Birmingham City 2-2 Norwich City Player Ratings: Hernandez shines

 

MOTM – Onel Hernandez

After an action-packed second half, Birmingham City drew 2-2 with Norwich City in the opening game of the 2018-19 Championship season. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Birmingham City

Connal Trueman – David Stockdale had been transfer listed but with the embargo, Blues haven’t been able to sign a replacement; all of which has fallen in Trueman’s favour. He made an excellent stop from Rhodes in the first half, but perhaps might have done better with Norwich’s first goal. 5

Maxime Colin – Grounds’ injury forced right-footed Colin to play at left-back last season and while he didn’t disgrace himself there, he looked more comfortable getting forward in his natural position. Playing at left-back appears to have added an extra level of intelligence to his game, too. 7
Michael Morrison – a couple of years ago, Morrison was one of the most impressive centre-backs in the Championship but now, his standards appear to be slipping. Doesn’t look comfortable in possession and made a slip in injury-time that proved costly. 3
Harlee Dean – the ex-Brentford man was one of Blues’ better players last season due to his front-foot defending. While we saw examples of him doing that well here, he was also a tad rash at times, especially for Norwich’s first goal, when more composure centre-backs might have stayed on their feet. 4
Kristian Pedersen – due to the embargo, Pederson was Birmingham’s only summer addition. His defensive positioning was not quite as sharp as one might have hoped, but still showed glimpses of quality. Perhaps needs time to adjust to the pace of the Championship. 5

Jota – his decision-making in the first half left a little to be desired, but he became more prominent after the break, when he found it easier to break into threatening areas and link up with Jutkiewicz. Blues need to have longer spells of possession to get the best out of him, though. 6
Maikel Kieftenbeld – added power and discipline to Birmingham’s midfield, disrupted Norwich’s rhythm by breaking up attacks. Never shirks a challenge or fails to sprint back when his team is in trouble, qualities which were perhaps important given that Blues only had four midfielders. 6
Craig Gardner – his desire couldn’t be questioned, but he needs to improve his awareness of players around him. Only completed 47% of his passes and although once in a blue moon he did manage to pick out a decent ball, he was often very wasteful in possession. 3
Jacques Maghoma – offered pace and power down that left flank and has benefited from the freedom to roam inside when he wants to. Sometimes he was stuck in his defensive third and while he worked admirably there, he is at his best when pressing and threatening in transition. A powerful strike for the opener after his initial effort was blocked. 8

Che Adams – with Birmingham’s midfield sitting deep for long spells, they relied on Adams to be the outlet capable of providing pace and intelligence going forward; for much of the game, he didn’t quite deliver. 4
Lukasz Jutkiewicz – didn’t win quite as many headers as one might have expected from a player as tall as he is, but still used his presence to bring the likes of Maghoma and Jota into play, as well as registering a delightful assist for Soloman-Otabor’s goal. 6

Cheikh N’Doye (on 74) – nobody could question N’Doye’s desire but his size perhaps hinders his agility and that might have been partly what handed Norwich the initiative late on. 3
Viv Soloman-Otabor (on 75) – ran in behind to get the better of Hanley and slip the ball past Krul, at a time when Birmingham had been under the cosh. 7
Bez Lubala (on 90+1)

Norwich City

Tim Krul – had looked rusty in the friendly at Charlton the week before, with little game time over the last three seasons, which might have impacted his performance here. Krul had spilt the ball on three occasions, even before he conceded from Maghoma; might have been quicker off his line to stop Soloman-Otabor, too. 3

Ben Marshall – impressive in the first half, combining with Stiepermann and often popping up in the right-wing position. Although he showed good technique in the second period by playing in Hernandez for the first equalizer, he was also caught out of position and allowed Maghoma to get in behind. 6
Grant Hanley – the best Norwich sides this century have normally had leaders and Hanley certainly provides this, but it’s fair to say he’s had better days. The ex-Blackburn man misplaced the odd pass and was partially at fault for Birmingham’s second. 3
Timm Klose – Norwich brought him as a player with European pedigree and here, he showed his pedigree with an assured display. Didn’t attack the ball as readily as Hanley but offered a better passing range – played one or two delicious ball down the channel for Rhodes. 5
James Husband – at times struggled to handle Birmingham’s right-sided threat of Jota and Colin, not helped by his lack of pace. Youngster Max Aarons might feel unlucky not to have featured after a promising pre-season. 3

Alex Tettey – acted as a holding midfielder when Norwich were without the ball, then formed a back-three when they had it. The usual reason for deploying a midfielder in defence is their passing range but Tettey is limited in that regard; and he sometimes lacked the pace to cover Norwich’s right channel when Marshall was caught out. Difficult to pinpoint exactly how Tettey helped Norwich’s performance. 3
Tommy Trybull – acting as the closest thing to a classic midfielder in Norwich’s system, Trybull offered his usual energy and tenacity, dropping close to the defence to offer a passing option now and again. 7

Marco Stiepermann – combined well with Marshall in the first half and appeared comfortable moving into the final third, or covering for his right-sided teammate. Perhaps faded in the second half, before going off with a jarred knee. 5
Teemu Pukki – although Pukki has a reasonable presence about him and is a willing runner, it wasn’t any obvious physical quality that stood out in his performance; instead, it was his movement and adaptability which kept the hosts guessing. A roundly positive display, baring a quiet spell early in the second half – interestingly, he didn’t often get into goalscoring positions despite having scored 55 times in 130 games for Brondby. 7
Onel Hernandez – showed pace, skill and awareness throughout. For his first equalizer, he sold dummies to Dean and Kieftenbeld on a mazy run, even if he was perhaps slightly fortunate that his effort was not held by the goalkeeper. For his second, he finished with unerring composure at a crucial time, capping an excellent performance. 9

Jordan Rhodes – the Scot had picked up an injury in the penultimate friendly and there had been questions about his fitness leading up to the game, but this was a respectable debut. The ex-Blackburn poacher was denied brilliantly by Trueman early on and might have had more opportunities had Norwich got the ball into the box quicker. 6

Moritz Leitner (on 63) – the debate in pre-season was whether he was best suited to being a number 10 or a deep-lying playmaker; on the evidence of his impact here, he’s something in between. At a time when Norwich’s play was starting to become a tad predictable, Leitner injected creativity pushing forward from deep. 9
Kenny McLean (on 64) – signed from Aberdeen, McLean added craft on the left, looking to combine with others with passes inside. 7
Denis Srbeny (on 75) – had his critics last year, but made an excellent run to set up Hernandez’s 94th minute equalizer. 8