Norwich City 3-1 Birmingham City Player Ratings: Tommy Trybull’s tenacity

Mario Vrancic scores Norwich’s second –

Norwich City underlined their promotion credentials with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Birmingham City, in which all the goals came in the first 25 minutes. Here’s our Player Ratings from the game.

Norwich City

Tim Krul – the Dutchman’s performances at Bristol City and West Brom have been crucial to the Canaries avoiding defeats, but this was a quieter display at the office. Might not have allowed as much space inside the near-post as he did for Birmingham’s equalizer, but his comfort in possession was evident on occasions. 5

Max Aarons – as one would expect from an academy graduate, Aarons brings energy and attacking talent yet, perhaps unlike many 18-year-olds, he also displayed an intelligence to hold his position when Lewis went forward. Aside from one blemish in the first half, when he was robbed in possession high up the pitch, this was an outstanding display. 7
Christoph Zimmermann – with Timm Klose absent and Grant Hanley only just getting back to fitness, Zimmermann had to be the dominant centre-back tonight and he was just that. He put in some good interceptions – with his distribution being accurate if not quite Klose standard – he showed bravery to defend his near-post when needed as well as strong leadership qualities. 8
Ben Godfrey – when one looks at how well the existing midfielders pop the ball around, it is perhaps more understandable that Daniel Farke does not see Godfrey as a central midfielder, despite his outstanding performances there for Shrewsbury last term. He made big contributions at centre-back here, with an important block early on followed by an adventurous run into the opposing half to set up Pukki for a shot. 8
Jamal Lewis – the 20-year-old’s return from injury represents a significant boost for the Canaries, who had had to improvise with Godfrey at left-back previously. He got up and down the flank with tireless energy and combined very well with Hernandez and Buendia in the build-up to the opener. 8

Tommy Trybull – the ball-winner might be less likely to cover deeper areas than the injured Alex Tettey was, but this match showed that he can also offer something different to his positional rival; a willingness to hassle and harry comparatively high up the pitch, as well as that ability to collect the ball off the defence and distribute. Any pre-match question marks over his fitness were promptly dispelled in a superbly tenacious display. 9
Mario Vrancic – on paper, Vrancic acted as a Moritz Leitner replacement but, in practice, he perhaps covered more ground in his attempts to exert his influence, including ground further forward. The Bosnian was constantly making movements to create numerical advantages and picked some crisp forward passes, giving Daniel Farke a very nice dilemma for when Leitner returns. 8

Onel Hernandez – the Cuban-born wide forward has been one of Norwich’s most eye-catching players this season, in terms of his ability to run at defenders with pace which is almost unique within the squad. Hernandez contradicted the movements of many of his teammates by very frequently taking risks in possession and although he perhaps gave the ball away more often in the process, he also stretched play in Norwich’s favour and produce four key passes. 8
Marco Stiepermann – the German was hindered last season by a combination of injuries and perhaps his own versatility, but is starting to prove this term that he is most useful in the number 10 role. Stiepermann brought an element of physicality to the side which aided the team’s pressing – and he sometimes broke ahead of Pukki, as we saw for one chance midway through the second period. 9
Emi Buendia – having been considered a left-field addition after signing from Getafe in the summer, Buendia has proved hugely valuable to Norwich with another strong display here. Not only did he lay off the first goal and provide the corner for the second, he also provided an element of aggression without the ball which was vital in terms of protecting Lewis. It was unfortunate that he had to be withdrawn late in the first half due to a dead leg. 8

Teemu Pukki – the Finish forward is a dangerous goalscorer and he proved that here on 13 minutes, getting ahead of Dean to apply the near-post finish. What was equally impressive about him though was his work rate off the ball, which was key to how Norwich pressed, especially in the opening period. Although on paper a centre-forward, Pukki has the intelligence to drop off at times and allow others to get in behind, confusing defenders. 8

Todd Cantwell (on 38) – the academy graduate did not have quite as big an impact as Buendia, but that was mainly because the nature of Norwich’s game plan was different while he was on the pitch. Cantwell still managed to test Camp with a curling effort in the second period. 6
Jordan Rhodes (on 84) – the Scot was into the action straight away, coming close to winning a penalty after an alleged trip. 6
Kenny McLean (on 89) – the dynamic midfielder has had difficulties identifying his best position so far this season, but here he slotted in on the right of the attack. 5

