Rotherham United F.C
City move seven points clear of promotion rivals with Rotherham win
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City stole a march on their promotion rivals after seizing their opportunity against Rotherham United as Brentford and Swansea both suffered defeats.
They were made to work hard by the energetic Millers, who made the game scrappy and looked to impose their physicality on the Canaries.
City saw Brentford beaten by Coventry in the early kick-off as the Bees continued their slump with a third successive league defeat. Swansea's 4-1 defeat to Huddersfield Town saw Norwich move seven points clear of the pair.
Ultimately, this fixture was won courtesy of a moment of real quality by Todd Cantwell, who dummied Emi Buendia's pass to allow Teemu Pukki to run through and score his 15th goal of the season.
A slight back injury for Ben Gibson saw Daniel Farke enforced into one change from the side that comfortably beat Coventry in midweek, with Christoph Zimmermann replacing him in the side.
The on-loan Burnley defender was named on the substitutes bench initially, only to be replaced by young Andrew Omobamidele. Gibson began the day in the starting line-up, before eventually dropping out of the 20 altogether.
Farke's cautious approach with Jordan Hugill's return saw the powerful striker left out of the matchday squad.
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Standing in their way was Rotherham United and boyhood City fan Paul Warne, who always has the ability to extract an extra few percent for the Millers' fixtures with Norwich.
Warne made two changes to his side after their loss to Bournemouth on Wednesday, with Angus MacDonald replacing Richard Wood and Wolves' loanee Ryan Giles coming in for Matt Olosunde at wing-back.
The Canaries' first opportunity of the afternoon arrived after some excellent interplay between Cantwell and Buendia.
The latter chopped the ball into the path of Pukki on the left-hand side of the area, but his effort was saved by Viktor Johansson in goal.
Pukki then turned provider moments later, carving out an excellent chance for Mario Vrancic after a mazy run down the left. He cut the ball back to the Bosnian, who failed to hit the target with his side-footed effort.
The Millers had the ball in the net from a corner after the right, but referee Tony Harrington felt he had seen a foul, and awarded City a free-kick. Seconds later, Zimmermann was chopped down by a late tackle from Matt Crooks, only for the official to wave play on.
After 17 minutes, City did make the breakthrough courtesy of their Finnish striker.
Buendia's pass was dummied by Cantwell, allowing Pukki a clear route through to goal. The Finn has been lacking confidence in recent weeks, but this was a trademark strike to put the Canaries ahead.
After City's opener, it was Rotherham who threatened. Their press was high and suffocating, but they failed to carve out real clear-cut chances.
Buendia should have added a second after receiving Vrancic's cutback in the area. He ran onto the ball and looked to sweep the ball into the net, only for Clark Robertson to clear off the line to save the Millers.
Rotherham went close to an equaliser minutes after the interval. A corner was cleared to the edge of the area where Ben Wiles was waiting to unleash a thunderous strike that smacked the crossbar.
A clever free-kick from Kenny McLean saw Pukki run through on goal. He opened up his body seeking the far corner, only for Johansson to produce an excellent save to thwart the Finn. Vrancic dragged a shot wide on the rebound.
The Millers then had a chance of their own to equalise, substitute Freddie Ladapo was played through and his cross found Matt Crooks to shoot, only for Aarons to stop a certain goal with a block.
An intelligent pass from Cantwell found Pukki in the box on 82 minutes, the Finnish striker controlled but dragged his shot well wide of the far post.
Rotherham huffed and puffed in their quest for an equaliser, with Middlesbrough loanee Lewis Wing firing a half-volley over the bar in stoppage time. It wasn't enough to prevent City from recording their third consecutive win in the Championship.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley (C), Zimmermann, Giannoulis; Skipp, McLean; Buendia, Vrancic (Tettey, 90+5), Cantwell (Rupp, 90); Pukki (Idah, 90+4). Subs: Barden (GK), Omobamidele, Quintilla, Sorensen, Dowell, Hernandez
- Bookings: None
- Goals: Pukki 17
Rotherham United (3-5-2): Johansson; Ihiekwe (C), Angus MacDonald (Olosunde, 45), Robertson; Giles, Wing, Barlsser (Ladapo, 67), Wiles, Harding (Jozefzoon, 84); Smith (Hirst, 67), Crooks (Sadlier, 76). Subs: Blackman (GK), Wood, Clarke, Shaun MacDonald
Bookings: Ihiekwe (foul on Buendia, 58)
- Goals: None
- Added on time: 1 min/7 mins
- Referee: Tony Harrington (North Yorkshire)