David Silva’s number went up for the last time in the Premier League and a ripple of applause echoed around a near-empty Etihad. ‘The smallest standing ovation of all time,’ as Pep Guardiola described it.
The little Spaniard hugged his team-mates one by one and then turned to acknowledge the deserted stands by force of habit as he was replaced by namesake Bernardo in the 85th minute.
It was not the farewell Silva deserved after 309 league appearances and a stellar 10-year career at Manchester City, but he will be back here for the Champions League clash with Real Madrid next month and again for a proper send-off one day.
Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak made a personal phone call to him in the dressing room after yesterday’s game and City will announce plans for a more lasting tribute after his final game.
‘Yes, it was emotional,’ said Silva. ‘I have been working with the players and I love all of them. I am going to miss everything — even the weather!’
No sooner had he taken his seat in the stands than Silva was named man of the match, but that was one tribute too far because the tribute clearly belonged to Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgian was outstanding again as he equalled Thierry Henry’s record of 20 assists in the Premier League as well as scoring two excellent goals.
‘I’ve got two more — you guys took two away from me,’ he said later, in reference to two assists that were chalked off in games against Arsenal.
City also racked up a century of goals for the third time in the Premier League, Raheem Sterling became the first Englishman to scored 20 in the league (and 30 in all competitions) for the club since Brian Kidd in 1977 and City goalkeeper Ederson pipped Burnley’s Nick Pope to the Golden Glove award with his 16th clean sheet of the season.
Norwich’s one season back in the top flight peaked with a stunning 3-2 win over City at Carrow Road in September, but Daniel Farke’s side have added only 15 points in 33 games since.
This was a 10th straight league defeat. ‘We had 10 academy products and were not able to fill the bench,’ said Farke. ‘That’s not enough to be competitive.’
Norwich still caused City enough problems to give Guardiola more concerns about his defence ahead of the Champions League resumption.
Onel Hernandez ran 50 yards to score when it was goalless, only to have his effort ruled out for offside by VAR.
And a mix-up by Eric Garcia and Aymeric Laporte on halfway allowed Todd Cantwell to send Teemu Pukki racing clear. Ederson came out to save one on one.
City were a goal up by then after Gabriel Jesus turned the ball over the line from close range following Sterling’s cross.
The highlight of the game arrived at the end of the first half when De Bruyne received the ball from Kyle Walker 20 yards from goal. The Belgian was being marked by Marco Stiepermann but that didn’t seem to matter.
De Bruyne transferred the ball to his left foot with a drag back and little flick, then back on to his right with another piece of trickery.
It gave him the time and space to size up a shot — and what a shot it was, curled beyond Tim Krul into the top corner.
He almost got the assist he needed to equal Henry’s record set 17 years ago when his cross was turned against a post by Christoph Zimmermann, but he didn’t have to wait much longer.
De Bruyne’s exquisite ball for Sterling in the 79th minute allowed the England winger to score his 20th goal — City’s 100th — in the league.
Shambolic defending by Norwich allowed substitute Riyad Mahrez to smash home the fourth and the Algerian’s trickery led to De Bruyne curling in the fifth.
The only thing missing was a farewell goal by Silva to add to the 60 he has scored in the Premier League. ‘He will come back to receive the ovation he deserves,’ said Guardiola.