Reading 1 Norwich City 2: Canaries on the march with comeback Royals’ win
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City battled back to earn a first Championship away win of the season in a 2-1 victory at Reading on Wednesday night.
Mario Vrancic slotted the winner in the 73rd minute, barely a minute after Jon Dadi Bodvarsson had cancelled out the prolific Teemu Pukki's first half strike for Daniel Farke's men.
The Canaries' chief handed Todd Cantwell a league debut and the Dereham talent responded with a vital role in Pukki's opener on a hugely encouraging night for the visitors.
Cantwell was the latest to get his chance in the second tier from what is now becoming a productive academy supply line.
Jamal Lewis and Max Aarons had blazed the trail before him.
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Ben Godfrey appears to possess the same attributes, but Norwich City fans must surely derive any extra sliver of pride from seeing one of their own in green and yellow.
Cantwell's talent was honed on the playing fields of Norfolk. But who knows where it could take him. A successful loan stint in Holland last season, that ended with promotion to the top division, was a perfect environment to leave behind development football.
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But the Championship is now his finishing school.
With Onel Hernandez ruled out for the foreseeable and Ben Marshall unfit for duty at Reading was there any lingering doubt Farke would not opt for the youngster.
The percentage play might well have seen Jordan Rhodes restored to the line up and the prolific Pukki pushed into the space vacated by Hernandez. Not a bit of it. Cantwell emerged for his league debut, with another boyhood Canaries' fan Aston Oxborough on the bench to aid City's homegrown quota requirements.
Pukki's seventh goal in 11 appearances for club and country was the slot of a man brimful of confidence. Yet do not underestimate Cantwell's part in a slick counter. The youngster was already on the move in central midfield, anticipating the ricochet from Marco Stiepermann, but with Emi Buendia steaming up on the right he produced a reverse pass of stunning precision to release Pukki for the devastating finish.
Cantwell was the first to celebrate with the frontman. One hopes that is the first of many meaningful contributions in the green and yellow of his club.
The young man's fearless sense of freedom was apparent throughout Farke's side in the opening period at the Madejski. All that confidence and belief harnessed in the composed win over Middlesbrough was evident in the way they moved the ball from front to back.
Christoph Zimmermann headed a big chance wide in the 10th minute, from Moritz Leitner's pinpoint free kick, after the German was crudely upended following a flowing counter triggered by Pukki and Buendia.
The Argentine Under-20 international is still learning the ropes in his new country. Some of the flicks and touches may inadvertently invite opponents forward, but City have recruited a player who can influence games at this level.
One take and turn in a blur of movement ended with a strike at Sam Walker from long range.
Pukki's 14th minute salvo appeared to sting the Royals into belated action. Sone Aluko cut inside Lewis but dragged a shot into the side netting.
Marco Stiepermann picked out Leitner, who curled his effort at Walker. Tim Krul then flung himself to his left to claw out Yakou Meite's rising long range. That poise and control Norwich had exerted from kick off was being threatened; partly in truth by City's ambition in possession.
Buendia tried to wrestle the initiative back early in the second period. Leitner's clever back heel set Pukki free inside the Reading area. Buendia was the final option but a stabbed shot deflected against Liam Moore.
Cantwell then picked out the overlapping Lewis, who hacked wildly over. A visible signal perhaps patience is the watchword and just how much more is to come from Norwich's prospects.
Alex Tettey barked out the orders as the game became increasingly stretched. His role in this fresh mix should not be underestimated.
Aarons' rash attempt to intercept inside his own box served up a huge chance for Meite just before the hour mark but he dragged his effort into the side netting.
The young Canaries' full back held up both hands by way of apology. Another signal of the exciting potential and the naivety Farke is trying to blend into a consistent Championship force.
Paul Clement made his final change from the bench with towering Icelandic striker Bodvarssson introduced. It was an inspired decision, with a predatory strike from point blank range to punish a rare defensive aberration.
But Farke's squad of young and old possess character in abundance. Vrancic marked his second half arrival with a cool turn and slot into the bottom corner barely a minute after the restart following Stiepermann's burst.
The Bosnian was denied a second in the closing stages when Walker parried another close range hit.
• Reading: Walker, Gunter, Ilori, Moore, Yiadom, Bacuna, Kelly (Bodvarsson 69), Aluko (Sims 65), Swift, Meite (Barrow 59), Baldock. Subs (not used): O'Shea, McNulty, Jaakkola, Ezatolahi.
• Bookings Meite (foul on Aarons, 27); Gunter (foul on Lewis, 54)
• Goal: Bodvarsson (72)
• Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Zimmermann, Klose, Lewis, Tettey, Leitner (Trybull 75), Buendia (Vrancic 68), Stiepermann (Rhodes 86), Cantwell, Pukki. Subs (not used): Oxborough (GK), Godfrey, Passlack, Srbeny.
• Bookings Vrancic (foul on Yiadom, 76); Aarons (unsporting behaviour, 81); Tettey (unsporting behaviour, 90)
• Goals: Pukki (14), Vrancic (73)
• Time added on: 2 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Tim Robinson (West Sussex)
• Attendance: 12,822 (919 away fans)