Sheffield United 1-0 Norwich City: Sharp goal the difference as City left soul searching again
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City were beaten 1-0 by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane on Saturday, with Billy Sharp’s 36th minute header the difference.
Sharp converted from John Lundstram's cross after the midfielder was gifted too much space by City's defenders. The result leaves the Canaries six points from safety.
The Canaries top-scorer Teemu Pukki returned to the starting XI after his FA Cup absence, with Daniel Farke making four changes to the side who overcame Tottenham Hotspur on penalties to progress through to the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 1992.
Ondrej Duda also returned to the line-up, with midfield duo Kenny McLean and Alex Tettey being restored to the side after featuring from the bench in midweek. Towering defender Christoph Zimmermann continued his recovery from a hamstring injury.
The Blades also reached the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup on Tuesday, beating Championship side Reading 2-1 after extra time to set up a home tie against Arsenal in a fortnight.
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United boss Chris Wilder made five changes to that side but merely one from the side who drew 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion last weekend, with record signing Sander Berge dropping to the bench as Lundstram returned to the midfield.
The hosts started the brighter, dominating both possession and territory in the opening exchanges. United carved out the first opportunity inside the first five minutes, when Chris Basham found George Baldock on the right. He passed to Sharp who crossed for Oli McBurnie, whose header was tipped over by Tim Krul.
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City's first chance arrived from a set-piece, when Duda's deep corner found the head of Pukki at the back post. The Finn attempt to nod it across the six-yard box, only for the ball to deflect back into his path. He volleyed towards goal, only to hit the outside of the post.
The Blades looked most lively from corners in the opening 30 minutes and, had it not have been for a wonderful last ditch goal line clearance from McLean, then Wilder's men would have taken the lead. Jack O'Connell seemed destined to rifle the ball into the bottom corner after it rebounded into his path, but the Scot prevented the shot from nestling in the net with an excellent diving lunge.
Moments later, United did take the lead through their talismanic captain. The 34-year-old worked himself into a pocket of space and Lundstram's cross was pinpoint, leaving the Blades skipper to head home from close-range.
Lundstram nearly doubled their advantage five minutes prior to the interval, as he volleyed an effort inches wide of Krul's right-hand post.
United's grip on the fixture was tightening. The overloads in wide areas were proving too effective for City to contain. On the cusp of the interval, the Blades nearly had a second. Ollie Norwood fed Sharp in the box who turned before teeing up Lundstram. His volley was straight at Krul.
Daniel Farke opted to change formation at half-time in an attempt to counteract United's dominance in wide areas. City's boss deployed a diamond shape, with Josip Drmic partnering Pukki in attack.
City looked to get on the front foot early after the interval, with Godfrey's threaded pass finding Aarons on the right. The England under-21 international delivered a cross in search of Drmic but the Swiss international failed to generate any power into his effort.
United were content with sitting in and soaking up the Canaries spells of possession, but it was a set-piece once again that worked another clear-cut opportunity for the Blades. A corner was worked to O'Connell, who flicked the ball over McLean's head, but his effort sailed over the bar.
Dean Henderson ensured the Blades retained their lead by foiling efforts from Mario Vrancic and Drmic inside the six-yard box after a Godfrey header was denied. The on-loan Manchester United keeper produced a stunning triple save to thwart City.
The quest continued for City, who were pushing for an equaliser. This time it was Jamal Lewis who saw his effort saved by Henderson. Drmic's cross was flicked on by McLean, only for the Northern Irish international to strike his volley straight at the Blades keeper.
For City, this result leaves them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table. The task seems to getting greater by the hour, and the lack of quality will send the Canaries back to the Championship.
- Sheffield United (3-5-2): Henderson; Basham, Egan, O'Connell; Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens (Osborn, 61); Sharp (McGoldrick, 71), McBurnie (Berge, 90). Subs not used: Verrips, Jagielka, Mousset, Retsos.
- Bookings: None
- Goals: Sharp 36
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Godfrey, Hanley (c), Lewis; Tettey (Vrancic, 66), Trybull; Cantwell (Drmic, 45), Duda (Idah, 87), Buendia; Pukki. Subs not used: McGovern, Zimmermann, Rupp, Stiepermann.
- Bookings: None
- Goals: None
- Added on time: 1 min/ 4 mins
- Attendance: 31,379
- Referee: Simon Hooper
- VAR: Lee Mason