City miss chance to secure title in Watford defeat
Norwich City suffered somewhat of a promotion hangover as they squandered the chance to secure the title against Watford at Carrow Road.
Fresh from the celebrations that went early in Sunday morning after securing their top-flight return on Saturday, City were searching for the title against a Watford side hoping to join them in the Premier League in the coming weeks.
A win for City would have seen them crowned champions, but Dan Gosling's second-half goal proved to be the difference as Daniel Farke's men suffered their second consecutive defeat.
City's three major injury doubts were all passed fit enough to start in this encounter. Grant Hanley, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki all featured in Farke's starting XI, with the City boss forced into one change as Xavi Quintilla replaced Dimitris Giannoulis at left-back.
The club did appeal the Greek international's red card but were unsuccessful, leaving the on-loan Villarreal full-back to make only his ninth start of the campaign.
Xisco Munoz made four changes in an attempt to provoke a response from his side after their derby defeat to Luton at the weekend.
Experienced trio Craig Cathcart, Dan Gosling and Tom Cleverley all came back into the side, with Adam Masina shaking off illness to replace Achraf Lazaar at left-back. Stalwart striker Troy Deeney remains sidelined with an ankle injury.
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It was the visitors who started the brighter. Watford were looking to find Ismaila Sarr at every opportunity, and it was a cross from the right that gifted Gosling a free header at the back post, only for the midfielder to miss the target.
Sarr then had a chance himself to open the scoring. Joao Pedro flicked Masina's long throw on, Gosling then teed up the £30million star but he fired his effort over the bar.
Norwich were off the pace and the Watford pressure was incessant in the opening period of the game. Munoz' men were energetic and attacking with purpose,
City were struggling to break the high press being imposed on them by Watford, but did come close through two long-range efforts from Cantwell and Dowell in the space of two minutes. Both took wicked deflections before dipping over the bar.
The pace of the game was frantic and Sarr was a constant threat down the right. It was the pacey winger that stole the ball off the toe of Quintilla on the edge of the area before teeing up the on-rushing Gosling, who curled his effort just off target.
Tim Krul has been a passenger in some City games this season as his teammates continued to sweep sides away, but his concentration is one of the key reasons he is regarded as one of the best keepers in the division.
City had the Dutch international to thank for keeping the scoreline level after Sarr teed up Ken Sema on the right. He worked a yard of space before unleashing a driven shot which Krul palmed away. The ball then fell for the Senegalese international, but once again the Canaries' keeper was equal to the effort.
Despite a relatively sluggish opening period, City were looking brighter in the second half.
Cantwell appeared to glide through a number of Watford defenders before working an opening to strike a shot at goal. His shot took a slight deflection before carrying through to Daniel Bachmann.
Watford finally made their pressure count by opening the scoring through Gosling.
McLean was robbed of the ball before Hanley was caught out of position attempting to step out to win possession. Pedro put a delightful pass in behind the Scottish international and found the former Bournemouth man, who side-footed the ball into the net.
A wonderful piece of last-ditch defending from Hanley prevented Andre Gray from doubling the Hornets advantage.
Nathaniel Chalobah had slotted Gray through on goal, but the Scot recovered at speed to perfectly time a sliding tackle just as the former Burnley man was going to pull the trigger.
Mario Vrancic had a sighter of goal in stoppage time after good work down the right by Aarons, but saw his shot blocked. That was enough to secure the win for the Hornets.
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Omobamidele (Placheta, 81), Hanley (C), Quintilla (Hernandez, 81); Skipp, McLean; Buendia, Dowell (Hugill, 65), Cantwell (Vrancic, 89); Pukki. Subs not used: Nyland (GK), Mumba, Sorensen, Tettey, Vrancic, Stiepermann, Hernandez, Placheta.
- Bookings: Skipp (foul on Hughes, 62), McLean (foul on Chalobah, 73), Hugill (foul on Sierralta, 90+6)
- Watford (4-3-3): Bachmann; Cathcart (Kabasele, 82), Troost-Ekong, Sierralta, Masina; Cleverley (C), Hughes (Zinkernagel, 82), Gosling (Chalobah, 70); Sarr, Pedro (Gray, 70), Sema. Subs not used: Elliott (GK), Lazaar, Sanchez, Hungbo, Success.
- Bookings: Hughes (foul on Pukki, 27), Masina (foul on Buendia, 49), Cleverley (foul on Cantwell, 65), Chalobah (foul on Hanley, 90+8)
- Goals: Gosling 57
- Added on time: 2 mins/ 7 mins
- Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)