Norwich secured their fifth successive home win in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Wigan at Carrow Road.
Anthony Pilkington put the hosts in front in the 15th minute with an emphatic finish as Norwich dominated the first half, before substitute Shaun Maloney restored parity at the start of the second in what was an all-too fleeting resurgence from the visitors.
Norwich were the better side for the majority of the match, however, and Chris Hughton’s side deservedly secured another three points after the inspirational Wes Hoolahan headed the winning goal midway through the second half as the hosts stretched their unbeaten league run to 10 games.
The Canaries’ last league defeat was at Chelsea way back on October 6, while in stark contrast, Wigan have now recorded just one win from their last seven league games.
Hoolahan, who also scored in both meetings between these two sides last season, was passed fit, as well as the in-form midfielder Alex Tettey; meanwhile, Mauro Boselli, a £6.5 million signing, made his first league start for Wigan in over two years.
Pilkington spent the opening two minutes of the match changing his boots with Hughton furious about his side being needlessly reduced to 10 men, but it was Norwich who settled into the game quicker than their visitors with a good early period of possession.
Despite his infuriating antics in the opening minutes, Pilkington made a very positive contribution in the 15th minute as he netted his third goal of the season with a ferocious left-footed strike from inside the Wigan box after fine work from Hoolahan to set Norwich on their way.
Wigan had conceded two or more goals in each of their previous six Premier League games, and Pilkington inexplicably failed to double his tally just after the half-hour mark as he volleyed wide from close range with the otherwise excellent Ali Al-Habsi having flapped at a deep cross from Robert Snodgrass.
Norwich again failed to convert a clear-cut chance before half-time as Javier Garrido forced his way to the left byline and scooped a pinpoint cross over to Snodgrass, who should have scored with a free header on target, only for Al-Habsi to tip the ball over the crossbar with a very fine reflex save.
Wigan came into the match having scored just two goals in their last six Premier League away trips, and the visitors did not manage to muster a shot on goal until the 41st minute in what was a very subdued showing from Roberto Martinez’s side. Indeed, the Wigan boss made a double change at the break as Maloney and David Jones replaced the ineffectual James McCarthy and Jordi Gomez in midfield.
Within six minutes of the restart, however, Wigan equalised: substitute Maloney unleashed a rasping strike from the edge of the Norwich box after a slick one-two with Arouna Kone, and the shot rocketed into the back of the net with Mark Bunn left helpless. It was Maloney's first goal in open play since his winner against Manchester United back in April.
Grant Holt should have restored the hosts’ lead on the hour mark as a deep cross from Pilkington picked him out at the back post, but he volleyed wide from close range with Al-Habsi left flat-footed.
But just seconds later, the hosts did move back in front as the excellent Pilkington produced more inspired wing play down the left before finding Hoolahan, who headed home in clinical fashion from close range. It was the Irishman’s first league goal of the season, and a reward for his intelligent all-round play.
Only Al-Habsi prevented a big margin of victory as he again denied Pilkington with a stunning save down low to his left late on.
Every Norwich win this season has been by a one-goal margin, and Hughton looked understandably nervy late on as Sebastien Bassong produced an impeccable last-gasp challenge to deny Kone, but the hosts preserved their slender lead to close out another fine win - the only blemish being a hamstring strain sustained by Holt in the final minutes.
Norwich have now lost just one of their last nine Premier League games at Carrow Road, and are unbeaten in 10 games; Wigan, meanwhile, will be very concerned at a run of form that has seen them pick up just one point from four games.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich): Republic of Ireland assistant Marco Tardelli was in attendance and would have been hugely impressed with the midfielder’s well-taken goal and all-round creative spark.
NORWICH: Bunn 6, Whittaker 6, Bassong 7, Turner 6, Garrido 7, Pilkington 8, Johnson 6, Tettey 6, Snodgrass 7, Hoolahan 8, Holt 7. Subs: Howson 6, Morison 6, E. Bennett 6.
WIGAN: Al Habsi 8, Lopez 6, Figueroa 7, Boyce 7, McCarthy 6, Gomez 6, McArthur 6, Beausejour 6, Stam 6, Kone 6, Boselli 5. Subs: Jones 6, Di Santo 6, Maloney 7.
- Sports & Recreation
- Anthony Pilkington
- Wes Hoolahan
- Shaun Maloney