Paddy's Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City's superb 3-1 Championship win against Millwall
Our Norwich City correspondent Paddy Davitt delivers his Millwall verdict after the Canaries' 3-1 Championship win
1. After burners
Norwich were sternly tested by a Millwall side who sensed blood after drawing level in the closing stages of the first period. The aerial assault felt relentless at times. But City found a way. Like they have so many times before on this Championship odyssey. Christoph Zimmermann powered Emi Buendia’s cross home to send the 3,200-odd fans behind that goal into orbit.
Then Buendia picked out Teemu Pukki to slot his 24th league goal of the season. Leeds did the business in emphatic fashion on Friday night to swat aside West Brom and move top.
Norwich responded in kind at The Den to move two points clear of Leeds as they returned to the summit. And perhaps more importantly, five clear now to third-placed Sheffield United.
The Blades have a massive Steel City derby on Monday night at Sheffield Wednesday. This really could turn into a defining weekend for Daniel Farke’s men.
2. Forged in steel
Talking of hard metal. Norwich’s attacking armoury settled the game but it was their defensive resolve that kept them in it when Millwall rumbled forward.
There was two goalline blocks and a superb near post stop from Tim Krul in the second period that earned a thumping pat on the back from Zimmermann. In that one moment you saw why this is such a collective effort.
You saw the team spirit and the willingness to put bodies on the line for the team mate next to you.
Norwich have the skill and the technical ability.
But they also have deep reserves of character and resolve. You need the complete package to earn promotion.
3. Christoph ‘Alan Shearer’ Zimmermann
Zimmermann’s run and crashing header threatened to bust the netting, such was the force of the German’s connection to power home Buendia’s second half corner to nudge Norwich back in front.
Zimmermann had his hands full, along with the rest of Norwich’s backline, to quell Millwall’s aerial bombardment but what a weapon to call upon in the opposition box.
Zimmermann has rapidly emerged as something of a talisman in this season of brimming promise. But his latest intervention was a goal any centre forward would be proud of. Alan Shearer-esque in execution.
The sense of timing and the precision. Top drawer.
4. Oh Emi
Norwich’s Argentinian maestro is a beautiful footballer capable of magic moments. There was a sublime raking first half pass inside the full back after Buendia himself had robbed Steve Morison, but Pukki was unable to beat Jordan Archer.
Plus those two killer assists in the second half to help ease Norwich over the line. The pass threaded for the Finn was majestic.
But with the sublime also comes the ridiculous. There was no need to attempt a risky pass deep inside his own half in the final minute of the opening period.
Ben Godfrey cut out the cross that ensued but from the resulting corner Shaun Williams headed Morison’s flick home.
There are clearly aspects of his game that need polishing. As they should, given his age.
But what raw material to work with.
5. Cup finals
Farke labelled the win over Bristol City a ‘small cup final’ - given the significance and the intensity. Millwall have an FA Cup quarter-final on the horizon and it looked as if Neil Harris’ men wanted a full on dress rehearsal in a ferocious onslaught from the kick off.
City were pinned back as the balls rained into Krul’s box. Only a superb goalline clearance kept Millwall at bay in the first few moments.
Even after Marco Stiepermann had quelled the early surge, back came the hosts to the sound of the trumpets to level prior to the interval and then straight after the restart.
Farke has also spoken about how City can expect Championship opponents to raise their game. Never a true word spoken.
The Canaries better get used to full throttle football over this run in.