Norwich City 1 Sunderland 3 match report: Lewis Grabban returns to haunt Canaries

Lewis Grabban was on target against his old club Norwich City at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chestert

Lewis Grabban was on target against his old club Norwich City at Carrow Road. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich City crashed to an embarrassing 3-1 Championship defeat on Sunday afternoon as City old boy Lewis Grabban grabbed a brace at Carrow Road.

Daniel Farke’s side enjoyed plenty of possession but lacked any real thrust in the final third and were again exposed defensively in a sobering first home league outing of the season.

Grabban gathered James Vaughan’s flick to slot past Angus Gunn prior to the interval. Aiden McGeady then smashed a 20-yard shot past the City number one before picking out the unmarked Grabban to double his tally.

But Grabban sliced Marcel Franke’s far post header into his own net in the 78th minute to complete an unwanted hat-trick, and offer scant consolation to the well-beaten hosts.

Steven Naismith’s charm offensive on Farke was underlined with his elevation straight into the starting XI following his suspension. Mario Vrancic made way but that was the only change from the team that began the Championship campaign at Fulham. Nelson Oliveira was again held in reserve after an eventful week sparked by his frustrated goal celebration at Craven Cottage. Ivo Pinto and Wes Hoolahan were also on the substitutes’ bench after their seasonal re-appearances in the midweek League Cup win against Swindon Town.

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Sunderland’s forward line had a familiar feel with Grabban partnering another City old boy in Vaughan.

After a week dominated by Oliveira’s antics, Cameron Jerome looked keen to deliver his message on the park. The Norwich frontman twice out-muscled Lamine Kone in two forceful duels that earned appreciation from the home fans.

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Sidekick Marley Watkins probed for more uncertainty in the vicinity of Kone, who felled the Welsh international. James Maddison’s free kick clipped the Wearside wall and deflected behind. The energy and the tempo whipped up by the faithful were being matched by Farke’s men. The German head coach has spoken at length about forging a togetherness and sense of unity; particularly in the aftermath of Oliveira’s defiance. That was tangible inside Carrow Road during the opening quarter.

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The smoothness of City’s attacking rhythm was impressive. Naismith cushioned a pass into Jerome who buried a finish into the bottom corner, but the striker had strayed offside. Captain Russell Martin surged into enemy territory but Jason Steele gathered his low shot with Jerome sensing a rebound.

There was a sense of freedom and a licence for expression going forward. But just like against the Robins, all that latent goodwill failed to mask fresh defensively vulnerability. Sunderland may have been second best in open play but they had the cutting edge to go in front. Vaughan flicked on a long ball for Grabban to break free and slot past Gunn.

It felt like another self-inflicted concession. Everything Farke had spoken about following the midweek cup win about aggressive intent and willingness to sense danger was sadly absent. City were almost punished again when Vaughan was left unmarked but Franke got a head to McGeady’s cross.

Grayson’s side retreated to the edge of their own penalty area and waited for Norwich to cough up possession during ever more intricate attempts to try and test the well-protected Steele.

That, in essence, feels like the internal tension at the heart of Farke’s philosophy. Few sides in the Championship will match Norwich in terms of ball control but it is the productivity and the variety to their attacking intent that remains a work in progress. The laboured pattern persisted after the interval, until McGeady slammed a rising left-footed shot beyond the motionless Gunn from 20 yards. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Oliveira’s temporary exile ended in the 67th minute when he replaced Jerome.

Franke rose unchallenged but glanced Maddison’s corner wide from inside the six yard box. Such imprecision was in sharp contrast to McGeady’s thumping hit. The Republic of Ireland veteran then picked out Grabban to head home at the far post to seal the win.

But the striker charitably gifted Norwich a goal at the opposite end when he sliced Franke’s header past his own keeper. Martin hammered a rebound against the outside of a post when Steele could only parry James Husband’s curling effort. Watkins’ goalbound effort then appeared to strike Kone. It was a commendable final surge but the game was long since up.

• Norwich City: Gunn, Wildschut (Murphy 61), Martin, Zimmermann, Franke, Husband, Reed, Maddison, Naismith (Hoolahan 77), Jerome (Oliveira 67), Watkins. Subs (not used): McGovern (GK), Pinto, Vrancic, Tettey.

• Goal: Grabban og (78)

• Sunderland: Steele, Jones, Cattermole (Gibson 73), Vaughan, Grabban (O’Shea 86), Galloway, Ndong, Browning, McGeady (Gooch 84), Kone, Honeyman. Subs (not used): Ruiter (GK), Khazri, Matthews, Asoro.

• Booking: Vaughan (foul on Wildschut, 53)

• Goals: Grabban (27, 71), McGeady (60)

• Time added on: 1 minute / 5 minutes

• Referee: Andrew Madley

• Attendance: 26,343

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