Aarons didn’t let Barcelona link distract him as he showed attacking threat for City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
When news leaks that Barcelona have been chasing you, it’s always going to be a memorable day, but Max Aarons didn’t let that transfer fuss distract him during Norwich City’s draw with Preston.
Whether the 20-year-old remains with the Canaries beyond this transfer window, or if one of the many glamorous moves he’s been linked with materialises, remains unclear.
But based on his first two appearances of the season, the England Under-21 international will be a real asset again in the Championship if City can keep hold of their academy product.
He had a lively customer on his hands, with Tom Barkhuizen also having a decent size advantage, but as so often with Aarons it’s his attacking threat which can pin the opposition back.
An early burst saw the right-back link with Kieran Dowell but Todd Cantwell couldn’t quite get the ball back to him and Dowell was left hurt after seeing his shot blocked on the edge of the box.
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That height difference was tested in the seventh minute as Ryan Ledson swung a cross in from the right but Aarons did enough to disrupt Barkhuizen in the air and Cantwell was able to clear.
There was a bit of luck two minutes later as a pass in his own half missed Cantwell, only for Teemu Pukki to drop deep and keep control to start an attack.
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Preston - ahead through Scott Sinclair’s penalty in the 14th minute - were pressing City well but Aarons showed good willing in the 27th minute to win a header ahead of Browne on halfway after a kick clear from Declan Rudd.
Four minutes later he recycled a cleared corner back to Xavi Quintilla quickly and the Spaniard swung in a cross from the right which Pukki nodded goalwards, with Rudd somehow fumbling the ball into his net for 1-1
It was soon back on the front foot, with Cantwell not quite able to complete a one-two and get him into the box, with Skipp and Zimmermann covering the vacated space well after the move broke down.
He was caught up in a messy second goal for the hosts to concede in the 42nd minute however, as Christoph Zimmermann got dragged out to the right by Alan Browne.
Aarons filled in centrally but as he went to swap places with Zimmermann again Ryan Ledson spotted the gap and Oliver Skipp didn’t track the run of Scott Sinclair - with Ben Godfrey heading the initial shot off the line but Darnell Fisher lashing into the net to reclaim the lead.
The Canaries improved after the break and managed to find some attacking fluency, with Aarons supporting Przemek Placheta in the 51st minute and getting in a good cross which was only just nodded away from Pukki on the edge of the six-yard box.
He went close to an equaliser soon after, with a stepover from Hernandez allowing him to shoot from the edge of the box, curling a left-footed effort towards the top-left corner which dropped on to the roof of the net.
Three minutes later he led the charge on the counter-attack and had a similar chance to shoot but hesitated and was crowded out, with Godfrey lashing a poor-long range effort wide.
On the hour he did pull the trigger again though, after a Quintilla cross from the left was headed to him, again shooting left footed but this time seeing his effort rise over the bar.
The hosts were in the ascendancy and Aarons combined well with Zimmermann on the right in the 67th minute, allowing substitute Adam Idah to beat his man and blast a low effort which Placheta then should have turned into an unguarded net.
His attacking persistence did pay off in the 85th minute though, with a curling cross only headed up in the air by North End centre-back Patrick Bauer. Placheta met the dropping ball and his first attempt at a shot bounced back to the Pole kindly so that he could slot the equaliser with a classy finish.
VERDICT: Could have reacted better to the danger for the second Preston goal but otherwise proved a reliable attacking outlet and was involved in the build-up to both equalisers. Barcelona’s interest will clearly already have been known to him for quite a while but that becoming public knowledge just a few hours before the game didn’t appear to have distracted him.
RATING: 7 out of 10