Norwich City 1-0 Swansea City Six Things: Canaries extend the gap

Buendia buzzing – canaries.co.uk (credit: Jason Dawson)

Norwich City are by no means promoted yet, but they took another small step closer to the Premier League on Friday night thanks to Emi Buendia’s second half strike, which gave them a 1-0 victory over Swansea City. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Swansea’s courage

The term bravery in football is commonly meant in the traditional sense – a willingness to attack 50/50 challenges – but Swansea showed a different type of bravery at Carrow Road to stay true to their possession-based style of play. We saw, even in the first two minutes, the potential for Norwich to steel the ball high up and initiate combination play between Teemu Pukki and Marco Stiepermann, yet still the Swans held onto the ball in the face of that initial press and bypassed it at times, with the likes of Nathan Dyer and Daniel James holding onto the ball in forward areas. They kept an excellent shape without the ball, too, with Matt Grimes and George Byers alternating in the duty of leading the midfield’s press – and the latter’s ninth-minute effort from outside the box forced a save from Tim Krul.

Norwich’s slow start

In most games Daniel Farke’s side play, their high-pressing stifles the opposition but, because of the way Swansea handled it here, they were perhaps stumped in the first half. Although the Yellows found means of carrying a threat via early balls into Pukki, who dragged wide from an advanced position midway through the opening period, their decision-making was rushed and not of the standard we have normally seen. Bersant Celina then fired them another warning sign by stinging Tim Krul’s palm’s with a 40th-minute effort that took a nik off McLean’s elbow, with the stopper pushing over.

Buendia brilliance

Onel Hernandez had struggled to get the better of Connor Roberts in the first half, but the dribbler looked a more determined beast as soon as the second kicked-off. After a winding run in from the left channel, he teed up Emi Buendia, who hit a belter from inside the box, helped partly by Grimes being slightly slow to close him down. It was a deserved goal for the Argentine, who had been one of Norwich’s more creative players during a below-par first half and his tenacity had aided them defensively all evening.

Canaries control

Norwich were largely dominant after Buendia’s strike and used the ball with far more composure than we saw in the opening period, with the influential Christoph Zimmermann orchestrating play from the back. They endured one nervy moment on 86 minutes, when Mike Van Der Hoorn headed over at the near-post from Grimes’ corner, but Pukki hit the post moments later following another through ball from Buendia, with one goal sufficing for a crucial three points.

Swans falling short

For Swansea, this result leaves them seven points off the play-off places with current final spot incumbents Bristol City having a game in hand – baring a miraculous turnaround in the final 11 games, therefore, they will be a Championship club next season. There was much to like about the Carrow Road performance from the Swans, who looked well-coached in and out of possession in the first half. However, the sense of pace, ruthlessness and bravery in the traditional sense, which was evident in Norwich’s play during their prominent spells, not quite there in Swansea’s display. The challenge for them, therefore, is to continue the well co-ordinated passages of play next season whilst becoming slightly more assertive in other areas of their game.

Yellows pull ahead

Considering that a prediction of third would have been a compliment to Norwich in pre-season, it is important that some perspective is retained regardless of events in their final 10 games. However, this victory takes them seven points clear in the race for automatic promotion race, which is a very favourable cushion, even if Sheffield United have a game in hand. It is telling, too, that certain bookmakers have the Norfolkians as short as 1/6 for promotion and narrowly odds-on for the title; the best prices on this can be found via the latest betting apps. Of course, the third-placed Blades could be a point off Norwich in five day’s time, so it seems premature to jump to any conclusions, but this victory gives the Canaries an opportunity to build a commanding cushion, should their promotion rivals fail to match their post-Autumn consistency.