Norwich City 2 - 1 Sunderland: Sunderland fightback in vain as problems pile up for Martin O’Neill

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Norwich City survived a second-half onslaught from Sunderland to secure their fourth straight home Barclays Premier League win and condemn Martin O’Neill’s Black Cats to yet another defeat.

A second goal in eight days from former Newcastle defender Sebastien Bassong and a smart finish from Anthony Pilkington gave the home side a well-deserved two-goal lead. But Craig Gardner pulled one back just before the break for Sunderland, who then wasted numerous chances in a second half they dominated without managing to secure a much-needed result.

The win moves the Canaries up to 12th in the table, with Sunderland still only one place and one point above the relegation zone.

The hosts dominated the opening exchanges and looked much sharper in possession, with Sunderland defender Matthew Kilgallon cautioned by referee Phil Dowd after just three minutes for tugging at Norwich skipper Grant Holt as he turned past him.

Another free-kick conceded five minutes later led to the opening goal as Robert Snodgrass’ set-piece was flicked on by Bradley Johnson, the ball taking a deflection off the arm of Carlos Cuellar before being bundled home from close range by Bassong, with the borderline offside decision going in Norwich’s favour.

Sunderland finally tested Mark Bunn in the 28th minute as Sebastian Larsson pulled a corner back to the edge of the box to Danny Rose, who fired in a low effort that the Norwich goalkeeper did well to keep hold of. The game became a little scrappy as the half progressed but the Canaries would double their lead eight minutes before the break.

Bradley Johnson played a through ball into the run of Pilkington, who was played onside by Kilgallon, and the winger ran through on goal before rounding Cuellar and slotting past Simon Mignolet.

With just one minute remaining before half-time, Sunderland hauled themselves back into the game.

Adam Johnson skipped down the left flank and pulled the ball across to Gardner who arrowed a low effort past Bunn, although the former Blackburn goalkeeper may feel he could have kept it out.

Where Norwich had looked calm and assured in possession for the majority of the first half, Gardner’s goal seemed to knock them off their stride in the early stages of the second 45 minutes. But Chris Hughton’s side started to reassert themselves and only a flying stop from Mignolet prevented Pilkington scoring his second from just outside the box.

Sunderland should have been level moments later as a Gardner free-kick rattled the post and Kilgallon turned the rebound over the bar from six yards out. Bunn’s goal continued to live a charmed life as the goalkeeper’s punched clearance from a Sunderland corner fell straight to Gardner, whose effort was cleared off the line by Javier Garrido.

Stephane Sessegnon then shot straight at Bunn and the Benin international again came close on 73 minutes when the Norwich defence allowed an innocuous ball into their penalty area to bounce and Sessegnon’s overhead kick flew wide.

Wickham had the ball in the back of the net with 13 minutes remaining after Bunn spilled Rose’s long-range effort, but the former Ipswich man was flagged 
for offside.