Buendia brilliance ensures City snatch top of the table clash
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There's an old adage in football that big players conjure up defining moments in important matches. Emi Buendia proved to be that player as Norwich City beat Brentford 1-0.
In a pulsating and tactical affair between the top two at Carrow Road, once again the small Argentine produced a wonderful piece of magic to seal a vital three points for the league leaders.
Brentford were relentless in their second half pursuit of an equaliser, but this a victory made through sheer graft and defensive resolve. As Daniel Farke's warriors made their way through plenty of work, Alex Tettey and the others warming up encouraged and coached from the sidelines.
Ivan Toney, a striker on course to smash the record for goals in a single Championship season, was reduced to very little. Their defending was brave, intelligent but never last ditch.
The roars that greeted the final whistle acted as confirmation. This was a seismic victory and Norwich City knew it. The celebrations should have been shared by a capacity Carrow Road crowd, but this was another moment that coronavirus has robbed of us all.
Farke, a coach who favours continuity and consistency, named an unchanged starting XI after it was confirmed Todd Cantwell would remain sidelined through a calf injury that kept him out of Sunday's victory over Wycombe.
Onel Hernandez retained his place in the starting XI, with Przemek Placheta on the bench. Mario Vrancic once again started as the number 10 as Farke resisted calls for Kieran Dowell to feature.
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Brentford were without influential midfielder Josh DaSilva due to an ongoing hip complaint, he was replaced by Mathias Jensen. The 22-year-old isn't expected to feature until the end of this month's international break.
Rico Henry was also ruled out with a hamstring injury, meaning Mads Bech Sorensen was forced to play out of position at left-back. The Championship's top-scorer Ivan Toney led the line for the Bees.
Both sides observed a minutes silence and wore black armbands in remembrance of City's former manager Glenn Roeder, who passed away aged 65 on Sunday.
City had a golden opportunity to land an early blow inside the opening two minutes when Buendia sent Teemu Pukki galloping through on goal. The Finn beat David Raya to the ball but saw his chip land the wrong side of the post.
Brentford's first opening arrived after Toney flicked the ball to Bryan Mbeumo ahead of Ben Gibson, meaning the visitors had space to run into. The Bees worked the ball to Sergi Canos, who cut inside and shot. Tim Krul dived to his right and beat the effort away.
Canos then spurned an even better chance moments later.
Some excellent play from Mbeumo saw him beat Dimitris Giannoulis in the box and crossed. Krul parried it into the path of the ex-City winger, but he scuffed his effort and the Canaries were able to clear.
Off the ball, Brentford posed a real test for City. The objective from the Canaries' perspective was about winning turnovers and hitting them on the counter, something that worked perfectly as Buendia swept home the opening goal of the game.
Giannoulis' interception from a wayward switch from Canos sparked a fierce breakaway from City. Buendia picked up the ball on the right before drifting inside and being permitted the space to curl a ball beyond David Raya to put the Canaries ahead.
City could have doubled their advantage on the brink of half-time after more brilliance from Buendia, whose wonderfully weighted through pass allowed Pukki a clear route through to goal. The striker has been in such a rich vein of goal-scoring form but looked to chip the ball beyond Raya, only for the keeper to save with a strong outstretched right hand.
Pukki saw another effort saved by Raya five minutes after the interval as he profited from Kenny McLean's flick-on.
The striker kept the ball alive before darting inside and unleashing a fierce shot that skipped off the surface. Brentford's keeper made an impressive stop to turn it wide.
Brentford were very fortunate not to be reduced to 10 men when Winston Reid, already on a yellow card, was late on Vrancic outside of the area. Tim Robinson opted to let the challenge go unpunished, but replays suggest the West Ham loanee should have been sent off.
Pukki saw another chance go begging after being slipped in behind by Buendia. The Finn hit his effort firmly but failed to get the ball on target.
The win has moved Norwich 10 points clear of Thomas Frank's side as their march back to the Premier League continues.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Giannoulis; Skipp, McLean; Buendia, Vrancic (Rupp, 69), Hernandez (Sorensen, 83); Pukki (Hugill, 87). Subs not used: Barden (GK), Zimmermann, Tettey, Dowell, Placheta, Idah
- Bookings: Vrancic (foul on Janelt, 51), Hernandez (foul on Dalsgaard, 71)
- Goals: Buendia 26
- Brentford (4-3-3): Raya; Dalsgaard (C), Reid (Roerslev, 76), Pinnock, Sorensen; Jensen, Janelt (Norgaard, 67), Ghoddos (Forss, 76); Canos (Fosu, 67), Toney, Mbuemo. Subs not used: Daniels (GK), Gilbert, Zamburek, Bidstrup, Marcondes
- Bookings: Reid (foul on Vrancic, 41)
- Added on time: 2 mins/ 4 mins
- Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)