Young, Lambert is unlikely to sacrifice his principles. He will attack down the flanks, he will encourage midfielders, even defenders to break into the opposition box. He will rely on the remarkable camaraderie underpinning Norwich’s success.

Lambert laughed about how his squad have gelled so strongly. “There’s not much you can do here other than travel nine hours to get somewhere,’’ he said. “You have got to hang about with each other. They are young and seem to be bonding particularly well at the minute. I am proud as anything of them. People wrote them off a little bit and two years ago they were in League One.’’

Five years ago, Lambert was in League Two with Wycombe Wanderers before joining Colchester United and then reviving Norwich. But the Premier League is a game of snakes as well as well as ladders, and this was a dispiriting evening for the man in the opposing dug-out, Steve Bruce.

Sunderland’s manager picked the same 11 who had vanquished Stoke City 4-0 but could not believe his eyes at the hapless defending.

“We switched off,’’ he said of the moves that led to goals for Leon Barnett and Steve Morison. “For both goals, our defending was awful.”

Bruce’s side awoke only late on, particularly when Connor Wickham arrived, and Kieran Richardson gave brief hope with a low strike but Sunderland got what they deserved — nothing. The one sadness of a hugely positive evening for Norwich was the sight of poor James Vaughan, whose Everton career was bedeviled with injury, hobbling off. “It’s not the knee he’s had trouble with,’’ said Lambert.

Vaughan’s injury apart, there was so much for Norwich fans to celebrate. Even before they had taken a deserved lead through Barnett, Norwich had impressed, driving down the flanks through Anthony Pilkington and Marc Tierney on the left with Elliott Bennett and Kyle Naughton down the right.

On the half-hour, Norwich broke through and what a goal it was, a goal more suited to Nou Camp than Norfolk. Bennett began the move, racing down the right, allowed far too much room by Seb Larsson, who failed to track back. Bennett exchanged passes with David Fox before crossing low for Barnett to tap in. Barnett had been given the freedom of the six-yard box by Titus Bramble.

Norwich fans, a field of yellow and green enveloping all but one corner of Carrow Road, were loving it, targeting Bramble with more abuse, and soon focusing on Wickham when the former Ipswich striker began warming up. Sunderland needed Wickham on the other side of the line, giving some strength to their front line. Stephane Sessegnon, operating in the hole behind Nicklas Bendtner, was particularly poor.

Bendtner, working hard, tested John Ruddy but it was a token show of first-half resistance.

The anguish intensified for Sunderland after the break. Norwich were again sharper, again hungrier. Again they punished Bruce’s side with another delivery from out wide, this time from Tierney, whose cross was headed in by Morison, his first for the club.

Bruce acted, sending on Wickham, who almost made an instant impact but directed his header from Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross straight at Ruddy. Wickham’s movement brought some urgency and Sunderland’s balance looked better. Ji Dong-won injected a bit of zest to the left, even teeing up David Vaughan, whose low shot was saved by Ruddy.

The home fans began chanting “One Paul Lambert, there’s only one Paul Lambert’’ but the drama was not over. Sunderland finally responded five minutes from time, Richardson’s strong left-footed strike racing past Ruddy.

Sunderland almost snatched an underserved point in the 94th minute when Ji almost reached a loose ball but Ruddy just got there first.

The final whistle blown by the excellent Chris Foy was drowned out in the cheers. Guided by Lambert, Norwich are climbing high.

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