Cardiff City 1 Norwich City 3: Impressive Canaries power to League Cup triumph
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's young guns surged into round three of the League Cup with a 3-1 win at Premier League Cardiff City on Tuesday night.
Dennis Srbeny's brace and Max Aarons first senior goal capped a vibrant display from Daniel Farke's side. Bruno Manga pulled a goal back but the Canaries spurned further chances late on to ease their passage into the next round.
The Canaries' head coach made a total of 10 changes to the line up that succumbed to Leeds at the weekend. Only Tom Trybull survived the cull. There was a dash of experience in the shape of the returning Alex Tettey, after recharging his batteries against Marcelo Bielsa's promotion hopefuls.
But Farke's cup selection was primarily a fusion of youth and energetic endeavour.
Yes, there was inevitable naivety at times, when Cardiff did threaten to move through the gears, but the scales were firmly tipped in a positive direction.
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None more so perhaps than in the curious case of Srbeny. The raw German striker can finish but his game is all about instinct rather than a maturity that brings an inner sense of calm to process options when he has time and space on his side.
It is hardly a surprise a young man plucked from regional football at the start of this year should need to lose some rough edges.
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But his fearsome rising strike to open the scoring against the Bluebirds was another glimpse of the talent under the surface; beyond the poor decision-making or the awkwardness he exhibits on occasion in possession.
Srbeny found himself with only Alex Smithies to beat in the ninth minute but a heavy touch as the keeper advanced saw the chance disappear. It would have done nothing for his self-confidence, given he must grasp any opportunity to exert some pressure on the watching Jordan Rhodes and Teemu Pukki.
Yet his goal was majestic, both in the execution and delivery.
Emi Buendia provided a willing foil to back heel a reverse pass into his path. Srbeny collected, took a touch to steady himself before cracking a rising shot into the top corner without breaking stride.
Aarons was the first to congratulate him. The teenage full back has been fast-tracked into Farke's first team plans but there is a fearlessness that is a joy to behold. Aarons looked combative in the tackle and cool in tight areas to find a yellow shirt.
There was also attacking adventure, when he burst forward to collect Trybull's raking pass only to hit the first man.
His moment would come.
Any Norwich alarms prior to the interval were self-inflicted. Christoph Zimmermann gave the ball away and then conceded a free kick in his urgency to rectify the initial error. Gary Madine stepped up from 22 yards but Michael McGovern superbly shuffled to his left to claw the goalbound shot around the post.
McGovern may not have youth on his side but with Tim Krul yet to attain a level of consistency, the Northern Ireland international must fancy his chances.
Buendia was the pick for the men in yellow in a bright first half.
The Argentine bristled with creative intent on his first full start for the club.
The assist for Srbeny was class but his awareness and intelligence were a marked feature. Early in the second half he surged from deep in his own half to unleash a rising effort that cleared Smithies' bar.
Then there was a cushioned pass inviting Marco Stiepermann to choke a shot at the Bluebirds' keeper, with Farke's new wave sensing more joy on the counter.
Cardiff probed with greater urgency, no doubt fuelled from a barb or two at the interval from Neil Warnock.
Kadeem Harris should have levelled in the 54th minute but a last ditch sliding challenge from Zimmermann created enough of a diversion for McGovern to gather.
Warnock made two attacking changes but it was Farke's brigade who delivered a gorgeous sucker punch.
Stiepermann led the break out before coolly chipping a cross to the back post for the unmarked Srbeny to head his second from close range.
That gathering storm abated. Norwich's shadow men re-gathered that early composure. Aarons added a third, twisting inside the Cardiff area before clipping an angle shot through Smithies.
But when do Norwich every do it the easy way? Manga headed past McGovern before Bobby Reid's free kick clipped the Canaries' wall but the outside of McGovern's woodwork.
Cantwell could have provided extra insurance, when he lifted over with Smithies to beat as the game became increasingly stretched. The Bluebirds' stopper denied the Dereham man again seconds later.
• Cardiff City: Smithies, Peltier, Ecule-Manga, Richards (Ward 59), Reid, Connolly, Cunningham, Damour, Camarasa (Zohore 71), Harris, Madine (Paterson 59). Subs (not used): Murphy (GK), Bennett, Coxe, Brown.
• Bookings: Richards (foul on Cantwell, 39); Damour (foul on Zimmermann, 74)
• Goal: Manga (77)
• Norwich City: McGovern, Passlack, Godfrey, Zimmermann, Aarons, Tettey, Trybull (Leitner 67), Cantwell (Rhodes 90) Buendia, Stiepermann, Srbeny. Subs (not used): Krul (GK), Marshall, Pukki, Hernandez, Hanley.
• Bookings: Stiepermann (foul on Manga, 28); Buendia (foul on Manga, 80)
• Goals: Srbeny (26, 64), Aarons (69)
• Time added on: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Andrew Madley
• Attendance: 6,953