Brentford 1 Norwich City 3 report: Canaries cruise into last-16 of the League Cup

Mario Vrancic slotted a cool first half penalty. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Mario Vrancic slotted a cool first half penalty. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City brushed aside Brentford to cruise into the last-16 of the League Cup at Griffin Park on Tuesday night.

Mario Vrancic’s brace and Josh Murphy’s composed finish put Daniel Farke’s side firmly in command before Josh Clarke pulled one back in another impressively assured display from the Canaries.

Farke signalled his intent with a line up that featured only one change to the backline which emerged unscathed from a bruising encounter at Bramall Lane. James Husband replaced Marco Stiepermann at left-back, and that mindset permeated City’s businesslike approach in the early sparring. Yet another team in red and white stripes shaded the possession, but the latent attacking potential came from Norwich on the counter.

The Canaries’ opening foray into enemy territory brought a first tangible reward. Murphy gathered Husband’s back heel and rolled a piercing pass in behind the Brentford defence for Marley Watkins, who was rashly tripped inside the Bees’ penalty area.

Referee Linnington had no hesitation in awarding a spot kick and on this occasion there were no protest either from the hosts. Vrancic nonchalantly approached the ball from a short run out and waited for Luke Daniels to commit himself before sidefooting his strike into the opposite corner.

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City hardly needed the shot of confidence but the calmness and composure continued to rise in the aftermath. Brentford were coaxed on before rapier turnovers led to a series of promising breaks as they sought to exploit the space. Watkins drilled a rising shot at Daniels before Vrancic whipped a 20-yard free kick around the wall but beyond the far post.

The fluidity of Norwich’s attacking motions appeared that extra ingredient Farke had demanded after three Championship tussles which showcased his squad’s stubborn streak, but without the sustained control in possession. City’s defensive line may have retained a familiar look but those given a stage to create were desperate to impress the German. Watkins chased and harried out of possession and offered a mobile target whenever Tom Trybull or Harrison Reed demanded options. Hoolahan and Vrancic tucked in to allow large tracts for Husband and Ivo Pinto to explore. There was both cohesion and a rhythm. When Brentford did fashion a chance, like Nico Yennaris’ turn and shot in the 27th minute, Angus Gunn remained vigilant.

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But Hoolahan’s failure to sense danger presented the hosts with a chance of their own from the penalty spot, when Kamohelo Mokotjo went over the Irishman’s desperate sliding attempt to complete Christoph Zimmermann’s initial clearance.

Yoann Barbet stepped up but hammered his attempt into the delirious travelling support, who celebrated with all the zeal they had hailed Vrancic’s earlier finish.

Dean Smith’s young side responded admirably for the rest of the first period. Norwich’s smooth, slick counter-attacking thrusts became more fitful. The focus shifted, once more, to defensive resolve. Reed’s energy and endeavour were required alongside Trybull as Brentford probed for another sight of Gunn’s goal.

Hoolahan looked less comfortable tucked in down the right, but almost doubled Norwich’s lead when he collected Watkins’ ball, but was unable to create a sliver of space in a sea of home shirts.

Farke would have called for greater urgency when he got his troops back inside the away dressing room during the interval. They responded immediately from the restart. Murphy veered around Josh Clarke but Watkins was unable to divert his cross as it sped past the far post.

Daniels was then beaten after Barbet gave the ball straight to the City youngster but his left-footed shot was pulled wide.

It was positive intent. It lacked a clinical edge. Step forward Vrancic who superbly rifled a curling 25-yard free kick around the Bees’ wall and past Daniels after Hoolahan had been hauled down. The Bosnian international was engulfed by his team mates in front of the travelling support.

Vrancic was less decisive at the other end when Justin Shaibu barrelled through his weak challenge and crashed a shot against the base of Gunn’s goal.

City heeded the warning. Trybull sublimely turned in central midfield and fed the overlapping Murphy in one flowing motion, who drew Daniels before a cheeky lift over the advancing keeper from six yards. But Josh Clarke had the final say when he slammed home a close range shot beyond Gunn.

• Brentford: Daniels, Jozefzoon (Dalsgaard 70), Yennaris, Maupay (Shaibu 53), McEachran, Mokotjo, Clarke, Archibald (Watkins 53), Barbet, Chatzitheodoridis, Mepham. Subs (not used): Bentley (GK), Egan, Woods, Sawyers.

• Booking: Barbet (foul on Murphy, 15)

• Goal: Clarke (90)

• Norwich City: Gunn, Pinto, Zimmermann, Klose (Franke 82), Husband, Reed, Trybull (Stiepermann 73), Vrancic, Hoolahan, Murphy (Wildschut 76), Watkins. Subs (not used): Matthews (GK), Jerome, Tettey, Phillips.

• Bookings: Watkins (foul on Barbet, 30); Zimmermann (foul on Shaibu, 54); Hoolahan (foul on Watkins, 60)

• Goals: Vrancic (10, 51), Murphy (68)

• Time added on: 2 minutes / 3 minutes

• Referee: James Linnington (Newport)

• Attendance: 4,868

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