David Freezer: Lightning couldn’t strike twice for City, could it?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
How many times have you watched the highlights of that amazing Carrow Road win over Manchester City since September? The full-time roar is still breathtaking.
Who could have imagined what was to follow for the Canaries after that performance; full of bravery, determination and clinical attacking, in spite of the injury problems which had made Norwich such massive underdogs?
Back then most people hadn’t even heard of coronavirus, City had earned six points and scored nine goals from their opening five Premier League games, Teemu Pukki was the division’s reigning Player of the Month and the future was looking bright for Daniel Farke’s squad.
A few days later I went up to Colney to interview Stuart Webber about his new contract and intention to move on to a new challenge when it expires in 2022, and asked City’s sporting director about that special evening.
“The national media I’ve actually been mildly offended with the sort of shock, as if it was the biggest result ever,” he said.
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“Wigan Athletic beat them two years ago (in the FA Cup), when they were in League One, that’s a shock. We’re in the same league as them!”
He was, of course, correct at the time but with the benefit of hindsight as Norwich prepare for the return fixture against Pep Guardiola’s superstars on Sunday the triumph has rather taken on that glow of a cup upset.
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Ahead of that success Farke had already lost Timm Klose, Onel Hernandez and Christoph Zimmermann to long-term injuries and captain Grant Hanley was on the bench as emergency cover, before admitting defeat at the end of the month and getting groin and hernia surgeries.
Max Aarons, Tom Trybull and Mo Leitner were all unavailable with knocks as well, with Tim Krul, Ben Godfrey and Alex Tettey managing to shake off injury issues to start against the reigning champions.
Ibrahim Amadou and Sam Byram came into defence - and both were superb. City named two keepers on the bench and Adam Idah was named as a substitute for the first time in a league game. It was truly down to the bare bones.
Yet as that almighty roar of triumph reverberated around Norfolk at full-time, a memorable backs-to-the-wall display had pulled off a famous win, when the desperate situation just seemed to fill each player with adrenaline.
From the moment Kenny McLean leapt like a Scottish salmon, removed his mayoral hat and powered in the opener, you could smell that something special was unfolding. It felt like the Canaries players were ready to run through proverbial bricks walls to prove everyone wrong.
That is almost exactly the situation they find themselves in again ahead of Sunday - but lightning couldn’t strike twice, could it?
Looking back at the statistics from the game reminds you just how dominant the visitors were. They had 69 percent of possession, 16 corners, 25 shots at goal and eight of them were on target. Norwich had seven shots and three on target, all three of them goals.
McLean’s header at a corner was followed by a slick counter started by Emi Buendia and Marco Stiepermann setting Teemu Pukki free to square to Todd Cantwell in acres of space with Ederson exposed. The third saw Buendia rob Nicolas Ottamendi and tee up a simple finish for Pukki.
The clinical edge that Farke has so lamented the absence of on many occasions since was very clearly on show that night.
Yet much like tales of people finding extraordinary strength in lifesaving situations, that adrenaline couldn’t last forever. That youthful and inexperienced squad couldn’t keep digging deep to find something special.
It almost defied logic and that’s what they’ll have to do again at the Etihad, when Guradiola’s boys are fighting for places ahead of their big Champions League clash with Real Madrid, when they’ll want revenge - whether they’d admit it or not.
An already relegated team on a club record losing streak of nine league games against a team that have scored almost four times as many goals (97) and conceded half as many (35), with world class players worth hundreds of millions such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
The mismatch is unavoidable and illustrates just how difficult it’s been for Canaries fans to stomach the drastic change in fortunes, but they’ve already shown it is possible.
Wouldn’t it just be the most Norwich City thing ever to sink to a terrible relegation but do the double over Manchester City in the process?