Birmingham City

Lee Camp – the seasoned stopper had enjoyed a resurgence up until the festive period, but was partially at fault for Middlesbrough’s winner last week and perhaps that played on his mind here, when he might have moved his feet quicker as Vrancic shaped to shoot for Norwich’s second goal. He at least partially redeemed him in the second half, when he made one or two decent stops. 4

Maxime Colin – the Frenchman did not appear to show the pace or drive to attack the flank directly; with Jota operating centrally he struggled to find opportunities to combine in tight areas with his former Brentford teammate down the right, as he did earlier in the campaign. Guilty of losing his self-control at times. 4
Michael Morrison – the former Charlton man is better when heading balls away from the penalty area than running back towards it, so it was vital that Birmingham provided ample protection for their skipper. Unfortunately, the lack of discipline from the wide men among other factors left him exposed, although this performance did offer further evidence to suggest that Morrison, as reliable as a servant as he has been for the club, should not necessarily get a new contract when his deal runs out in the summer. 4
Harlee Dean – the ex-Brentford centre-back is slightly quicker than Morrison and thus, he’s sometimes tasked with bailing his partner out in transition. Norwich’s opening goal, for example, appears to be Dean’s fault, because he could not catch Pukki, but he should not have been forced to move across to the other post in the first place. 6
Kristian Pedersen – the Dane started well with one or two driving runs, stealing the ball off Aarons in the lead-up to the first big chance. As Norwich took control though, he struggled to impose himself on the contest, although he was not chiefly responsible for anything Birmingham got wrong defensively. 6

Jota – the sprightly Spaniard likes the freedom to drift inside and pick up pockets between the lines. That was a positive for Blues on one or two occasions, chiefly the reverse pass for Adams’ goal, but fundamentally his lack of defensive discipline left the team far too open against high-quality opposition; Norwich’s first goal being the classic example. 4
Maikel Kieftenbeld – the Dutch destroyer is normally crucial to Birmingham’s defensive efforts, but here the lack of discipline from the wide men meant he had far too much ground to cover. After a reasonable start, the sheer volume of work became too much of a burden and he was withdrawn after the interval. 5
Gary Gardner – the Aston Villa loanee tried to make bold runs off the ball in the first half and while they forced Norwich back on some occasions, they generally left Birmingham wide open when the hosts found ways of playing through the press. In the second period, he was far more restrained which made Blues less likely to cede further chances, but also less likely to find a way of getting back into the contest. 5
Jacques Maghoma – out of possession, the former Sheffield Wednesday wide man tried to cut off passing angles into Aarons, rather than track his runs stringently. While this allowed him to support the press and link-up with Jota, as we saw in the lead-up to the equalizer, it left Kieftenbeld and Gardner with too much ground to cover. 4

Lukasz Jutkiewicz – the target man won eight aerial duels but, unfortunately for him, only one of those was in (or anywhere near) the penalty area. Five were in the right channel, where he tried to gain a height advantage over Lewis, but Blues just were not getting him on the ball in areas in which his physicality can cause problems for the opposition. 4
Che Adams – the one-time Sheffield United academy graduate continued his outstanding individual form with clever movement and a good finish to equalize, in a performance in which he was the one bright spark for Blues. Adams pressed selflessly and always willingly ran the channels even when, especially in the second half, he did not get too much support. The forward will attract interest between now and the end of the January transfer window and adjusting to life without him would be a challenge. 7

Craig Gardner (on 56) – Birmingham are crying out for a midfielder with the capacity to look after the ball and distribute well – Gardner, who arguably lacks the athleticism to provide the drive he used to be able to, does not quite fit that description. 4
Isaac Vassell (on 61) – if Adams leaves in the January transfer window, Birmingham need a striker ready to step into that void and Vassell provided similar qualities here, with his energy and tenacity sparking a brief increase in intensity. Whether those similar qualities include goalscoring nous at Championship level remains to be seen. 6
Connor Mahoney (on 71) – Birmingham’s reluctance to press in the second half meant their attacks needed to be individualistic and while Mahoney has quick feet, he is not quick over long distances, meaning the nature of the contest did not quite suit him. 5