Wigan 1 Norwich City 1: Pukki to the rescue as Wigan give the leaders an almighty scare
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Top scorer Teemu Pukki came to the rescue of Norwich City to keep the leaders’ promotion push on track with a 1-1 draw at Wigan, stretching the unbeaten run of Daniel Farke’s team to 10 matches.
Wigan claimed the lead just before half-time through a Reece James penalty but Pukki fired his 28th goal of the season to prevent a worrying defeat for the Canaries, in front of 5,300 travelling fans, the club’s biggest league following in 15 years.
The point extends City’s lead to four points at the top of the table and seven clear of third placed Sheffield United, leaving them six points from the Premier League with four game remaining.
City started brightly, with Todd Cantwell and Onel Hernandez linking nicely in the fifth minute but Cantwell unable to connect with a shot and Pukki also unable to salvage the chance.
There was a real moment of panic when captain Christoph Zimmermann launched into a sliding tackle in the 20th minute though, with Gavin Massey hurdling the challenge and going clean through but firing across the face of goal under pressure from Ben Godfrey.
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The hosts started to grown in confidence and Chelsea loanee James whipped in a couple of dangerous free-kicks, with Leon Clarke heading wide at the back post in the 28th minute.
Pukki couldn’t connect with a nice cross from Marco Stiepermann from the left seven minutes later as City tried to catch Wigan on the counter.
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Tim Krul was in the right place at the right time in the 39th minute, as Lee Evans nodded down a Kal Naismith cross from the left, holding the ball on his line.
The Latics really had their tail up and a Naismith shot deflected just wide off Kenny McLean soon after, before the penalty was awarded in the 45th minute.
The ball broke kindly for Latics skipper Sam Morsy to drive a shot goalwards from the edge of the box and Godfrey was unfortunate to see the ball cannon off his leg and into his arm, but the referee deemed it was enough for a spot-kick.
James calmly placed the ball to Krul’s bottom-right to grab the lead just before the break, despite City’s number one guessing the correct way to dive.
A lively start to the second half saw Christian Walton get down well to deny a Hernandez shot, with Pukki unable to scramble in the loose ball for City, and James lash a shot just over the bar for the hosts at the other end.
The Canaries were slowly finding their feet and had two chances just before the hour mark, Stiepermann sending Pukki free on the left side of the box and Walton doing well to parry the low left-footed shot behind. McLean sent in the resulting corner from the right and Trytbull rose high but could only head wide on the stretch.
Wigan so nearly doubled their lead in the 65th minute as they countered quickly after dispossessing Pukki in the box, with Clarke side-stepping a desperate sliding tackle from Godfrey only for his shot to loop off Krul and agonisingly beyond the far post.
McLean lost possession and the Latics countered again, with Zimmermann cleaning out Massey and being booked for a late tackle, with James curling the free-kick just over.
Daniel Farke responded with a triple substitution in the 76th minute, taking off Cantwell, Jamal Lewis and Trybull, throwing Moritz Leitner, Mario Vrancic and Jordan Rhodes into the mix.
Five minutes later the equaliser arrived, with McLean threading Pukki into the left side of the box and the Championship’s Player of the Season made no mistake, stroking low into the bottom-right corner for his 27th league goal of the campaign.
All of a sudden it was all City, as they poured forward in search of a winner but Vrancic couldn’t connect with a Rhodes knock down as eight minutes of added time began.
Wigan thought they’d snatched it in the fourth minute of added time, when Clarke headed in a James free-kick from wide on the right – only for an offside flag to cut short the celebrations for the home fans.
Pukki also blasted a deflected shot just wide and Stiepermann fired a low effort from 15 yards which Walton got down to well – but the leaders couldn’t find the memorable winner they were desperate for.
The Canaries return to action at Carrow Road on Friday, when they host Sheffield Wednesday, with Steve Bruce’s side six points adrift of the play-off places.
NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann (C), Godfrey, Lewis (Leitner 76); Trybull (Vrancic 76), McLean; Cantwell (Rhodes 76), Stiepermann, Hernandez; Pukki. Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Hanley, Klose, Srbeny
Booked: Trybull (dissent, 44), Zimmermann (foul on Massey, 68)
Goals: Pukki (81)
WIGAN (4-1-4-1): Walton; Byrne, Dunkley, Fox (Olsson 90), Robinson; James; Massey (Windass 72), Evans, Morsy, Naismith (Powell 72); Clarke. Unused subs: Evans (GK), Kipre, Gibson, Garner
Booked: Massey (foul on McLean, 32), James (foul on Stiepermann (82)
Goals: James (pen 45)
REFEREE: James Linnington (Newport)
ATTENDANCE: 15,655 (5,300 away)
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