Birmingham 2 Norwich City 2 – Hernandez the hero as Canaries fight back twice for opening-day draw
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
The new Championship season got off to a thrilling start for Norwich City, with two late Onel Hernandez goals seeing the Canaries come from behind twice to draw 2-2 at Birmingham City.
Jacques Maghoma had fired the Blues in front early in the second half before Hernandez levelled in the 83rd minute after a weaving run.
Substitute Viv Solomon-Otabor looked like he'd won it in the 89th minute but then, deep into injury-time, Hernandez earned a valuable point in front of over 2,300 away supporters to spark wild celebrations.
City head coach Daniel Farke handed debuts to four new players but it was starting places for midfielder Alex Tettey (chickenpox) and striker Jordan Rhodes (ankle) which had fans talking ahead of kick-off.
Tim Krul, Ben Marshall and Teemu Pukki joined Rhodes in making their debut from the start as the new Championship season got under way.
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There was an early scare for the Canaries when Marco Stiepermann was down hurt in the Birmingham half but the referee allowed play to go on, with Craig Gardner's low shot from the edge of the box deflecting off Tom Trybull and through to Krul, who was almost wrong-footed.
The big moment of the half came in the eighth minute though when young Blues keeper Connal Trueman superbly denied a Rhodes header from a Marshall cross from the right, somehow lifting the ball over his bar at full stretch.
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From the resulting corner Trybull couldn't quite make clean contact with his head from Marshall's corner from the right and Trueman could claim easily.
Otherwise it was a largely controlled performance from the visitors in hot conditions and bright sunshine that required a drinks break in the 25th minute.
With signs of rust from both sides creating sloppy moments, Hernandez tested Trueman in the 18th minute with a low shot after Stiepermann had shovelled on Grant Hanley's ball forward.
Maghoma tested Krul with a couple of weak efforts at the other end, with Lukas Jutkiewicz lashing a shot across the face of goal after Timm Klose had failed to cut out Che Adams' cross in the 31st minute.
The big moment of concern came just before the break though when Hanley scuffed a pass to Klose and saw Jutkiewicz claim the loose ball, forcing Klose to bring down the big man. Fortunately for Norwich however Craig Gardner's effort from the 25-yard free-kick was poor.
Birmingham sprung into life 10 minutes into the half though, with Tettey doing well to block a Jota shot as the hosts countered and Krul denying Adams at close quarters moments later as his defence scrambled to put the ball behind for a corner.
The Dutchman punched away Kristian Pedersen's in-swinging corner from the right but only as far as Maghoma, whose first shot rebounded back to him on the edge of the box, but his second was a left-footed rocket which flew in off the underside of the bar to break the deadlock.
Farke's response was to take off Husband and Trybull in the 65th minute, bringing on Moritz Leitner and Kenny McLean, moving Stiepermann to left-back and leaving Tettey as the lone holding midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
McLean nearly forced his way through soon after as the visitors showed signs of sparking into life, with Leitner and Pukki combining on the right only for Marshall to pull his shot well wide.
Good work from Leitner in the box allowed Tettey to drive the ball into the box from the right in the 79th minute but a stretching Rhodes couldn't divert the ball goalwards.
All of a sudden the Canaries burst into life, with Leitner delivering a peach of a cross in the 82nd minute which Rhodes just couldn't make clean contact with from point-blank range.
But within a minute Norwich were level, with Marshall sending Hernandez into the right channel, who danced past two Blues players in the box and lashed home a low shot from 10 yards to spark great scenes in front of the away fans.
The Cuban winger nearly snuck a winner two minutes later but his shot just squeezed low past the far post as the visitors were all of a sudden in the ascendancy.
Then disaster struck. Blues substitute Solomon-Otabor burst behind the Canaries back-line and poked past the on-rushing Krul to seemingly snatch the win and send the home crowd wild.
This opening day had one last twist remaining though.
Substitute Dennis Srbeny superbly held up possession before sending Hernandez clean through on goal with the ball on his preferred left and the winger made no mistake, rolling under Trueman to earn a dramatic draw in front of the thrilled Canaries supporters.
The Canaries return to action next Saturday with their first home game of the season, against West Brom.
Norwich: Krul; Marshall, Hanley (C), Klose, Husband (Leitner 63); Tettey, Trybull (McLean 63); Hernandez, Pukki, Stiepermann (Srbeny 75); Rhodes. Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Zimmermann, Thompson, Cantwell
Booked: Hernandez (removing shirt, 84) Marshall (foul on Maghoma, 86), McLean (foul on Solomon-Otabor, 86)
Goals: Hernandez (83, 90+4)
Birmingham: Trueman; Colin, Morrison, Dean, Pedersen; Jota (Solomon-Otabor 74), Gardner (Ndoye 74), Kieftenbeld, Maghoma; Jutkiewicz, Adams (Lubala 90). Unused subs: Weaver (GK), Roberts, Dacres-Cogley
Goals: Maghoma (56), Solomon-Otabor (89)
Referee: Peter Bankes
Attendance: 22,677 (2,383)