Draws don’t do justice to Norwich City
The encounter between the Canaries and Leeds United was as good an advert for Championship football as you’re likely to see this season.
It was a full-blooded, frantic contest between two high-quality sides who were both intent on playing attacking football at every opportunity and who showed full commitment to winning. And it was thoroughly entertaining from first minute to last.
In terms of the balance of play and how the game unfolded, I don’t think anyone present inside a buzzing Carrow Road would deny that Leeds enjoyed the best of the exchanges in the opening half.
City started the game brightly and they put the visitors under a fair bit of pressure, but the longer the half progressed the more Simon Grayson’s men managed to gain the upper hand.
Leeds were happy to force the issue instead of sitting back and trying to contain City the way many teams have already done and will no doubt continue to do so this season.
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They were sharp and incisive when they moved forward and they looked particularly menacing whenever they broke up Norwich’s attacks and tried to hit them on the counter-attack.
Max Gradel, in particular, was causing problems on the left flank and he regularly put the City defence on the back foot by producing a decent end product to complement some impressive dribbling skills in one against one situations. Whereas by contrast, after that initial impressive opening spell, the Canaries didn’t really test Leeds ’keeper Kasper Schmeichel enough despite managing to create numerous moments of promising approach play.
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All that changed after the half-time break though, as City emerged from the tunnel reorganised in a 4-3-3 formation and promptly set about their opponents for the whole of the second half.
Roared on by a superb crowd that created a cracking atmosphere, City threw absolutely everything at the visitors, and but for better finishing and a bit of luck they would have deservedly won the game.
Some of Norwich’s football was of the highest order.
Their passing was crisp, precise and incisive, their crossing was generally accurate, and the players made good decisions in possession, helped by the impressive levels of awareness and game understanding they showed.
Given the number of shots and crosses City produced and the panic it induced in the visitors’ defence, a City equaliser seemed inevitable.
And when it eventually arrived via a thumping header from Leon Barnett, a City victory looked on the cards.
We couldn’t really have asked for any more from the Canaries on Saturday. The team gave it everything and then some more.
And although this draw makes it four in a row, the results haven’t really reflected the standard of Norwich’s performances.
To put it bluntly, City are doing fine, and if they continue in this vein you can bet your bottom dollar these draws will soon turn into victories. Roll on Sunday, I say.
• NEIL’S MAN OF THE MATCH – LEON BARNETT: Given how high he can jump when competing for aerial challenges and the amount of headers he invariably wins, it really was only a matter of time before the hugely impressive central defender eventually opened his goalscoring account for the Canaries. But his goal was merely the icing on the cake on Saturday as he delivered yet another of his solid, no-nonsense and thoroughly effective defensive displays.