Action-packed return to Canaries starting XI for Giannoulis
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Dimitris Giannoulis was given a chance to make a fresh start at Burnley and the Greece international took a step forward as he helped Norwich City grind out a valuable 0-0 draw.
The 25-year-old saw his loan from PAOK made permanent for around £6million after promotion and started the first two matches of the Premier League season.
However, he was taken off at half-time of a 5-0 thrashing at Manchester City in August and the loan arrival of Brandon Williams saw Giannoulis lose his starting role for the next four league games.
The Manchester United youngster wasn’t able to convince though and, with City having switched to a 3-5-2 formation, the Greek had the chance to lay claim to the left wing-back slot at Turf Moor.
An early cross was too close to Clarets keeper Nick Pope but Giannoulis found Teemu Pukki as he anticipated a poor header clear from Matt Lowton in the third minute, from which Pukki found Max Aarons for an early shot that flew just wide.
Up against the experience of former Tottenham and England winger Aaron Lennon, he outmuscled the 34-year-old in the City box to find Mathias Normann soon after but soon after was thankful for Normann blocking a Lowton cross after the right-back had beaten him for pace.
Giannoulis was involved in a pre-planned corner routine in the 13th minute, as Normann sent in a deep delivery from the right, which Giannoulis was waiting for to head into the penalty area, only for Pope to read it and head clear before Grant Hanley could get his head to the ball.
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Head coach Daniel Farke had talked about the need to minimise set-pieces but Giannoulis conceded a sloppy free-kick as he clipped Lennon in the 15th minute, leading to the game's big flashpoint as Tim Krul clattered Matej Vydra in the air after Ashley Westwood's delivery - only to avoid VAR punishment.
An important defensive interception thwarted a Burnley attack in the 20th minute but soon after he wasted lovely initial control of a classy Normann spread to the left, failing to beat Lowton.
Left centre-back Ben Gibson covered well after a Lennon dummy confused the Greek shortly before the break and he blocked a Lowton shot in injury-time after Grant Hanley had headed clear.
It was a shaky start to the second half for Giannoulis, with a weak pass falling short of Normann and resulting in Tim Krul having to deny a swerving shot from Dwight McNeil.
A poor header straight to Ashley Westwood also led to a City scramble but he tidied up with a header clear in the 54th minute after Charlie Taylor had beaten Ozan Kabak on the right.
Another wayward pass missed Pierre Lees-Melou but went unpunished. Better followed as a chipped pass found Pukki in the box, only for a good tackle from James Tarkowski to get the ball out for a corner.
Just before the hour, Giannoulis collected a cleared corner and curled a cross in which Kabak reached but powered a header well over and was offside anyway.
A new threat arrived in the 60th minute when Lennon was replaced by Johann Berg Gudmundsson and good strength was soon needed to hold off the Icelandic winger and make sure of a goal-kick.
Two minutes later and it was Giannoulis going over to take the free-kick after Aarons had been fouled by Taylor on the edge of the box. A powerful delivery with a low trajectory was cleared but after collecting the ball and finding Normann, the Norwegian span on the ball and clipped the crossbar with a shot.
His sharp tackle on Gudmundsson allowed Normann to spread to the right with a long pass in the 72nd minute but Aarons couldn’t quite reach the ball.
Gudmundsson eased Giannoulis off the ball soon after but the Canaries wide man fought back to take the sting out of the cross and allow Normann to clear.
Three minutes later and his cross very nearly found the breakthrough, beating Lowton for pace and delivering a ball to the back post, only for Aarons to be just beaten to the header as Taylor was forced to nod over his own crossbar.
There was another defensive scare late on though, with Gudmundsson able to get a run on Giannoulis in the 89th minute as Westwood whipped a cross over, only for the Burnley substitute to power his header over the bar.
VERDICT: An all-action afternoon that was generally more impressive in attack than defence, during a physical and awkward battle.
Had the most touches (78) of the City players and only Ben Gibson (38) completed more accurate passes (29).
Giannoulis did enough to retain his starting role but will need to continue improving defensively if he is to hold off the challenge of Williams.
RATING: 7 out of 10