Norwich City 2-2 Arsenal - Canaries battle valiantly to hold Ljungberg’s re-energised Gunners to a draw
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City battled hard to maintain the momentum they established in last weekends victory through a draw with Arsenal at Carrow Road on Sunday.
Striker Teemu Pukki gave City the lead before an intervention by VAR saw the Gunners ordered to retake a missed penalty which was converted at the second attempt by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Todd Cantwell restored the Canaries advantage just before half-time but Aubameyang struck again to level the score line after the break.
City boss Daniel Farke was forced into one change with Alex Tettey missing this fixture due to personal reasons so Ibrahim Amadou was gifted his first start in his natural defensive midfield position to accompany Tom Trybull.
With Jamal Lewis returning from injury, many wondered if that would see Sam Byram drop to the bench despite an impressive game against Everton last weekend, but City's boss kept faith with the full-back.
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Freddie Ljungberg was occupying the dug-out as he began his tenure as Arsenal's interim head coach and recalled a host of big name operators in an attempt to rejuvenate his squad following the departure of Unai Emery earlier in the week.
Shkodran Mustafi made his first start since May alongside David Luiz as Arsenal looked to shore up a leaky defence. Granit Xhaka started his first game in three weeks whilst summer signing Nicolas Pepe was on the bench.
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Arsenal began brightly, testing City's shape with a purposeful possession game that saw them gain territorial advantage inside the Canaries half.
Inside the opening five minutes, the Gunners got their first sight of goal. Matteo Guendouzi chipped the ball into Joe Willock who exchanged passes with Alexandre Lacazette. The ball eventually fell to the Frenchman but his scuffed effort was denied by the right-hand of Tim Krul.
The visitors early dominance continued as City had Onel Hernandez to thank for clearing off the line after Mustafi beat Krul to the ball from Ozil's corner.
City did possess a threat on the counter attack however, with McLean's rasping effort from the edge of the box arriving after a surging run from Hernandez down the left. The source of that move was City winning a turnover in the centre of the pitch through McLean.
Against the run of play however, it was City who took the lead courtesy of Teemu Pukki, with the Finn ending his eight-game run without a goal after his effort from outside the area deflected off Mustafi and past Leno into the back of the net.
The goal stemmed from Hernandez, who robbed the ball back and found McLean. The Scot threaded the ball through to Pukki in the left channel and with both of Arsenal's centre-backs dropping off, Pukki took advantage.
Moments later, VAR took centre-stage as Arsenal were awarded a penalty after Christoph Zimmermann's handball.
Aubameyang's initial effort was saved by Krul but VAR ruled players had encroached the area and the referee ordered a retake much to the angst of the Carrow Road faithful. The Gabonese international converted his second effort to equalise for the Gunners.
Aggressive passages of play followed as both sides looked to claim a degree of dominance with the Canaries threat on the counter attack evident for the entirety of the opening period and, on the stroke of half-time, they reclaimed the lead through Cantwell.
McLean was the creator again after winning the ball back inside the Arsenal half before finding Hernandez with an exquisite pass. The Cuban then teed up Cantwell who slotted it confidently past Leno to restore City's lead.
Arsenal's intensity noticeably increased after the break and on the 57th minute, the visitors were level again through Aubameyang after City left the striker unmarked at the back post to lash home from the second phase of a corner.
A mishap in the Gunners back line allowed McLean to snatch the ball and drive through on goal but the Scottish midfielder saw his effort saved wonderfully by Leno.
City were beginning to carve out opportunities regularly, this time it was Cantwell who went close after a deflected Aarons effort fell kindly for him.
City missed another glorious chance after Aubameyang's leveller, this time through Pukki. Cantwell skipped past Guendouzi before finding City's top-scorer, the Finn spun before unleashing an effort but Leno once again stood firm.
The pendulum continued to swing throughout this fixture and in the 75th minute, any ounce of control vanished, with possession changing hands constantly.
Amadou nearly contributed to an Arsenal goal on the 79th minute after a disastrous back pass led to a foot race between Krul and Aubayemang, luckily for the Canaries, the Dutch keeper averted the danger.
That moment gave the Gunners some impetuous and City found themselves penned into their own box but Arsenal couldn't make their dominance count.
Emi Buendia's introduction swayed the game back into City's favour. Despite a franticness descending over the passages of play being witnessed, City continued to push hard for victory against a robust defensive shape.
The game was still ebbing and flowing into the latter stages of the game, with neither establishing control as it became an end-to-end affair. Amadou's late block ensured City did maintain the momentum they built at Goodison Park last weekend.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann (c), Godfrey, Byram; Amadou, Trybull; Cantwell (Buendia, 83), McLean, Hernandez; Pukki. Subs not used: Fahrmann, Roberts, Vrancic, Lewis, Stiepermann, Srbeny.
- Bookings: McLean, Krul
- Goals: Pukki, 22. Cantwell, 45+2
- Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Leno; Chambers, Mustafi, David Luiz, Mustafi, Kolasinac; Xhaka, Guendouzi (Saka, 78); Willock (Torreira, 70), Ozil (Martinelli, 89), Aubameyang; Lacazette. Subs not used: Martinez, Sokratis, Tierney, Pepe.
- Bookings: Chambers
- Goals: Aubameyang, 29, 56.
- Added on time: 3 mins/ 4 mins
- Attendance: 27,067 (2,484 away)
- Referee: Paul Tierney (Lancashire)
- VAR: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)