Heartbreak for Norwich City after Arsenal hit back late to edge epic League Cup tie 2-1 in extra-time
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Beyond a rare cup run Norwich City’s daunting trip to Arsenal was as much about what Daniel Farke’s squad can achieve this season.
A Championship turnaround, after such an inauspicious start to the German’s reign is one thing. Maintaining their derby dominance over Ipswich Town is another. Albeit a little routine. But even a much-changed Gunners’ line up for this last-16 League Cup date in north London was packed with creative intent and international nous. It marked a serious step up from anything that had gone before.
Theo Walcott was at the head of a line that included Jack Wilshere, long since touted as England’s saviour before persistent injury dulled his prodigious gifts. There was also a start for Olivier Giroud, fresh from collecting his Fifa award for a goal of the year.
Arsene Wenger gave some of his brightest starlets another outing after impressing last week in the Europa League at Red Star Belgrade. The likes of Reiss Nelson and Alex Iwobi seemingly carry the hopes of the next generation.
The tariff was high; the degree of difficulty steep. Farke himself equated it to a one in 20 chance during the build up. That might have been a dose of kidology from the astute head coach. We have seen enough evidence already of choice sound bites regarding the relative strengths of his players and the opposition. You can be sure that derby jibe over Ipswich’s longevity in the Championship resonated every bit as loudly over the border as Nelson Oliveira’s jibes.
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But there was no trace on inferiority from the men in yellow. Why should there have been? It felt like Carrow Road, with a raucous near 9,000-strong support massed behind Angus Gunn’s goal in the first period.
The die hards in the home ranks tried to respond, but the terrace battle proved as one-sided as Norwich’s mastery of the East Anglian derby.
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Arsenal tried to weave pretty patterns as the first half unfolded. Wilshere and Walcott twisted and turned. Nelson turned on the after burners to test the defensive instincts of Josh Murphy and James Husband. But City know this script so well by now.
The stage may have been grander, the lights brighter but after emerging from intimidating trips to Bramall Lane and Middlesbrough victorious, that cohesive discipline without the ball withstood Arsenal’s attempts to pick pockets.
When the Gunners did find a way through they encountered an imperious Gunn.
The tip over to deny Rob Holding barley four yards out after he climbed about Ivo Pinto was high class. The header was straight at the Manchester City loanee but that merely underlined his positioning. Norwich needed some respite, something to convince Arsenal this was not going to be a serene cup passage.
The goal when it came was a beautiful interlude. James Maddison drove forward. Tom Trybull slid to control a heavy pass and shuffle it back into Maddison’s path, who took one look up and slipped in Murphy to burst clear of Mathieu Debuchy.
The towering presence of Matt Macey confronted the young midfielder who coolly chipped a finish over the stranded debutant. The barely concealed shock on Murphy’s features as he was embraced by Maddison told you everything.
This was not meant to happen. But Norwich have made a virtue of being obdurate opponents in recent times. The recalled Nelson Oliveira almost doubled City’s lead but Macey sprung to his left to parry.
Arsenal tried to up it again after the interval. Mohamed Elneny hauled down Oliveira as he prepared to race clear and test Macey again. Referee Madley opted for yellow. Farke shook his head. The Norfolk hordes with a clear view of the incident bayed for red. Murphy then headed at Macey. Arsenal’s growing desperation was leaving gaps on the counter.
Murphy raced clear again in the 73rd minute.
Macey advanced but the City goalscorer picked the wrong club on this occasion and his lob drifted well over the top. Oliveira then manfully held off two Arsenal defenders to roll in the late-arriving Vrancic who checked onto his left but dragged a low shot into the side netting. Norwich looked the sharper. Arsenal’s work lacked precision. City’s fans sensed they needed to play their part as the clock ticked down.
The decibel levels rose.
Wenger twisted again from his youthful bench. Nketiah was thrown into the fray. It was an inspired call from the Frenchman. The England youth international gambled on a near post flick to slot from point blank range.
The home fans greeted the equaliser like a title winner. Nketiah’s second, when he climbed above the weary Klose in extra-time, sealed his place in the affections of the grateful home fans.
It was cruel. It was rough justice but we now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, just what Farke’s men can achieve this season.
• Arsenal: Macey, Debuchy, Elneny, Holding, Coquelin, Wilshere (Willock 114), Nelson (Nketiah 85), Walcott, Iwobi (Dasilva 105), Maitland-Niles (Akpom 70), Giroud. Subs (not used): Iliev, Osei-Tutu, Sheaf.
• Bookings: Elneny (foul on Oliveira, 56); Coquelin (foul on Maddison, 68); Wilshere (foul on Husband 78); Akpom (foul on Zimmermann, 88)
• Goals: Nketiah (85, 96)
Norwich City: Gunn, Pinto, Zimmermann Klose, Husband, Reed (Jerome 101), Trybull, Vrancic (Wildschut 90), Maddison (Hoolahan 90), Murphy (Stiepermann 73), Oliveira. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Martin, Franke.
• Bookings: Trybull (foul on Elneny, 89); Husband (foul on Walcott, 90)
• Goal: Murphy (34)
• Time added on: 1 minute / 4 minutes in normal time. 1 minute / 1 minute in extra time
• Referee: Andy Madley (West Yorks)
• Attendance: 58,444