Cantwell 16, Pukki 44 & 80 (pen), Buendia 65
Stoke City F.C
City recapture attacking mojo in crucial Stoke victory
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City answered their critics in resounding fashion as they rediscovered their attacking mojo to beat Stoke 4-1 at Carrow Road.
Emi Buendia's return marked a much-improved attacking display from the rampant Canaries, who returned to the top of the table as rivals Brentford and Swansea both watched from home.
Teemu Pukki was back amongst the goals but had the Argentine to thank as he tapped in after some pressure from Buendia forced a mistake in the first-half and then capitalised from the spot after he was fouled in the box late on.
Todd Cantwell's opener set the tone for a pleasing afternoon for Daniel Farke, who saw his side face loud questions after their defeat to Swansea last Friday. Dimitris Giannoulis' mistake allowed Nick Powell to get the visitors back in the game before he turned provider for Buendia for City's third.
Norwich's boss made three changes as he searched for a remedy to the Canaries' offensive struggles.
Norwich were boosted by the return of their creator in chief Buendia from suspension. The little Argentine served a two-match suspension after being dismissed in the frustrating goalless draw against Middlesbrough two games ago.
Lukas Rupp was replaced by Mario Vrancic and Giannoulis came in for Jacob Sorensen in the other changes to the starting line-up.
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Stoke arrived at Carrow Road hoping to arrest their poor form in the league. The Potters arrived in Norfolk without a win in their last eight matches. Former Norwich loanee Angus Gunn started in goal for Michael O'Neill's men with Nick Powell and James Chester returning to the side.
January signing Rabbi Matondo made the bench alongside the experienced Sam Vokes and James McClean.
The visitors had a glorious chance to take the lead after 90 seconds. Oliver Skipp's crossfield ball was intercepted and Stoke won a corner. Sam Clucas' delivery found the unmarked John Obi Mikel, but the former Chelsea midfielder dragged his shot just wide.
Norwich's attacking play in moments that followed was slick. Giannoulis' play down the left saw him pick out Vrancic on the edge of the area. His cute pass through to Buendia saw the midfielder square for Pukki, whose shot from close range was blocked.
The rebound fell to Buendia but Gunn smothered it. Aarons' cutback was then cleared for a corner. Somehow, the Canaries failed to find the net despite a flurry of chances in quick succession.
Pukki had a chance to open the scoring soon after. City's attacking efforts were slick. The full-backs were supporting the play effectively and the ball fell into the Finn's path after Aarons was dispossessed on the edge of the area. He failed to hit the target with his low driven shot.
Norwich did find a breakthrough after 16 minutes, courtesy of a wonderful goal from Cantwell.
The Canaries academy graduate received the ball from Buendia inside the Stoke half, before weaving his way past two defenders and exchanging passes with Vrancic. He made no mistake when the Bosnian found him in the area, dispatching his effort into the net with aplomb.
Stoke had a goal chalked off when Steven Fletcher drifted into an offside position after he won a header to find Jack Clarke. The Spurs loanee floated a ball into the area for the Scottish international to head home, but the linesman had raised his flag.
The visitors did improve after the goal and were picking up the ball in promising areas without hurting the Canaries. Farke remained a vocal presence throughout the first-half, urging his full-backs to occupy higher positions.
Buendia's absence has been felt in creative areas for the Canaries, but it's also the intensity of his work off the ball. The Argentine's press forced a turnover just before half-time, as he forced Morgan Fox into a mistake.
He then picked up his deflection before having the awareness to lay it across for Pukki to tap in from close range to double Norwich's advantage.
McLean nearly gifted Stoke a route back into the game after the break when he passed the ball straight to Fletcher who was through on goal. He rounded Krul but City's keeper managed to knock him off balance, allowing Hanley to recover and tap his shot wide.
Despite Norwich's nervy start to the second half, they nearly added a third after an intelligent crossfield pass from Skipp found the on-rushing Aarons down the right. His cross was aimed for Pukki, but Stoke managed to scramble the ball wide for a corner.
Stoke's performance improved after the break, and they were gifted a route back into the game when Giannoulis' square pass was seized upon by Powell in the area. He had enough time to take a touch before rolling the ball past Krul and into the net.
The Greek international immediately atoned for his error, taking the ball from Cantwell before turning Nathan Collins. He then picked out Buendia with a cutback, leaving the Argentine to sweep the ball into the net.
Buendia continued to sparkle his gold dust on this fixture and won a penalty when he jinked past Joe Allen in the box. The Welsh international brought him down, leaving Jeremy Simpson with little option but to point to the spot. Pukki dispatched the spot-kick with confidence to extend City's lead.
There was some concern for Stoke's right back Collins after he left the field on a stretcher late on after landing awkwardly on his knee.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Giannoulis; Skipp (Sorensen, 82), McLean; Buendia (Dowell, 85), Vrancic (Rupp, 71), Cantwell (Hernandez, 82); Pukki (Idah, 85). Subs not used: Barden (GK), Zimmermann, Quintilla, Tettey
- Bookings: None
- Goals: Cantwell 15, Pukki 44 & 80 (pen), Buendia 65
- Stoke City (4-3-3): Gunn; Collins, Souttar, Chester, Fox; Allen (Thompson, 82), Mikel (C - McClean), 62, Clucas (Cousins, 82); Clarke (Matondo, 45), Fletcher (Vokes, 71), Powell. Subs not used: Bursik (GK), Batth, Smith, Brown
- Bookings: Powell (dissent, 42), Mikel (foul on Buendia, 43)
- Goals: Powell 61
- Added on time: 1 min/ 3 mins
- Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)