Brighton and Hove Albion 5 Norwich City 0
Glenn Houlihan at The Amex
A dazzling hat-trick from Glenn Murray alongside goals from Antony Knockaert and Lewis Dunk battered a weary Norwich City, turning what should have been a Clash of Titans into an embarrassingly one-side affair.
Just one point separated the teams before the game, and with both sides tipped for promotion it was seemingly going to be a highly competitive fixture.
Norwich’s starting XI boasted a midfield packed with creativity, including the wily Alex Pritchard (who received a less than pleasant reception after turning down a transfer to Albion, despite agreeing fees and a medical) and Wes Hoolahan, who impressed for the Republic of Ireland at the European Championships this summer.
Albion started the game slowly, but were a goal up within six minutes. Glenn Murray seized on a horribly heavy touch from McGovern, the keeper losing his cool as he collected a back pass, allowing Murray to shoulder him off the ball and tap it into an empty net.
The game soon turned physical, and dangerman Murray had claims for a penalty waved away by referee Andrew Madly after he tumbled under pressure in the box. Ollson and Murray both received a booking after clashing heads on the halfway line, the referee resisting calls to send off the Norwich fall back. This embodied what was quickly becoming an ill-tempered game, with bursts of quality becoming less and less frequent as the half progressed. Skalak was caught late by Olsson after a flowing Albion move, and again the Norwich man was lucky to escape a red card.
Sam Baldock directed a shot straight at McGovern after an excellent turn and pass from Murray found him in space, the veteran striker nearly turning provider.
Norwich started the second half with renewed ambition, and Lewis Dunk did brilliantly to steer a fizzing cross over the bar. Pritchard collected a yellow after scything through Duffy, the intensity once again spiralling into cheap fouls.
Knockaert was inches away from scoring a stunning goal, the Frenchman turning the Canaries’ defence inside-out with some exquisite rolling footwork, the home fans crying out in disbelief as the ball flashed across the upright and flew into the stand.
Moments after, Albion made it two. Bong, enjoying a stellar game at left-back, began a textbook counter-attack with a ball down the wing to Skalak, who lifted in a pinpoint cross for Murray to head in from close range.
The Albion faithful had barely retaken their seats before they were celebrating again, Lewis Dunk slamming home a header from a standard in-swinging corner; Alex Neil’s thunderous expression summed up the abject defending.
It was to get worse for the beleaguered visitors and their keeper, as yet another shocking clearance from McGovern landed at Murray’s feet after Bennett failed to control the weak pass. Murray could hardly believe his luck as he advanced, looked up, and slotted the ball into the net, wildly celebrating his deserved hat-trick.
Knockaert added gloss to the score line with a breath-taking chip over McGovern, escaping a lacklustre offside trap to heap more misery on Neil’s shell-shocked Canaries and keep Albion within three points of leaders Newcastle.
Photo: Paul Hazlewood BHAFC