Yaya Toure spared Joe Hart’s blushes as he netted an 89th-minute penalty to give Premier League leaders Manchester City a 2-1 win over Norwich City.
Having scored 16 times in their previous three domestic home matches, Manuel Pellegrini’s team struggled for their usual fluency and had to wait until the 67th minute to open the scoring – Nicolas Otamendi powering home his first goal for the club from Kevin De Bruyne’s outswinging corner.
Norwich looked set for a share of the spoils when Hart spilt a seemingly routine take from Robbie Brady’s cross to present Cameron Jerome with a tap-in seven minutes from time.
Yet there was further late drama as Russell Martin was sent off for blocking Raheem Sterling’s goalbound shot with his arm and Toure held his nerve from 12 yards to beat John Ruddy’s dive.
Sterling won another penalty when Brady brought him down deep into injury time, but Aleksandar Kolarov taking over from Toure was an ill-advised move as the Serbia international blasted wide with the last kick of the match
Manchester City remain above Arsenal on goal difference, an advantage shorn by their closest rivals claiming a 3-0 win at Swansea City, while Norwich are two points above the relegation zone in 16th after a fourth consecutive league loss.
Teenage striker Kelechi Iheanacho was rewarded for a sparkling display in Wednesday’s 5-1 League Cup victory over Crystal Palace with a first Premier League start, while Fernandinho returned to the home midfield after serving a one-match suspension.
Youssouf Mulumbu made his Premier League bow for Norwich, who began brightly at a ground where they endured a 7-0 defeat on their previous visit.
After John Ruddy made a sharp 10th-minute save from Wilfried Bony, Alex Neil’s side enjoyed a spell of pressure at the other end as Alex Tettey had a rasping shot blocked and Sebastien Bassong failed to connect with Matt Jarvis’ searching cross.
Bony crashed an effort wide from inside the area following promising line-up play with Iheanacho and the Ivory Coast striker was similarly off-target from 20 yards when teed up by De Bruyne in the 27th minute.
Hart kept out a rising Jarvis drive before Ruddy excelled himself to claw Toure’s free-kick out of the top corner.
Jarvis made way for Nathan Redmond due to injury at half-time and Bony was also in discomfort after a crunching Bassong tackle ended his latest sight of goal in the 53rd minute – De Bruyne slicing wildly off target after the ball broke loose.
Pellegrini’s men had little to show from patient build-up in open play but broke the deadlock midway through the second half when Otamendi powered home.
Bony’s fruitless quest to get on the scoresheet continued as he headed wide under pressure from Bassong, with De Bruyne again supplying the ammunition.
The former Swansea star then saw an 80th-minute attempt deflected wide, with Ruddy rooted to the spot as he sought to make the points safe, and Norwich were back on terms three minutes later as Hart inexplicably erred.
He was bailed out after a poor piece of play from counterpart Ruddy sparked confusion in the Norwich box and Sterling – on for Iheanacho – drew the handball from Martin.
Ruddy guessed correctly but Toure planted his spot-kick low and hard.
Hart partially atoned for his error in stoppage time by pushing Martin Olsson’s deflected strike to safety, before Kolarov failed where Toure succeeded.
Key Opta stats:
– Manchester City have lost just two of their 15 Premier League clashes with Norwich, winning eight and drawing five.
– Yaya Toure has been directly involved in six goals (three goals, three assists) in his seven Premier League appearances against Norwich City.
– Kevin De Bruyne has had a hand in seven goals in his seven Premier League appearances this season, scoring three and assisting four.
– Manchester City have scored four goals from corners this season – a league-high.
– Nicolas Otamendi scored his first goal for Manchester City. No team has scored more goals (four) via defenders this season.