By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Sports Direct Arena
Newcastle United 1 (Cisse 11)
Norwich City 0
Papiss Cisse struck the only goal of the game as Newcastle returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over Norwich at the Sports Direct Arena on Sunday.
The Senegalese striker was recalled to the starting line-up as one of three changes from United's defeat at Arsenal last time out, and found the back of the net after just 11 minutes - his third goal since arriving on Tyneside in January.
That was enough to secure a first win in five attempts for the Magpies, who continue to press for European qualification, and it was no more than they deserved having dominated for large spells without ever being able to find a killer second goal.
Norwich had their chances, most notably through Anthony Pilkington and Zak Whitbread, who were both denied by Tim Krul, but it was the visiting stopper John Ruddy who was the busier of the two keepers - pulling off stops to thwart Cisse, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye.
Cisse should have made the breakthrough inside the opening two minutes. Breaking the offside trap to race on to Cabaye's lofted pass, the Senegal international took a touch and had time to pick his spot, but Canaries keeper Ruddy managed to get a fingertip to the resulting lob and then claim the ball at the second attempt.
Fabricio Coloccini was next to try his luck, striding out of defence with the ball at his feet. Norwich allowed the skipper to run and run but his 30 yard effort was well over the top and never going to trouble Ruddy.
It was one-way traffic and the hosts finally opened the scoring with 11 minutes on the clock. A lovely flowing move saw Danny Guthrie sweep the ball wide to Jonas Gutierrez, who was driving forward from his left-back role.
The Argentine whipped a low cross into the danger zone and Cisse nipped ahead of Whitbread to divert the ball home into the top corner, netting his third goal in four home games since his January switch from SC Freiburg.
Norwich created the first chance in the 19th minute and it was handed to them on a plate by a hesitant Magpies defence. Centre-back Mike Williamson was robbed of possession around 20 yards out and Steve Morison laid into the path of Howson, but the former Leeds man could not keep his rising shot down.
Pilkington warmed the palms of United stopper Krul with a long-range drive, but that was all the visitors were restricted to in the opening stages, with the Canaries unable to force a way into the box.
The pressure from the home side continued, and on the half-mark a superb stop from Ruddy prevented Newcastle doubling their advantage.
Cabaye stepped in off the left flank to drill a strike goalwards, which looked to be sneaking in at the far post - even more so when leading scorer Demba Ba helped it on its way. But Ruddy somehow clawed the ball behind for corner with an outstanding point-blank save.
Cisse was looking dangerous every time he got near goal, and it took a last-ditch block from Kyle Naughton to stop the front man grabbing his second of the afternoon with half-time six minutes away.
Guthrie and Hatem Ben Arfa combined down the right and Cisse met the latter's low cross with a half-volley, only for Naughton to throw himself in the way and clear the danger.
The same player then latched onto a Gutierrez through ball - cutting through the visitors' backline - but Ruddy stayed big to prevent Cisse lifting a cheeky effort over him.
As the second half got underway, Newcastle started where they had left off - on the front foot - as Ben Arfa tricked his way into the box before sending a shot the wrong side of the upright.
Cisse and Ruddy continued their own personal battle, with the Norwich keeper holding on to the goalscorer's low 25-yard strike, but at the other end Krul was called into business in the 54th minute.
A ball over the top saw Pilkington outpace Danny Simpson, but Krul saved well to put the ball behind. And then from the resulting corner the young Dutch international proved why he is one of the best stoppers in the Premier League.
As United failed to completely clear their lines, centre-back Zak Whitbread connected with a right-wing cross, thumping a header goalwards which seemed destined to find the back of the net. That was until the intervention of Krul though, who stuck up a wrist to somehow divert it over.
Ba let fly from distance but was unable to find the target, and on 72 minutes the big forward was unable to latch on to a loose ball inside the six-yard box after Ruddy had parried a strike from Cabaye.
Norwich threw on striker Grant Holt and playmaker Wes Hoolahan in a bid to snatch a share of the spoils but, despite applying plenty of pressure they were never able to properly test Krul again.
Andrew Surman's acrobatic overhead kick cleared the crossbar, while Steve Morison should have done much better when through on goal in the final minute, only to scuff his shot as he pulled the trigger.
And that was that. United were far from at their best, but were well worth all three points and will be delighted not only with a victory but also a clean sheet against a dangerous Norwich side.
Newcastle United (4-4-2): Tim Krul; Danny Simpson, Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini (c), Jonas Gutierrez; Hatem Ben Arfa (Davide Santon 63), Danny Guthrie (Dan Gosling 76), James Perch, Yohan Cabaye; Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse (Shola Ameobi 69)
Subs not used: Rob Elliot, Mehdi Abeid, Haris Vuckic, Ryan Donaldson
Norwich City (4-5-1): John Ruddy; Kyle Naughton, Elliott Ward (c), Zak Whitbread, Adam Drury (Wes Hoolahan 82); Elliott Bennett, Andrew Surman, David Fox, Jonny Howson (Grant Holt 77), Anthony Pilkington (Russell Martin 85); Steve Morison
Subs not used: Jed Steer, Andrew Crofts, Bradley Johnson, Simeon Jackson
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 47,833 (1,904 Norwich)