Six things from Norwich City’s thoroughly satisfying win at Huddersfield
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
After a satisfying start to the Championship season for Norwich City at Huddersfield, David Freezer analyses the Canaries’ first competitive win in over six months.
1 - Admirable composure from Pukki
Winning 1-0 with a late goal away from home, with your star striker unselfishly teeing up an academy teen for the winner and your keeper barely being tested - there are not many more satisfying ways to begin a league season.
Just imagine how desperate Teemu Pukki is for a goal though, going into the game at Huddersfield without scoring from open play in 23 competitive games for club and country, stretching back to last December.
Yet as he pounced on the dreadful back-pass from Richard Stearman, the Finn had the composure at the crucial moment to realise Adam Idah was better placed to score, selling a little dummy before passing to his young team-mate.
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Canaries fans were already relishing the prospect of Pukki rediscovering his best form in the Championship - but now many will be willing that next goal even more.
Idah made no mistake but the 30-year-old showed how much of a team player he is.
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2 - Krul will demand progress
Keeping a clean sheet was very welcome as well, after managing just five in the Premier League last season.
That’s hardly surprising after all of the injury woe but Tim Krul was also only able to savour 13 during the title triumph of 2018-19, as City conceded an unusually high total of 57 on their way to finishing as champions.
If there’s to be any chance of bouncing back to the top flight and achieving the ultimate aim of stability in the Premier League, it seems essential that the Canaries return with a stronger defensive backbone.
The Terriers’ only shot on target was a low effort from Alex Pritchard which Oliver Skipp had taken the sting out of already, with Josh Koroma also firing wide with a shot which had Krul scrambling.
The Dutchman is a top level keeper and will be demanding more clean sheets - showing all his experience with some late claims of crosses, dominating his area and calming things down at a crucial point in the game.
3 - Godfrey ready to impress
Ben Godfrey and Christoph Zimmermann already have an established partnership and understanding, which provided a base to build from at Huddersfield.
Godfrey in particular - fresh from his first goal for the England Under-21s - was in top form.
The more cynical among us will no doubt point to the transfer window being open domestically until October 16 but if the 22-year-old carries on like this then it won’t take long for Premier League scouts to be sure that he’s too good for the Championship.
The lung-busting run to charge back and help bail out Zimmermann after a poor touch was hugely impressive and he repeated the trick after Todd Cantwell had misread his intended pass.
He certainly should have been awarded a penalty when his header was denied by a flailing Huddersfield hand during the first half and also comfortably completed the most passes of anyone on the pitch - 43, ahead of 33 from Kenny McLean.
4 - Hosts were fired up for new boss
It will of course take a few weeks before we can start to gauge fully how well City are adjusting but Huddersfield swiftly acknowledged the quality that Daniel Farke has at his disposal.
The hosts were organised and fully motivated as they tried to make a positive start under Carlos Corberan, successfully nullifying Pukki during the first half by dropping deep as soon as Norwich gained possession.
They also pressed well and wingers Adama Diakhaby and Juninho Bacuna stuck with Max Aarons and Xavi Quintilla whenever they tried to press forward.
Eventually however the superior quality told and they ran out of the energy to keep pace with the movement and sharp passing of a City team which remained patient against lively opposition.
It will take time to restore confidence and rediscover rhythm but if the Canaries can make a strong start it won’t take long for teams at this level to become wary and start parking the bus.
5 - VAR nearly proved to be no joke
It was easy to joke about the lack of VAR after City had received the bit of luck they deserved when Stearman’s disastrous back-pass opened the back door.
Yet had they emerged with just a point the decisions by Geoff Eltringham not to give two penalty decisions which looked clear in real time and even more clear in replays, would have made for some very frustrating discussions.
Equally, the heavy tackle from Kieran Dowell on Stearman and the clumsy elbow from Cantwell on the same player could have been upgraded from yellow to red with the VAR system’s use of slow-motion replays.
That’s a sad indictment on football as a whole that the game is different at an elite level to even the second tier of English football.
Yet when you add decent saves from Ben Hamer to deny Idah and Pukki, Onel Hernandez firing just wide and Christoph Zimmermann heading just over, it’s clear to see which team deserved to come out on top of this one.
6 - Savour the feeling of triumph
The evolution of this City squad is still only just getting started though.
Emi Buendia returns to the mix against Preston on Saturday, there was also no room in the squad for Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann and Timm Klose, while Jordan Hugill and Ben Gibson didn’t get a chance to impress and Przemylsaw Placheta was only able to show his speed during a relatively brief cameo.
New homes have not been found for Tom Trybull, Mo Leitner and Josip Drmic yet either, so there remains plenty of work for Farke and Stuart Webber to get this squad properly settled.
Quintilla, Skipp and Dowell all showed some encouraging signs but it is already looking like that transfer deadline of 5pm on October 16 could be the true starting point of the new era. That’s when international action ends and an awkward trip to Rotherham awaits.
For now though, enjoy the first win and just the fourth goal of the last six months.