Buendia beauty gets 2021 off and running for City
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City kick-started 2021 with an all too familiar recipe for success as Emi Buendia's volley ensured they beat in-form Barnsley 1-0 at Carrow Road.
The Argentine cushioned Kenny McLean's lofted pass into the net to help City return to winning ways. On the day the January transfer window opened, his performance left many supporters praying the club can retain his services this month.
Tim Krul returned at the Canaries hour of need to replace the injured Michael McGovern in goal. The Dutch international suffered a thigh injury at Stoke City and missed nine matches, that saw young Dan Barden remain on the bench.
City's other change saw Ben Gibson come in for Christoph Zimmermann in the heart of defence. The German conceded a penalty as Daniel Farke's side drew with QPR in midweek.
Barnsley arrived at Carrow Road with four senior players missing after captain Alex Mowatt and goalkeeper Brad Collins tested positive for Covid-19. Teammates Conor Chaplin and George Miller were self-isolating after being deemed as close contacts of the two affected.
Tykes boss Valerien Ismael has overseen an uptick in form for the visitors after replacing Gerhard Struber earlier this season. The former Crystal Palace defender has taken Barnsley to the top of the form table, having picked up 15 points from their last six matches.
The visitors made their intentions clear in the opening exchanges as they sought to press the Canaries high. They went close to breaking the deadlock after Cauley Woodrow's shot deflected off Grant Hanley and into the path of Luke Thomas. The midfielder lifted the ball over Krul but onto the bar.
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City's first opening arrived as Buendia's pass found Mario Vrancic in a central area. The Bosnian slipped the ball through to Teemu Pukki, who looked to have found the net - only for Callum Brittain to heroically clear it off the line.
Some smart play by Callum Styles saw the left wing-back create an opening for himself. His shot from 25 yards was held comfortably by Krul.
Barnsley's press meant they deployed a high line and City were getting in-behind that at regular intervals. Kenny McLean's pass set Cantwell racing away down the left. The Scot was offering support before Styles cynically brought him down. City's academy graduate then had to go alone but got crowded out.
Ismael was a vocal presence on the touchline, instructing his side when to press and when to revert back into their defensive shape. City were beginning to get joy prior to the break, but the first-half was an intense exchange between two well-coached sides.
The Canaries nearly took the lead minutes after the restart when Buendia's defence-splitting pass found Cantwell. He opted to pass to Pukki instead of going alone, but the Finn saw his effort smothered by Jack Walton.
City's pressure continued after some more Buendia brilliance to control a lofted pass. He sent Pukki racing away down the right. His cross evaded everyone but Jacob Sorensen, who composed himself before firing a shot at goal. Walton was equal to the effort.
On the 62nd minute, City did take the lead courtesy of a magical strike from their little Argentine midfielder.
McLean's lofted pass was latched onto by Buendia, who struck a volley beautifully into the bottom corner of the net to put the league leaders in front. It was Buendia's seventh goal of the season.
City should have doubled their advantage when Pukki was sent racing clear by Vrancic and was half a yard clear of the Barnsley defence. The Finn unselfishly squared the ball for Cantwell but put just too much on the pass. Cantwell's eventual shot was deflected wide.
The Dereham-born midfielder then stung the hands of Walton after being sent through down the right by Pukki. His low drive was held well by the Barnsley keeper at the second attempt.
Jordan Hugill thought he'd added a second in stoppage time after lobbing Walton from Alex Tettey's pass. The striker was flagged offside.
Deep into added time, Barnsley had a glorious opportunity to equalise when Styles cross found Michal Helik at the back post but, fronted with an open goal, he sliced his effort wide.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul, Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Sorensen; Skipp, McLean; Buendia (Tettey, 87), Vrancic (Dowell, 77), Cantwell (Cantwell, 90); Pukki (Hugill, 90). Subs not used: Barden (GK), Zimmermann, Quintilla, Martin, Omotoye
- Bookings: None
- Goals: Buendia 62
- Barnsley (3-4-3): Walton; Sollbauer (C), Helik, Andersen; Brittain, James (Palmer, 63), Kane, Styles; Frieser (Adeboyejo, 62), Woodrow, Thomas (Schmidt, 75). Subs not used: Kendrick (GK), Christie-Davies, Oduor, Moon
- Bookings: James (foul on Skipp, 52)
- Goals: None
- Added on time:1 min/4 mins
- Referee: Michael Salisbury