Premier League here we come! Vrancic stunner finally seals promotion for Canaries on incredible Carrow Road night for the ages
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Mario Vrancic has written his name into Norwich City legend tonight, with an incredible long-range strike which proved the difference in a 2-1 win over Blackburn which has sealed a wonderful promotion success at Carrow Road.
An early strike from Marco Stiepermann and a 25-yard thunderbolt from Vrancic had fired the rampant hosts into a 2-0 lead within 22 minutes, only to switch off and see Lewis Travis pull one back for Rovers within two minutes to keep the home crowd on edge.
Emi Buendia’s bicycle kick was superbly saved and Onel Hernandez was denied by the crossbar but Rovers couldn’t spoil the party, as a mostly composed second half ensured a return to the Premier League was in the bag.
It’s the 11th promotion in the Canaries’ history and the fifth in the past 16 seasons – but only the second time promotion has been sealed at Carrow Road, with the last time back in 1960 which was, quite remarkably, exactly 59 years ago to the day.
It sets up the 26th top-flight campaign of the club’s history, with the riches of the Premier League ensuring one season is worth in excess of £150million, even for teams who get relegated after one campaign.
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The pressure moved up a notch before kick-off, with Sheffield United winning 2-0 at home against relegated Ipswich to claim top spot on goal difference and take the Championship title race to the final day.
The volume cranked up as Teemu Pukki lifted the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy after being named Player of the Season in the fan vote, ahead of runner-up Christoph Zimmermann and third-placed Buendia.
The heat literally increased as the players emerged to a raucous reception, with flames shooting from pitchside boxes to take the atmosphere to new levels of intensity.
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Vrancic had come in for the injured Tom Trybull and the midfielder made a vital interception on the edge of the Blackburn box in the 13th minute, after Onel Hernandez had wasted the chance to shoot from a superb Buendia pass.
He teed up Marco Stiepermann and the German’s trusty left-foot blasted a shot into the bottom-right corner from the edge of the box to crank the volume up another notch, scoring his 10th goal of the season.
There was a penalty appeal soon after as Pukki’s shot hit Darragh Lenihan’s arm but from point-blank range and with his arm down by his side, escaping the spot-kick.
Buendia lashed just wide in the 16th minute and Rovers could have been reduced to 10 men two minutes later, as Lenihan’s chested control was poor and saw Pukki tear through, with the defender’s swipe at the striker’s legs only punished by a yellow card – presumably due to a covering defender.
It was 2-0 in the 21st minute though, when Buendia teed up Vrancic and the former Paderborn man shaped to shoot before firing a missile into the top-left corner from 25 yards, off the outside of his wand of a left foot, to launch Carrow Road into party mood.
Those celebrations were cut short within two minutes though, as Rovers awoke from their slumber.
Kenny McLean blocked an Amari’i Bell cross from the left and the ball broke kindly to Travis on the edge of the box, with Vrancic not able to get in front of the ball in time, and a slightly deflected shot squeezing past Tim Krul into the bottom-right corner.
All of a sudden the mid-table side threw off the shackles and Adam Armstrong whipped in a lovely cross from the right which beat everyone, including his team-mates Bradley Dack and Danny Graham.
Ben Williams made a crucial tackle as Stiepermann had headed Pukki clean through in the 29th minute, as City calmed things down.
Hernandez went close to making it 3-1 in the 42nd minute after Vrancic had turned nicely to set Jamal Lewis away on the left, with the Cuban winger’s low shot zipping past the far post.
Former Canaries favourite Elliott Bennett also made a timely sliding block to prevent Hernandez finding Pukki in the box soon after and the hosts went in to the break having to settle for just a 2-1 lead, despite flying out of the traps.
The third City so desperately wanted almost arrived straight away when Buendia controlled a dropping ball in the box then hit the bouncing ball with an overhead kick which Jayson Leutwiler got down to superbly to save on his line, with the hosts now shooting towards the Barclay Stand.
Hernandez was the next to go close, clattering the crossbar in the 56th minute after a Buendia nutmeg and a lovely pass to the left from Vrancic, the winger cut on to his right and had the keeper beaten all ends up, only to be denied by the woodwork.
Hernandez was in scintillating form but his final ball was suspect on several occasions, none more so than when charging clean through in the 74th minute but bizarrely trying to square to Pukki rather than shoot, with Leutwiler then down well to save a Stiepermann smash in the aftermath.
From there it was mostly a case of seeing out the game safely, retaining possession and keeping calm as Carrow Road partied around the players and the visitors looked tired – to seal the deal.
City were being offered at around 10th favourites for promotion by most bookmakers, with odds of around 20/1 available during pre-season, but have made a mockery of those predictions in style.
It’s also the first time the Canaries have gone 13 games unbeaten under Daniel Farke, having enjoyed a 12-game unbeaten league streak earlier in the season.
It’s the longest unbeaten league run since going 16 games without defeat in League One during 2009-10 and the first time City have been unbeaten for 13 in the second tier since 2007-08.
The Canaries return to action at play-off bound Aston Villa on the final day of the season next Sunday – who are at third-placed Leeds tomorrow lunchtime looking for an 11th win on the spin – where they will need a point to seal the title, if Sheffield United win at Stoke, with all games at 12.30pm.
NORWICH: Krul; Aarons, Zimmerman (C), Godfrey, Lewis; Vrancic, McLean; Buendia, Stiepermann (Tettey 90+2), Hernandez (Leitner 90+4); Pukki (Rhodes 90+4). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Hanley, Klose, Cantwell
Booked: Zimmermann (foul on Brereton, 64)
Goals: Stiepermann (13), Vrancic (21)
BLACKBURN: Leutwiler; Bennett (C), Lenihan, Williams, Bell; Travis, Rodwell (Conway 58); Armstrong, Dack (Chapman 71), Rothwell; Graham (Brereton 46). Unused subs: Raya Martin (GK), Mulgrew, Nyambe, Evans
Booked: Lenihan (foul on Pukki, 18), Dack (foul on Buendia, 53), Armstrong (foul on Lewis, 81)
Goals: Travis (23)
REFEREE: Andrew Madley (West Yorks)
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