Premier League - Norwich hold on for historic win
Norwich City won their first away match in the top flight for 17 years after holding on to beat 10-man Bolton 2-1 at the Reebok.
The damage was done in the first half as first Premier League goals for Anthony Pilkington and Bradley Johnson gave Paul Lambert’s side a commanding lead before Bolton forward Ivan Klasnic was shown a straight red card for violent conduct.
Despite being a man down the home side rallied in the second period, Martin Petrov pulling one back from the spot as the Canaries gave away their fourth penalty of the nascent season.
Norwich were forced to withstand a late flurry from the hosts, with John Ruddy making a good late stop from substitute David N’Gog in the dying seconds of injury time, but they held on to pull away from the relegation zone with their first win of the campaign.
Bolton, meanwhile, lie precariously close to the bottom three having lost four of their opening five games of the season, and nine of their last 10 Premier League encounters.
The home side had a wretched first half and, before conceding two poor goals, Norwich had plenty of chances to take the lead.
Bolton were not exactly bad going forward - Petrov linked well with Nigel Reo-Coker to put a couple of dangerous balls into the box - but they were dreadful at the back, with poor marking the order of the day, Dedryck Boyata and Zat Knight particularly culpable as Jussi Jaaskelainen made saves from Kyle Naughton and Steve Morison.
Indeed the defence was identical to the one that conceded five at home to Manchester United the previous week, with boss Owen Coyle strangely electing to make changes in midfield and not to his back four.
Norwich, meanwhile, were resolute and combative, dangerous from wide positions as Wes Hoolahan showed great energy while sporting the captain’s armband.
They were most dangerous from set-pieces though, with David Fox’s deliveries catching Bolton’s hapless marking cold for both goals, marking that was so bad that it was hard to ascertain whether zonal or man-to-man was being used.
On 37 minutes a Fox corner was flicked on by defender Leon Barnett - who was allowed to arrive unmarked in the middle - but there was time for Bolton to regroup as Morison picked it up far post and put a low ball back into the six-yard box: they did not regroup, and Pilkington was able to squeeze the ball over the line.
It was his first Premier League goal and, four minutes later, Johnson got off the mark at this level when - like Barnett earlier - he was allowed a free header, this time to meet a Fox free-kick from wide.
Unlike Barnett, his contact was perfect, the bullet header zipping low past Jaaskelainen and nestling inside the far post.
For Bolton it seemed like things could not possibly get worse in the latter stages of the first half but they did, Klasnic going head-to-head with Morison, the Wales striker making a meal of what was slight contact.
Still, it was an aggressive and entirely unnecessary move, one that was spotted by the assistant referee who advised Howard Webb - who had previously declined to dismiss Barnett and Boyata for terrible challenges - to show a straight red card.
There was an improvement going forward, as John Ruddy was forced into a decent if nervy save from a Petrov free-kick, but the defensive problems persisted as Boyata made a shambles of a simple clearance from Morison’s weak low cross: luckily for the Belgium defender, no Norwich player was able to capitalise on his miskick-slip combination.
Having survived that, Bolton won a penalty as Norwich’s tendency to hand the opposition a free shot reared its head again: this time Barnett put in a late challenge on N’Gog, Webb pointing to the spot and - with Kevin Davies off - Petrov coolly stroking the finish into the bottom left corner.
The complexion of the match and the attitude of the previously quiet home fans suddenly changed as Bolton threw everything at Norwich, who in turn threatened to punish them on the break.
N’Gog had a shot deflected wide as he and Boyata started to combine well, while Eagles was typically direct with his running and crossing.
But they could not find a way past the Norwich defence and, on the occasion they did, Ruddy - previously a touch shaky - made a very adept diving save to deny N’Gog’s flying header.
That was the last chance for Bolton, whose worrying form continues after a bright start to life under Coyle.