Norwich City 4 QPR 0: Pukki at the double as leaders smash struggling Rs
The Premier League edged even closer for Norwich City this afternoon, as a dominant 4-0 thrashing of QPR - in spite of an Emi Buendia red card - moved them eight points clear at the Championship summit.
The dominant win wrapped up an eighth successive victory, matching a club record set by the League One champions of 2009-10, of winning eight consecutive matches in all competitions.
The Canaries of 2019 can now set their sights on the league record of 10 straight wins which was managed by the Second Division winners of 1985-86, which was interrupted by an FA Cup loss to Liverpool.
Goals from Emi Buendia, Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki had City in a superb position at half-time before a second half which was punctured by a red card for Buendia – only for Pukki to finish the job with a fine finish, scoring his 27th goal of the season.
The success moved the league leaders eight points clear at the summit, ahead of Leeds’ game at Birmingham, and 10 clear of third placed Sheffield United, ahead of their match at Preston this afternoon.
The Canaries named an unchanged starting XI for an eighth successive game but interim QPR boss John Eustace made five changes, following Steve McClaren’s sacking after just one win in 15 games.
Daniel Farke’s faith was rewarded yet again, with the hosts claiming a deserved lead in just the sixth minute, sparked by a wonderful long pass to the right from Ben Godfrey.
Max Aarons controlled the 40-yard switch and calmly rolled low across the six-yard box to an unmarked Buendia at the back post, where the Argentine rolled in his fourth goal in five games.
It was a sixth assist of the season for 19-year-old Aarons as well, ahead of potentially winning the EFL Young Player of the Season at the EFL Awards tomorrow, but Godfrey’s pass was also so impressive.
Another six minutes and it was another goal as the rampant league leaders went 2-0 up, with the visitors looking totally shell-shocked.
Buendia set Marco Stiepermann on the attack and the Rs gave the German the freedom of Carrow Road to blast left-footed into the bottom-right corner, with the ball squirming through Joe Lumley’s gloves.
Stiepermann was denied from close range a couple of minutes later, with a timely block from Joel Lynch, and Hernandez’s low shot was well saved by Lumley in the 18th minute after a slick counter.
Another lovely team move ended with a lovely Kenny McLean dink to Hernandez in the box, who lashed beyond the far post on the spin.
The Cuban winger really should have made it 3-0 on the half hour after McLean had sent Teemu Pukki down the right wing and the Finn pulled a low cross to Hernandez, free in the box, only to fire wide – to the fury of Farke on the sidelines.
The away fans were celebrating ironically in the 37th minute as they finally had a chance, with Angel Rangel blasting a low shot towards the bottom-left corner which Tim Krul did well to get down to – before the third goal did arrive.
Rs substitute Toni Leistner, who had only replaced left-back Jake Bidwell four minutes earlier, played a poor pass which Luke Freeman gave away to Buendia on the edge of the box, who teed up Pukki to fire a simple shot into the bottom-right corner past the exposed Lumley, for his 25th league goal of the campaign.
Stiepermann went close to a second after being cleaned out by Lynch on the edge of the penalty area in the 44th minute, which the Rs defender was booked for, when he curled a free-kick onto the roof of the net.
The half came to an end with Carrow Road in fine voice, singing ‘we are top of the league’ as they roared their sensational side off the pitch wondering how it was only 3-0.
Krul made a second good stop in the 58th minute, after a quiet start to the second half as City dominated possession, getting down well to a Darnell Furlong header after a brief spell of pressure from the visitors.
That sparked the home side back into life and, with Hernandez in the thick of the action, the Carrow Road faithful roared their team towards a fourth.
It should have arrived in the 65th minute after Pukki had burst forward and allowed Stiepermann to cross from the right, finding Buendia on the edge of the box, only for the Argentine to curl wide.
However, the game took on a fresh complexion in the 71st minute when Buendia was shown a straight red card. Moments before Leistner hadn’t been booked for a heavy tackle on the youngster and the red mist came down, launching into a poor and unnecessary tackle on Josh Scowen deep in the QPR half and catching the substitute.
The Argentine became the first player to be shown a red card in a league game for City this season, going off to loud applause for his performance before his moment of madness, with a three-game ban now potentially awaiting him.
It rocked City slightly, with Rs substitute Bright Osayi-Samuel close-range shot squeezing between Krul’s legs for a second, but fortunately not over the line or to an opposition player.
The visitors briefly threatened a comeback but that man Pukki would have the final say in the 85th minute, with his 26th league goal of an incredible first season in England.
It came from a lovely chipped pass from skipper Christoph Zimmermann, over the QPR defence, with Hernandez getting in Lynch’s way and the Finland international blasting into the top-left corner to spark the victory celebrations at Carrow Road – as promotion moved ever closer.
The brilliant strike moved him level with Ron Davies (1963-64) and Terry Allcock (1962-63) as having scored 26 league goals in one season, with only Percy Varco’s 29 (1927-28) and Ralph Hunt’s 31 (1955-56) ahead of him – although both were at lower levels.
The Canaries return to action on Wednesday evening when relegation threatened Reading head for Carrow Road (7.45pm).
NORWICH: Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann (C), Godfrey, Lewis; Trybull (Rhodes 89), McLean; Buendia, Stiepermann (Cantwell 80), Hernandez; Pukki (Letner 87). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Hanley, Klose, Vrancic
Goals: Buendia (6), Stiepermann (12), Pukki (38, 85)
Sent off: Buendia (71)
QPR: Lumley; Furlong, Rangel, Lynch, Bidwell (Leistner 34); Wszolek (Osayi-Samuel, 75), Cousins, Cameron (Scowen 59), Eze; Freeman (C); Wells. Unused subs: Ingram (GK), Manning, Smith, Hemed
Booked: Lynch (foul on Stiepermann, 44), Furlong (foul on Cantwell, 90+1)
REFEREE: Scott Duncan (Northumberland)
• You can follow all the action from Carrow Road with our reporters in our Matchday Live blog at pinkun.com/live
• Make sure to download the Pink Un App as well, for exclusive insight and analysis from our Canaries correspondents, available for free in your mobile device’s app store