Norwich City's heroism carries the day at Sunderland

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Wes Hoolahan celebrates after scoring for Norwich against SunderlandGettyImagesWes Hoolahan celebrates after scoring for Norwich against Sunderland

Norwich City's Premier League point at Sunderland was a heroic exercise in obduracy against the odds.

Wes Hoolahan's opener was no more than City deserved before Craig Gardner slammed home an equaliser from the penalty spot in a game that ended 1-1. But that barely touched the surface surrounding the avalanche of contentious issues that erupted at the Stadium of Light.

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Norwich were reduced to ten men minutes after Hoolahan's tidy, close-range first-half header when keeper Mark Bunn was adjudged to have handled outside his area trying to rectify Michael Turner's miscued header that allowed Danny Graham to race through.

Bunn made his feelings known as he threw his gloves to the turf in pure frustration after being ushered away by Norwich team-mates. Things lurched further into the darkness when Sebastien Bassong was then adjudged to have handled John O'Shea's clipped ball inside his own penalty area. If Bunn had strong grounds for appeal, Bassong's were perhaps only partial. The Parisian's chest clearly made contact with the ball before it rolled down his left arm.

Sunderland's Craig Gardner left no room for doubt with an emphatic penalty that sent stand-in Lee Camp the wrong way. Down to ten men, pegged back on the scoresheet and with goalscorer Hoolahan sacrificed to make room for Camp, the prospects of salvaging anything for Chris Hughton's men from their latest trip to Wearside looked bleak.

Not only did the Canaries return south emboldened for the Premier League run-in after moving onto 34 points in their pursuit of safety, they were also denied a clear penalty of their own in the second period that may have truly completed the great escape and piled fresh misery on Martin O'Neill. Danny Rose's outstretched right arm clearly diverted Russell Martin's driven cross. The leaping left-back's body hovered on the very edge of his own penalty area - but his offending arm was clearly inside. The assistant signalled a free kick on the inches outside.

Given the events of the first half one could not help feel a sense of fresh injustice piled on top of copious amounts of adversity. Norwich may not have aided their own cause in the defining moments of the opening period, but they will return to Norfolk harbouring justifiable grievances.

Some points in the Premier League come harder than others for clubs of the Canaries' status. This one was prized in positively epic circumstances. Sunderland had an hour to find a way past 10 men and it is no exaggeration to state that the visitors continued to look more likely to add to their tally.

The Black Cats' fans directed their anger towards O'Neill at the final whistle. The pocket of Norwich die-hards stationed high in the gods hailed their battling heroes. This could turn out to be a big day in the survival race.

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