The goal that proved City are moving through the gears
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
‘City are yet to truly hit top gear’.
That was the argument from many commentators before Saturday’s 2-0 win over Cardiff City put Norwich five points clear of their nearest rivals in the Championship.
They were right - it could be argued that because of injuries and the relentless Championship schedule, Daniel Farke’s side had yet to scale the heights of the kind of football witnessed during the promotion-winning 2018/19 season.
However, ‘Farke-ball’ looks like it could be well and truly back after watching City’s second goal against the Bluebirds.
An 11-pass move summed up the kind of aesthetically pleasing football that fans have got used to under the German.
The move started with Michael McGovern shovelling the ball out to Grant Hanley. This was the cue for Cardiff to try and spring forward and press Norwich into a mistake but the Scotland defender clipped a short pass into Kenny McLean.
Still Cardiff came forward to put pressure on, forcing McLean to pass to Olly Skipp, who had pulled out to the left channel in the space vacated by left-back Jacob Sorensen, who was well up the pitch – a real feature of the Dane’s evolvement as arguably more than a makeshift left-back.
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McLean checked back in to give Skipp an option and the Tottenham loanee gave the ball back to the former Aberdeen man.
McLean then found a little bit of space and was able to fire a pass into Cantwell.
The Cardiff press had been beaten.
Cantwell, midway into his own half, sprayed the ball out wide to Max Aarons before advancing and getting the ball back from his team-mate.
Cardiff looked to have got back into a decent defensive shape and Cantwell passed out wide to Skipp, who was still occupying the left flank, mindful of Sorensen’s high position.
Skipp came back inside to McLean, who then found Emi Buendia halfway into Cardiff territory.
The Argentine drew three players towards him before delicately clipping a pass with the outside of his right foot into Cantwell, who had got between Cardiff’s midfield and defensive lines.
The presence of Teemu Pukki and Mario Vrancic further forward meant no Cardiff defender came to pressure Cantwell quickly enough and the England Under-21 international proceeded to fire home an excellent shot past Cardiff goalkeeper Alex Smithies.
It was a picture-book goal and one that sent out a signal to the rest of the Championship.
Norwich are finding top gear again and they’re going to take some stopping.