Slick Wolves put Norwich City away in a 2-0 Championship cruise at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Less a defeat more a cold dose of realism.
Willy Boly and Leo Bonatini struck in either half to condemn Norwich City to a second Championship home defeat in a matter of days but that barely illustrated the gulf at Carrow Road.
Daniel Farke was prescient in his pre-match analysis of the contrasting paths these two clubs appear to have embarked on. Championship rivals maybe but that is where the comparison ends.
Wolves have sanctioned a lavish overhaul to equip Nuno Espirito Santo with an enviable cast list arguably only Middlesbrough can match in terms of resources in the second tier.
City’s financial circumstances dictate a different approach.
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Farke prosaically drew parallels between the gulf in playing personnel. Wolves deployed £16m-rated 20-year-old Ruben Neves against a peer in James Maddison who cost considerably less and with a far less heralded pedigree. Money is not everything. That much is true, but it distorts the playing field on and off the park at every level of the game.
Perhaps a more pertinent comparison was John Ruddy’s presence on his first competitive return to Carrow Road.
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Ruddy was released at the start of the summer because City were unable to offer him the terms you can be sure he now commands at Molineux. Farke may be a developer of young talent but that by its very nature hints at longevity to this process of building for sustained success.
Wolves want it now, the quest is immediate and they appear to have a squad that will carry them very close.
Norwich’s stirring upturn in results, if not polished performances, distorted the waters.
Expectations were inevitably raised by the resolute manner of wins at Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town. But another struggle on home soil illustrates the scale of the task. It might have been different if Marley Watkins’ flick had clipped the inside of Ruddy’s far post rather than veered out of play.
But City have again started to cough up cheap goals in an echo of those early-season woes.
Boly was left unmarked barely three yards out in the centre of the Norwich penalty area to tuck away Barry Douglas’ cross from a Wolves corner. Farke handed Grant Hanley a first start since his Newcastle United switch but that set piece vulnerability is proving resistant.
Norwich saw plenty of possession for the remainder of the opening period yet Wolves formed a comfortable ring around Ruddy.
Timm Klose headed a James Maddison corner wide in a rare moment of alarm. The Swiss was far more prominent in his own area, with a series of timely interventions when the slick visitors raid at pace.
Wolves looked a cut above most of Norwich’s Championship opponents at times. As such, it would be unwise to use them as a benchmark for how the season unfolds from here.
One must also factor in the return to fitness of key attacking weapons which will surely improve the Canaries’ fitful productivity. But against both Derby and now Wolves their limitations were painfully obvious.
A trip to Bolton assumes perhaps greater importance to bounce into the latest international break with renewed confidence.
Farke and his coaches hardly want another bout on introspection that accompanied the first break of the campaign, after miserable Millwall.
City have undoubtedly made progress but the bareness of Farke’s depleted resources in certain areas of the side has been clear to see against those harbouring genuine promotion ambitions.
Watkins headed at Ruddy just before the hour mark from Harrison Reed’s whipped cross. But the tide was flowing towards Angus Gunn’s goal.
Bonatini flicked a first time effort wide of the advancing keeper with Ivo Pinto pausing his retreat convinced the ball had already gone out of play. The captain launched himself at Jota in the 69th minute to avert a certain second for the visitors, seven yards out.
It was temporary respite. Klose miscued his header from a Wolves free kick and Bonatini lashed a half-volley past Gunn.
Maddison gamely continued to carry the fight. A dipping free kick clipped the Wolves wall in the closing stages, but Ruddy remained largely a by-stander on his Carrow Road return.
• Norwich City: Gunn, Pinto, Hanley, Klose, Husband (Stiepermann 60), Reed, Trybull (Zimmermann 65), Vrancic, Maddison, Murphy (Jerome 60), Watkins. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Martin, Hoolahan, Cantwell.
• Bookings: Watkins (foul on Coady, 26); Murphy (foul on Bonatini, 52); Reed (foul on Neves, 90); Stiepermann (foul on Price, 90)
• Wolves: Ruddy, Doherty, Douglas, N’Diaye, Bennett, Cavaleiro (Enobakhare 61), Neves, Boly, Coady, Jota (Costa 84), Bonatini (Price 75). Subs (not used): Norris (GK), Marshall, Vinagre, Hause.
• Bookings: Cavaleiro (foul on Murphy, 41); Neves (foul on Maddison, 64); Douglas (unsporting behaviour, 73)
• Goals: Boly (18), Bonatini (72)
• Time added on: 2 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Darren England (South Yorks)
• Attendance: 26,554