Buendia 27, Cantwell 70
Cardiff City F.C
Creative genius helps Canaries secure Christmas number one
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Back in September, two attacking midfielders were causing a headache for Norwich City boss Daniel Farke. Fast forward three months and both are blossoming as the Canaries continue their bid for promotion with victory over Cardiff City.
Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell were both dizzy after exhaustive speculation meant they weren't focused on the job at hand for Norwich. Both were the subjects of brunt criticism from Farke as he left both out of his squad when they travelled to Bournemouth in September.
Yet, as we approach another transfer window, Buendia has found a rich vein of form and Cantwell netted his first goal of the season as the Canaries beat in-form Cardiff City 2-0 at Carrow Road.
Buendia opened the scoring after receiving a cute pass from Kenny McLean and driving towards goal. His shot kissed the bottom corner to put City ahead on 27 minutes. Cantwell doubled their lead with a fierce drive into the top corner after combining with the Argentine in the second half.
City's boss made two changes to his side, with City's academy graduate named in place of Josh Martin, who dropped to the bench.
Mario Vrancic came in ahead of Marco Stiepermann and the Canaries named a full matchday squad for the first time in six matches with Lukas Rupp returning from injury to be named amongst the substitutes.
Canaries striker Teemu Pukki was present for the birth of his second child, Ella, in the early hours of Saturday morning before leading the line for City only a matter of hours later.
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The Bluebirds also shuffled their pack with Neil Harris making two changes from the side that won 3-2 over Birmingham City.
Greg Cunningham and Joe Ralls returned to the starting line-up in place of Joe Bennett and Gavin Whyte, with the latter dropping to the bench. Josh Murphy's Carrow Road reunion was put on hold due to an illness.
Despite the visitors asserting themselves with success in the opening ten minutes of the fixture, the first chance fell to Cantwell. Buendia's cute pass set Jacob Sorensen racing away down the left. He cut inside and found the 22-year-old, but his sidefooted effort from just outside the box was blocked.
The Canaries went even closer to breaking the deadline after Max Aarons found Buendia on the right after some neat footwork. The Argentine spotted Kenny McLean making a darting run into the box and picked out the Scot with a pass, his glancing header dropped just wide.
Pukki had his first sighter of goal only moments later, after Cantwell rolled the defender and found the Finn with a superb through pass. The angle was tight and City's top-scorer failed to hit the target with his low effort.
Cardiff's first chance of the game arrived after 25 minutes, when towering striker Robert Glatzel met Harry Wilson's free-kick and headed it goalwards. The German got some real power behind the effort and Michael McGovern claimed the ball on his line.
Buendia has been criticised in some quarters for not adding goals to his game, something he is continuing to do in the Championship this season.
After a clever pass from McLean which broke the lines, Buendia darted towards goal before unleashing a low drive into the corner of the net. It was his fifth goal in seven games for City.
Wilson's free-kicks were proving to be a dangerous weapon in Cardiff's arsenal. The Liverpool loanee won a set-piece after being fouled by Sorensen. His effort from the left-side was never troubling McGovern.
City had their goalkeeper to thank moments later when Sean Morrison's header from close range look destined for the net. McGovern produced an unbelievable save to claw it away before Glatzel's effort was off target. The linesman subsequently flagged for offside.
On the cusp of half-time, Cantwell had a glorious opportunity to double the Canaries lead. Buendia found him on the left-hand side and he opened up his body looking for the far corner, but was blocked by Curtis Nelson.
Pukki had a gilt-edged opportunity to score seconds after the interval as he latched onto Leandro Bacuna's loose pass. The Finn was one-on-one with Alex Smithies and looked to lob the Cardiff keeper, but slashed his shot wide.
The Finnish international was sent racing clear again soon after. This time some excellent interplay between Buendia, Mario Vrancic and Cantwell saw the latter find Pukki. His touch was heavy and Smithies collected with ease.
A City counter-attack nearly saw extend them lead on 60 minutes. Ollie Skipp's pass sent Cantwell racing away. His pass to Pukki was underhit but the striker managed to return it to the 22-year-old.
His pass found Buendia, who cushioned the ball into the path of Vrancic but he dragged his shot wide.
The influential Argentine then saw another shot save after Pukki was sent clear of the Cardiff defence. He found Buendia and his effort from outside the box was pushed wide by Smithies.
On 70 minutes, the Canaries did double their advantage.
Buendia was once again the architect, finding Cantwell despite being occupied by a host of Cardiff players. Cantwell turned before unleashing a fierce strike at goal. It nestled in the top corner, beating Smithies all ends up.
The pair nearly combined to add a third when Cantwell laid off Buendia inside the area. His curling effort went just wide.
The win ensures the Canaries top the Championship table on Christmas Day.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): McGovern; Aarons (Tettey, 90), Zimmermann, Hanley (C), Sorensen; Skipp, McLean; Buendia (Dowell, 84), Vrancic (Stiepermann, 80), Cantwell; Pukki (Hugill, 90). Subs not used: Barden (GK), Omobamidele, Rupp, Martin, Omotoye
- Goals: Buendia 27, Cantwell 70
- Cardiff City (4-2-3-1): Smithies; Bacuna, Morrison (C), Nelson, Cunningham; Vaulks, Pack (Hoilett, 66); Ralls, Wilson, Ojo (Harris, 76); Glatzel. Subs not used: Phillips (GK), Benkovic, Whyte, Bamba, Bagan, Patten, Zimba
- Bookings: Nelson (off the ball incident, 54), Ojo (foul on Buendia, 58), Bacuna (foul on Pukki, 81), Wilson (foul on Cantwell, 90)
- Goals: None
- Attendence: 2,000
- Added on time: 2 min/ 4 mins
- Referee: Tim Robinson