Norwich City squander another Championship lead in tame Cardiff surrender

Wes Hoolahan was heavily involved in the first half at Cardiff. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Image

Wes Hoolahan was heavily involved in the first half at Cardiff. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The Canaries’ winless league run stretched to seven games after Cardiff over-powered Daniel Farke’s men 3-1 in a second half surge on Friday night.

Marco Stiepermann rifled the visitors in front but Cardiff roared back with Joe Ralls converting from the penalty spot before Junior Hoilett and Omar Bogle sealed a win for the promotion-chasing Bluebirds.

Angus Gunn also saved a second penalty from Ralls with Farke’s men’s shortcomings painfully exposed again.

Farke sounded the right defiant tone in his pre-match press call. But after six games without a league win this was about actions.

Cardiff were full of confidence. Norwich have looked fragile too often on this downward spiral. Unable to seize the initiative in the key moments or protect Angus Gunn with the zeal they had shown in the best spell of the campaign.

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But there was no ferocious early onslaught from Neil Warnock’s side. No home plan to unsettle and test out such brittleness. Norwich navigated the first quarter with no alarms; apart from the self-inflicted jitters when Angus Gunn attempted to roll the ball out to either centre back or Harrison Reed.

The sight of Mario Vrancic imploring the Manchester City keeper to launch it long underlined the Bluebirds’ high press was proving far too effective.

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Danny Ward hooked a half volley wide but it was Farke’s men who carried the greater threat.

Wes Hoolahan picked out the unmarked Grant Hanley, who could only plant a header at Neil Etheridge.

Vrancic’s raking crossfield pass freed Josh Murphy. The young wide player allowed the ball to bounce once before ballooning his half-volley high into the home fans.

That lack of cutting edge was painfully evident again. Farke turned away in frustration when Nelson Oliveira cut inside but tamely rolled a shot at Etheridge.

Yet the Canaries appeared to sense Cardiff’s fitful attacking ambition as the first half meandered.

Hoolahan was prominent, cutting inside looking for work centrally. Reed and James Maddison were showing admirable screening instincts to smother any sporadic counter-attacking danger. There was energy and a desire too often lacking in recent times.

Farke’s boys just needed a breakthrough to inject real belief. It duly arrived.

Vrancic’s corner was partially cleared to Marco Stiepermann, who unleashed a powerful low left-footed shot from the edge of the area that flashed past Etheridge before he could react.

The celebrations that engulfed the German underlined the collective will. Stiepermann was smothered by yellow shirts while the loyal band of away fans found their voice.

It was no less than Norwich deserved. It could and should have been even better in first half stoppage time when Reed’s snap tackle left Cardiff with men stranded upfield and Oliveira leading the breakout.

Hoolahan surged forward in support but the Portuguese striker opted to cut inside and pick out Etheridge. The verbal blast from the Irishman warmed the wintry air. Oliveira raised a palm in acknowledgement as Farke threw his hands to his head in frustration.

Warnock signalled his disgust with a double change at the interval. Lee Tomlin and Omar Bogle were introduced to pep up a frontline which had been nullified by Timm Klose and Hanley.

Given Farke devoted part of his pre-match preview to outlining Cardiff’s set piece threat the leveller just three minutes later from the penalty spot was galling. Sol Bamba’s thumping header ended up in the Norwich net, after referee Davies had already blown for an apparent shove from Ivo Pinto. Joe Ralls composed himself to rifle the spot kick under Gunn.

Ralls then thundered a rising close range shot against the underside of Gunn’s bar with the Canaries still reeling.

All that control and composure from the visitors swept away in a half-time blast or two from Warnock and a double substitution. Norwich looked one-paced and predictable; vulnerable to the quick counter. Loic Damour’s shot spiralled into the path of Junior Hoilett who guided a looping finish over the stranded Gunn.

The young keeper then wiped out Tomlin when the yellow sea parted in front of him. But Ralls was too cute with his second penalty and Gunn gathered at the second attempt.

Any optimistic hope that might prove a catalyst have not watched Norwich since that League Cup epic at Arsenal. Callum Paterson picked out Bogle at the near post to slot past Gunn from close range.

• Cardiff: Etheridge, Bennett, Morrison. Manga, Ralls, Ward (Bogle 45), Bamba, Mendez-Laing (Paterson 70), Damour, Bryson (Tomlin 45), Hoilett. Subs (not used); Murphy (GK), Peltier, Feeney, Halford.

• Booking: Tomlin (foul on Maddison, 54)

• Goals: Ralls (49), Hoilett (63), Bogle (80)

• Norwich City: Gunn, Pinto, Klose, Hanley, Stiepermann, Reed, Vrancic, Hoolahan, Maddison (Pritchard 82), Murphy, Oliveira. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Zimmermann, Jerome, Wildschut, Trybull, Franke.

• Bookings: Klose (foul on Mendez-Laing, 36); Gunn (foul on Tomlin, 77); Maddison (dissent, 81)

• Goal: Stiepermann (43)

• Time added on: 2 minutes / 4 minutes

• Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire)

• Attendance: 17,033

• For the latest Norwich City news and opinion follow Group Football Editor Paddy Davitt on the following channels…

Paddy Davitt on Twitter @paddyjdavitt

Paddy Davitt on Instagram @pj_davitt

Paddy Davitt on Periscope @paddyjdavitt

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