City are top of the league! Brilliant display knocks Leeds off top spot at Elland Road
PUBLISHED: 00:02 03 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:24 03 February 2019
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Norwich City have earned sweet revenge over Leeds United this evening after snatching top spot from their title rivals with a brilliant 3-1 victory in tonight's blockbuster Championship clash at Elland Road.
A deflected Mario Vrancic free-kick and Teemu Pukki’s 19th goal of the season fired Daniel Farke’s team into a dream-like 2-0 lead at the break, amid the deafening atmosphere of over 37,000 fans packed into a sold-out Elland Road.
Vrancic made sure of the three points with 12 minutes remaining and although Patrick Bamford did pull a goal back for the hosts in injury-time, it didn’t prevent Norwich from reclaiming first place in the table.
The win not only avenged the 3-0 loss at Carrow Road in August but also set a new club record of 13 away league games unbeaten, as promotion belief reached new levels.
City boss Daniel Farke went with an unchanged XI but brought the fit-again Alex Tettey back on to the bench.
The first half lived up to the blockbuster billing, featuring 25 shots at goal collectively, with a dream start to the match for the Canaries thanks to Vrancic.
The midfielder slammed into a tackle to win back possession and from there Onel Hernandez was fouled by Pontus Jansson 20 yards from goal, with Vrancic’s central free-kick looping off Adam Forshaw in the wall and into the top-right corner for 1-0.
Left-back Ezgjan Alioski thumped a low shot just wide in the 13th minute and City keeper Tim Krul was grateful to see his imperious stand-in skipper Christoph Zimmermann head clear after getting lost in the scramble to clear an Alioski free-kick soon after.
There was another scare for the Canaries’ number one in the 26th minute, bringing Tyler Roberts down just outside his box but relieved to see the hooked shot loop wide, and then booked for the challenge.
There was a bizarre moment in the 33rd minute as Emi Buendia slalomed through challenges like a skiing star, only for a loud white noise to blast out over the PA as he was about to pull the trigger, sounding like a microphone being turned on, and Max Aarons eventually blasting a shot at Kiko Casilla.
Zimmermann made a couple more excellent blocks before the break and Norwich went into half-time 2-0 up, with Vrancic pivotal again in the 35th minute.
Marco Stiepermann and Buendia had both won back possession, until Stiepermann eventually teed up Vrancic to shoot on the edge of the box, only for his shot to deflect wide to Pukki, who slotted into an empty net with Casilla stranded and the home crowd hoping for an offside which never came due to the deflection – with the 2,500 away fans eventually starting to celebrate.
Krul redeemed his earlier wobbles with a vital save from Kemar Roofe straight after the goal, getting down to his right to keep the hosts’ top scorer out.
Vrancic curled another free-kick just wide before half-time but there was a big scare for the visitors before the whistle, with Luke Ayling hooking a loose ball into the net after Krul was again caught in no man’s land trying to reach an Alioski free-kick – but the home celebrations were cut shot for Jansson’s pushing.
Marcelo Bielsa made a double substitution at the break for Leeds, replacing Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison and Spanish playmaker Pablo Hernandez with highly-rated young winger Jack Clarke and former Wolves left-back Barry Douglas.
Norwich controlled proceedings calmly though and after little sign of a reaction from the Whites, Bielsa decided to put fit-again former Canaries loan striker Patrick Bamford on for Tyler Roberts just after the hour mark.
Within 30 seconds Max Aarons smashed a shot wide after fine play from Stiepermann and Hernandez on the left as City continued to look the better team and the home crowd got more and more frustrated – with a host of fouls but only two yellow cards.
Aarons made two vital blocks midway through the second half, deflecting a Bamford shot behind and making a goal-saving clearance after a low Clarke cross had beaten Krul, with Roofe lurking inside the six-yard box.
It proved absolutely crucial, with Vrancic making sure of the win – and top spot – in the 78th minute, after Hernandez had freed Lewis and the left-back drove to the bye-line, his cross deflected kindly and the Bosnia & Herzegovina international fired low under an unsighted Casilla to spark wild celebrations with the travelling supporters at the side of the pitch.
Leeds did pull one back in the first minute of injury-time though, after Godfrey had deflected Bamford’s shot onto the crossbar and over initially. Douglas swung in the corner from the left and Bamford guided a header into the far side of the net.
However, it was too little too late and the Canaries returned to the top of the table for the first time since early December thanks to a better goal-difference.
The Canaries return to action with another huge game next weekend, when former City boss Paul Lambert brings arch rivals Ipswich to Carrow Road, sitting eight points adrift of safety at the bottom of the division after conceding a late goal to lose 1-0 at home to Sheffield Wednesday earlier today.
Norwich: Krul; Aarons, Zimmermann (C), Godfrey, Lewis; Trybull (Tettey 84), Vrancic; Buendia (McLean 85), Stiepermann, Hernandez; Pukki (Rhodes 87). Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Hanley, Cantwell, Srbeny
Booked: Krul (foul on Roberts, 26), Stiepermann (dissent, 83)
Goals: Vrancic (5, 78), Pukki (35)
Leeds: Casilla; Ayling, Jansson, Cooper (C), Alioski; Forshaw; Hernandez (Douglas 46), Klich, Roberts (Bamford 63), Harrison (Clarke 46); Roofe. Unused subs: Peacock-Farrell (GK), Gotts, Phillips, Shackleton
Booked: Roberts (fouled Aarons, 52), Roofe (foul on Vrancic, 64), Alioski (foul on Vrancic, 74)
Goals: Bamford (90+1)
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)
Attendance: 36,524 (2,464 away)
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