Wesley Hoolahan inspires Norwich win over Bournemouth
A fine performance from Wesley Hoolahan inspired Norwich to a comfortable first home win of the season at the expense of Bournemouth.
The last time the 33-year-old scored a Premier League goal for the Canaries was 18 months ago and he refused to celebrate as he was looking to force through a move to Aston Villa, the opponents that day.
But all was forgiven as Carrow Road basked in his undoubted ability, playing the leading role in a 3-1 victory to lift Alex Neil's side into the top half of the table.
He provided a fantastic assist for Cameron Jerome to open the scoring in what was a largely uneventful first half before scoring an impressive second for himself.
Debutant Matt Jarvis added the third as Bournemouth crumbled under intense Norwich pressure, with Steve Cook able to head home a consolation with 10 minutes remaining.
The Canaries began brightly and enjoyed much of the early possession, although the visitors did show their threat and pace on the counter-attack from the off.
Bournemouth were coming into the game and only a fine last-gasp sliding challenge from Robbie Brady prevented Callum Wilson opening the scoring from six yards out.
Neither goalkeeper had been forced into a save but that should have changed just after the half-hour mark when Hoolahan played in Jerome. However, the striker could only hit the side-netting from close range.
He made amends moments later as Hoolahan again provided the pass, skipping past Steve Cook before squaring to Jerome to sweep home his first goal of the season.
The Cherries did come close to equalising on the stroke of half-time as Wilson and Andre Wisdom both went for Cook's near-post cross, with the ball coming back off the post.
Despite their rallying before the break, Bournemouth found themselves two behind seven minutes after the restart as Hoolahan finished calmly from the edge of the area to continue a fine afternoon.
Neil's side were running rampant and Jerome came close to converting Wisdom's cross, only to see Tommy Elphick nick the ball off his toe and put it behind for a corner.
Brady came close to a fortuitous third as his whipped free-kick evaded everyone in the Bournemouth box and curled just inches wide of Artur Boruc's right-hand post.
The Republic of Ireland international came even closer shortly afterwards as he latched on to Nathan Redmond's threaded through-ball and thrashed an effort off the opposite upright.
The killer third goal came as Bournemouth once again gave up possession all too easily allowing Norwich to break three against two, and Jarvis made no mistake having been fed by Jonny Howson.
Hoolahan was replaced by Graham Dorrans and all four corners of the stadium clapped as home fans rose to their feet to see him off with a standing ovation, but Neil would have been furious at the way his side surrendered their clean sheet as Cook headed home Simon Francis' corner to reduce the arrears.
Dieumerci Mbokani was given a 10-minute cameo to show the home fans what he could do having moved on loan from Dynamo Kiev, and he should have added a fourth but could not convert Redmond's cross as he slid in at the near post.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Top play this half from Wes the Wizard Hoolahan (wrongly autocorrected to Hooligan there)... #OTBC #NCFC" - Stephen Fry is one step ahead of technology.
John Ruddy: 6 (out of 10)
Andre Wisdom: 6
Sebastien Bassong: 7
Russell Martin: 6
Robbie Brady: 7
Nathan Redmond: 6
Alex Tettey: 6
Jonny Howson: 7
Matt Jarvis: 7
Wes Hoolahan: 8
Cameron Jerome: 7
Martin Olsson: 6
Graham Dorrans: 6
Dieumerci Mbokani: 6
Artur Boruc: 6
Simon Francis: 6
Tommy Elphick: 5
Steve Cook: 4
Adam Smith: 5
Matt Ritchie: 6
Junior Stanislas: 5
Andrew Surman: 5
Eunan O'Kane: 5
Joshua King: 5
Callum Wilson: 5
Yann Kermorgant: 5
Glenn Murray: 6
Dan Gosling: 5
Wes Hoolahan: Started with a booking but soon showed why he is so valued at Carrow Road. He put Jerome's opening goal on a plate for the striker before sweeping home the second. He ran the show with full permission from the Bournemouth defence to do so and was given a standing ovation when replaced with the three points secured.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Wes Hoolahan: His second goal was the pick of the afternoon and came seven minutes into a second-half the Canaries went on to dominate. With two options either side of him, Hoolahan opted to bend home past Boruc and effectively wrapped up the points for the home side.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Neil will be pleased to have come back from the international break and pick up a first home win of the campaign, especially having lost his unblemished away record at Southampton last time out. For Eddie Howe, this would have been one of few away games he had identified as winnable but he will be at a loss as to why his side were so far off the pace.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Not much to complain about here despite a rather mundane first half. Referee Martin Atkinson could have ruined the afternoon with a few needless bookings and a couple of questionable decisions but, thankfully, the performance did little to alter the outcome.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Liverpool v Norwich (Premier League, September 20)
Bournemouth v Sunderland (Premier League, September 19)