Signs of Stiepermann finding form and confidence during City’s scrappy success at Rotherham
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The enigma that is Marco Stiepermann showed signs of rediscovering his Championship confidence but it was a mixture of good and bad from the attacking midfielder during Norwich City’s hard fought win at Rotherham.
Stiepermann was an integral part of the 2018-19 team which won the second tier title, with nine goals and eight assists, but couldn’t reproduce the goods in the Premier League.
A back problem kept the 29-year-old out of the first three Championship games of this season, following relegation from the top flight, but with summer signing Kieran Dowell ruled out until January after ankle surgery an opportunity for the German to reclaim his prominent position has opened up.
He returned to the central role behind the striker and played 69 minutes of the frustrating 1-0 home defeat to Derby ahead of the international break and Daniel Farke stuck with Stiepermann for the battle at the New York Stadium, keeping Mario Vrancic on the bench against robust opposition.
Inside two minutes he had shown some trademark control to hold up the ball, turn into space in the opposition half and send Xavi Quintilla away on the left - only for an offside flag to halt the chance.
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A minute later and Norwich were behind after sloppy defending allowed Freddie Ladapo to equalise but it was Stiepermann leading the charge in the pursuit of an equaliser, which really should have been found swiftly.
His cushioned pass allowed Skipp to take the bull by the horns and charge forward in the 10th minute, only to be robbed by Wes Harding. Lukas Rupp picked up the pieces and threaded a perfect ball to Stiepermann in space on the right side of the penalty area, who opted to take the shot first time and try to curl a left-footed effort around the keeper, only for Jamal Blackman to read the situation correctly.
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Three minutes later and nice skill saw him dummy into space to charge forward from the centre-circle, with Jordan Hugill charging into the right channel but Stiepermann spotting Adam Idah speeding forward on the left. He found the Irishman with a lovely pass but Idah also failed to beat Blackman, when he really should have been scoring.
A clever chip forward found Idah soon after but the youngster was forced backwards by the hard working hosts. More classy play saw Stiepermann helping out Idah on the left, rolling his foot over the ball to get away from his marker and slipping Rupp into the left side of the box, who pulled a low cross back which Hugill could only hook over the bar on the stretch.
With Tim Krul saving a penalty to keep Norwich in the game in the 21st minute, the opportunity for a swing in momentum was opening up, but the rest of the half became one of frustration for Stiepermann in particular as his touch seemed to desert him.
His head coach had steam coming out of his ears as that culminated in the 35th minute, with Hugill doing well to nod the ball down and allow him to push forward, only to over-hit the pass into the striker’s path, straight out of play. Hugill was clearly annoyed and centre-back Ben Gibson roared for “a bit of quality” after seeing the opening wasted.
Some poor touches continued after the break but Stiepermann had a goal disallowed and played a key part in an equaliser before being replaced by Vrancic in the 80th minute.
Quintilla curled in a free-kick from the right in the 61st minute and Stiepermann controlled well before slotting right footed past Blackman nonchalantly, only for the offside flag to thwart the celebrations immediately. Replays show that along with Hugill and Grant Hanley, the goal-scorer had started his run too quickly as the Rotherham defence held their line.
There was one particularly poor piece of control in the 65th minute, as the ball just bounced away from him under minimal pressured in midfield, but the equaliser finally came three minutes later.
Hanley found Emi Buendia on halfway, who turned the ball sharply to Skipp, Stiepermann then did well to turn the ball back to Buendia under heavy pressure, the Argentine set Max Aarons away on the right and the youngster’s powerful cross was turned into the roof of the net by Millers defender Michael Ihiekwe, as he desperately tried to prevent Hugill from heading home from close range.
VERDICT: Some encouraging signs as evidence of the Stiepermann of old began to emerge, but he’s not quite there yet. Like with so many in this Norwich squad, it seems to be a case of rebuilding confidence after the sapping Premier League experience. In full flow he would have had at least one goal and one assist and the quality within Farke’s squad would have dealt with Rotherham’s spirited resistance more precisely.
He has proved he can reap rewards at this level so hopefully this was a step in the correct direction, although a proper understanding with Hugill isn’t quite there just yet.
RATING: 6 out of 10