City’s wonderful win was followed by return to earth with a bump
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
In the second part of our Norwich City season recap, David Freezer looks back on the brilliant highs and disappointing lows of September, as the Premier League campaign moved up a gear for the Canaries.
September was looking rather daunting for Norwich City, yet out of adversity came brilliance and an epic Carrow Road victory roar which left the reigning Premier League champions wondering what had hit them.
An eventful opening month saw Daniel Farke’s promoted squad start the month second from bottom with just one win from four games despite some encouraging performances, as well as an embarrassing League Cup second round loss away to League Two side Crawley.
However, the hope that could be taken from the bright league displays had been tempered by a mounting injury list - so much so that when Manchester City arrived, the Canaries had named two goalkeepers among their substitutes.
Timm Klose and Christoph Zimmermann were missing from defence, joining Onel Hernandez in the treatment room long term, while Max Aarons, Tom Trybull and Moritz Leitner all missed out with short-term issues.
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On top of that was Tim Krul, Ben Godfrey and Alex Tettey playing through the pain for their team, with Grant Hanley only on the bench as emergency cover before giving way to injury for three months.
Yet for the evening of Saturday, September 14, all of that was fuel to the fire as Kenny McLean’s early header breathed belief of an upset into the Carrow Road faithful.
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Teemu Pukki - fresh from another two goals during the international break as Finland closed on Euro 2020 qualification - teed up Todd Cantwell to double the lead, only for Argentina star Sergio Aguero to pull one back just before the break.
Yet just five minutes after half-time it was 3-1, as Emi Buendia pounced on dozy defending from Nicolas Otamendi to set up Pukki for his sixth goal in five matches in the Premier League.
Rodri pulled one back late on for Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled stars but a heroic and desperate rearguard action saw Norwich hang on to a brilliant triumph which would create headlines around the globe.
“To win against a world class team, world class coach, was special,” Farke said after the game. “Carrow Road was buzzing, my dressing room was buzzing. It is win for the key people as well, for Delia and Michael. We can’t ask for better owners. They lead this club with so much passion, so kind-hearted and they deserve this night.”
It seemed the special recipe which had earned Championship glory was somehow finding a way to transition to the big time, bumping City up to 13th in the table after five matches.
Pukki was the reigning Premier League Player of the Month, Cantwell, Aarons and Godfrey had just won their first England Under-21 caps and Buendia was already turning heads after his fourth assist of the campaign.
Then things got even better when sporting director Stuart Webber committed his future to the club following that famous win, signing until 2022, although also explaining that was his intended exit date as well.
Yet it was to be back down to earth with a bump.
With all the energy exerted to secure that upset at a vibrant Carrow Road still bubbling with promotion positivity, it was to Turf Moor, where the uncompromising and streetwise Burnley team of Sean Dyche’s awaited - relishing the prospect of putting their new Premier League colleagues back in their place.
Fear of an ‘after the lord mayor’s show’ performance proved well founded, as the Clarets burst into a 2-0 lead inside 15 minutes, with Chris Wood bursting the yellow balloons with trademark set-piece effectiveness.
Those injury issues had caught up with Farke’s team, summer midfield signing Ibrahim Amadou all of a sudden looked far less convincing in defence and fellow loan signing Patrick Roberts remained on the fringes.
From there it was on to another streetwise and well organised side in Crystal Palace - and another 2-0 defeat, this time with an almost comical addition of goalkeeper injuries.
With Krul struggling with his back, Ralf Fahrmann did all he could to shake off a groin injury to make his league debut, only to limp off injured after failing to save a Luka Milivojevic penalty in the 21st minute after making the issue worse, handing Michael McGovern his Premier League debut at 35 years old.
In fairness, it was only a late Andros Townsend strike which gave the hosts comfort and City felt they had been good value for a draw, yet as September came to a close it was back down to 17th place.
Two wins in seven matches barely told half of the story but already it was injuries which were becoming the dominant factor.