Norwich City 1-2 Sheffield United - Slow start to second-half proves costly as City slump to defeat
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
A slow start to the second-half proved costly for Norwich City as they were beaten by Sheffield United at Carrow Road despite leading at half-time through Alex Tettey’s 27th minute strike.
Two goals in the space of three minutes from Enda Stevens and George Baldock meant that City lost their 11th Premier League game of the season to leave them 19th in the table.
Prior to kick-off, a minute of rememberance was held in memory of ex-City boss Ron Saunders, who sadly passed away this week. Saunders built the foundations from which the modern era of success was established.
Everything surrounding this fixture felt like a derby, not in terms of geography but with the history involved between Chris Wilder and Daniel Farke still bubbling beneath the surface, there was an animosity in the air as both sides made their way to the Carrow Road turf.
Despite their respective promotions, the financial disparity between the two sides was noticeable given the prices of the Blades operators on the bench, with Oli McBurnie and Callum Robinson commanding fees that blow City's total amount spent in the summer out of the water.
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That said, Lys Mousset was the only player to start the game who wasn't involved in United's promotion push last season. Wilder made two changes to the side that were beaten by Newcastle United on Thursday, with Mousset and David McGoldrick replacing McBurnie and Billy Sharp in the Blades starting XI.
Farke opted to respond to Wednesday's defeat to Southampton by making three changes, with Tettey taking the captains armband. Mario Vrancic replaced Tom Trybull to make his first Premier League start of the season whilst Emi Buendia was preferred to Todd Cantwell.
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City began with some promising passages of possession with Buendia and Vrancic the protagonists. The Blades did test the Canaries defensive resolve with numerous crosses but City's backline stood firm.
With a sharpness in midfield, City set about imposing themselves onto the game in the opening exchanges, with Buendia finding McLean who ran in-behind United's defence before teeing up Teemu Pukki in the area but his shot was smothered by the recovering defenders.
It was United who carved the first real opening of the game on 26 minutes, with Jack O'Connell's cross being squeezed past Buendia. Ben Godfrey mistimed his header and it fell to McGoldrick, whose effort was collected easily by Tim Krul.
Moments later, it was City who took the lead. Buendia's corner was kept alive by Christoph Zimmermann, before the ball fell kindly to Tettey who drilled it past Dean Henderson and into the net. VAR checked for a possible handball in the build-up, but it was only swift and the goal stood.
The Blades continued to probe, with Mousset particularly lively. Jon Fleck found the Frenchman with a perfectly weighted through ball but it was Zimmermann who recovered with a superb sliding tackle to regain possession for the hosts,
As the hail came down heavily, City continued to tighten their grip on proceedings, this time it was Godfrey with the header which was saved easily by Henderson after McLean and Vrancic won respective aerial duels in the build-up.
Vrancic was setting the tempo of City's possession, orchestrating attacks and progressing City up the pitch. His shot in stoppage time of the first-half was parried by the Blades goalkeeper, with the Bosnian a key component of the Canaries first-half dominance.
United looked revitalised after the break and equalised less than five minutes after the interval, with Enda Stevens beating Aarons in the air at the back post before powerfully dispatching his header into the bottom corner.
Their newfound energy saw them work their way through the gears and just three minutes later, the Blades were ahead. With an increased desire to press, they turned the ball over and worked it to George Baldock. His effort was powerfully struck into the bottom corner, with Krul unable to prevent it.
The Blades positive start continued and they had the ball in the net again minutes later, only for VAR to rule that John Lundstram had strayed into an offside position after a lengthy delay.
As United worked their way through their repertoire of game management tactics, City struggled to maintain the same tempo they built in the first-half.
VAR once again had a major role to play, with Basham seeing red for a late lunge on Kenny McLean, despite no protests from the United supporters, players or staff, once again VAR overturned the decision and Basham remained on the pitch.
United were absorbing pressure and looking to overload on the counter attack, that tactic was effectively carried-out as McGoldrick was played in by Lundstram before firing over the bar from close range.
The Blades had Henderson to thank after Cantwell exchanged passes with Buendia before firing a shot that seemed destined for the net, only for the on-loan Manchester United keeper to produce a wonderful save to turn it round the post for a corner.
Ultimately, City's slow start to the second-half proved costly and they lacked creativity as they searched for an equaliser but Cantwell's effort was the closest they'd come.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Byram (Lewis 72); Tettey (C), Vrancic (Srbeny 81); Buendia, McLean, Hernandez (Cantwell 72); Pukki. Subs not used: Fahrmann (GK), Amadou, Trybull, Stiepermann.
- Goals: Tettey 27
- Sheffield United (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O'Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood (C) (Besic 65), Fleck, Stevens; McGoldrick (McBurnie 83), Mousset (Robinson 65). Subs not used: Moore (GK), Jagielka, Freeman, Sharp.
- Bookings: Egan, Norwood, Robinson, Basham (red card over-turned by VAR)
- Goals: Stevens 49, Baldock 52
- Added on time: 2 mins/ 6 mins
- Attendance: 26,881
- Referee: Simon Hooper
- VAR: Peter Bankes