POINTERS: Key observations from Norwich City's 2-1 win at Blackburn
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Our chief Norwich City reporter David Freezer has delivered his verdict from Ewood Park following a 2-1 win for the Championship leading Canaries.
Teemu Pukki reached one milestone at Ewood Park as he made his 100th appearance in Canaries colours – and made that achievement even sweeter by scoring his 50th goal for the club on the same day.
The Finland star notched his eighth of the season to open the scoring with a classy finish in the 22nd minute, with wonderful control of Alex Tettey’s blast into the box from the left before turning and slotting home from close range before Rovers could react.
His ninth – and 50th overall – was slightly unorthodox but replays suggest very much purposeful, reclaiming the lead in the 66th minute just six minutes after the hosts had levelled.
Emi Buendia had unleashed a shot from 25 yards and Pukki adjusted to flick the ball goalwards and wrong-foot Thomas Kaminski before celebrating heartily to make sure everyone knew it was his goal.
Having also been denied by the crossbar in the first half and seen Todd Cantwell take a chance off his toes late on, he was perhaps unlucky not to see the day crowned by a hat-trick.
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At the same stadium where he had scored the only goal in a 1-0 win two years ago, the 30-year-old notched his 38th goal in 59 Championship games, reemphasising yet again just how lethal he is at this level.
The one change to the City team saw Tettey become just the 40th player to rack up 250 appearances for the Canaries.
Having watched the first 10 league games of the campaign from the bench the 34-year-old has now been involved in the last eight matches, starting four of them.
The former Norway international signed a one-year deal knowing that he would take on the role of mentor and elder statesman within the squad but he also took on the role of creator at Ewood Park, claiming just his sixth assist in Norwich colours.
It appeared more of a hopeful blast that was controlled by Pukki for the opener but their was some neat footwork from the defensive midfielder to keep the attack alive first.
However, Tettey’s recent playing time again emphasises the need for a long-term successor in defensive midfield. Oliver Skipp has shown real promise in that role but remaining beyond this season would seem very dependent on promotion.
The answer may well already be in the team though in Danish 22-year-old Jacob Sorensen, continuing at left-back for an 11th consecutive game and while not always looking comfortable positionally, has looked good on the ball.
Sorting out the left-back position during January could well be crucial to Sorensen benefitting from Tettey’s tutelage before he leaves the club, if that is to be at the end of this season.
Heat is turned up
Maintaining a three-point lead was absolutely crucial as well, with all of Bournemouth, Swansea, Watford, Reading and Brentford winning.
Daniel Farke has highlighted the target of staying around the two-points-per-game average and this triumph actually moves the Canaries slightly ahead of that mark, on 37 from 18 games.
That is the most points Norwich have had during any of their previous promotions seasons at this level, a point more than the title winners of 2018-19 had at this stage and three more than Nigel Worthington’s eventual champions had after 18, when Darren Huckerby was inspiring their promotion push as a loanee at this stage of 2003-04.
Add to that another win by a one-goal margin to take the tally for the season to 10 of the 11 wins coming by the narrowest of margins and the strong mentality of this squad continues to grow by the game.
These points came against a Rovers team willing to take on the leaders though, enjoying 56 percent of possession, the most any team has managed against the Canaries so far this season.
Michael McGovern trying to play out from the back may have contributed to Harvey Elliott’s equaliser but the Northern Ireland international certainly played his part in this win.
His early save from Sam Gallagher’s header was the pick of the punch but he was also in the right place to deal with efforts from Elliott, Lewis Holtby and Adam Armstrong.
Getting a hand to Elliott’s shot was also very nearly enough to allow Max Aarons to prevent the goal on the line.
However, City were also relieved to see a Gallagher shot crash against the crossbar early in the second half, with an adventurous opponent having 19 shots at goal, six of which were on target – rather than sitting deep and trying to be defensive as many sides have.