Paddy’s Pointers: Five observations from Norwich City’s priceless 1-0 Premier League win against Bournemouth
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt delivers his Bournemouth verdict after the Canaries’ hard-fought 1-0 Premier League win.
1. Easy or hard? Hard please
City squeezed a win out of a game Daniel Farke insisted pre-match was not in the must-win category.
Given the manner dejected Bournemouth players slumped to the turf at the final whistle and Tim Krul made of point of a fist-pumping solo lap in front of the Barclay it felt more than a precious, long overdue three points.
But this is Norwich. 1-0 up and with Bournemouth reduced to 10 men after half an hour they were unable to make their superiority count.
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Aaron Ramsdale kept the Cherries in touch, Callum Wilson fluffed a big chance at the other end, and then Ben Godfrey's red card lunge on the England man set up a tense, fraught, finale. But City prevailed.
Yellows reverberated around Carrow Road at the finish. Belief has been restored. The road ahead remains long. But City have taken a big step forward.
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2. Class in a glass
Raise a toast to Teemu Pukki. His unerringly struck penalty in the first half was his 10th in the Premier League this campaign and his 40th for the Canaries since a free transfer signing that must surely go down in the annals of this football club as one of the most astute pieces of transfer business. Ever.
Pukki's workload and niggling toe and then hamstring injuries may have dulled his predatory instincts in the past month, but suitably rested and fresh from more personal accolades back in his homeland, the Finland international looked fit and hungry.
And in Ondrej Duda he had a like-minded soul who offered that crucial, quality link from midfield areas to City's lone frontman.
It will be fascinating to see how that particular double act can blossom over the rest of this Premier League survival fight. But Pukki looked rejuvenated and with another shot of confidence from a landmark goal you hope he can continue in the same vein at Tottenham.
3. No pressure, Ondrej
When Farke suggested it would have taken in the region of £25m to bring the Hertha Berlin attacking midfielder to Carrow Road in the summer, then the 25-year-old knew he simply had to deliver on his debut.
His goalbound clip was manhandled by Steve Cook in the incident that led to Pukki's penalty and Cook's red card. But either side of that pivotal incident was enough guile, poise and quality to underline City may have produced another recruitment masterstroke to entice him to England on a loan deal until the end of the season.
He was denied a debut goal by the reflexes of Ramsdale who stopped his stabbed left-footed effort in the second half.
Perhaps the manner Steven Naismith never quite recaptured the majesty of his opening Canaries' display, in an epic against Liverpool back in January 2016, acts as a salutary lesson it is best to reserve judgement.
But Duda arrived with the pedigree and he appeared to possess the athleticism and physicality to handle the demands of the Premier League.
He will need more time to bed in. But Farke may have found his answer to the lack of thrust from the number 10 berth.
4. Star pupil to naughty step
Now we know. Farke clearly ranks Ben Godfrey as his best central defensive option. The head coach hinted as much on Friday when he offered the admission if the England Under-21 international is fit, he plays.
So it was Godfrey lined up alongside Christoph Zimmermann, with Grant Hanley relegated to the bench. That was a touch harsh on the Scot, who may have suffered a late bout of cramp at Manchester United but had performed above and beyond in a congested festive spell following his own long term layoff.
But Farke is not a man for sentiment. He wasted no opportunity to restore his Championship title-winning double act as soon as Godfrey had returned well ahead of his February timescale from a knee problem.
Alas, he now faces the prospect of three matches kicking his heels after a rash lunging challenge felled Callum Wilson in front of the dugouts.
An initial yellow card became red after the referee went to the television screens. Godfrey could have no complaints. Hanley will get his reprieve at Tottenham.
5. What next?
Spurs, away, in the coming days. A first trip to the impressive, revamped 'White Hart Lane' as the purists would still like to call it.
Few will give Norwich any chance of upsetting Jose Mourinho's men on home turf. But they only have to peer back a few games to a pulsating encounter at Carrow Road. Plus, Tottenham will be without their inspirational talisman, Harry Kane.
The gap to safety is now six points. But it no longer feels like a chasm and should Norwich return from north London with anything at all to show for their efforts then those direct rivals who may have written off Farke's men will begin to shift a little more uneasily.
The 'little miracle' he now liberally talks about is still possible.