Middlesbrough 0 Norwich City 2 - Norwich return to the Premier League
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City surged back to the Premier League at the first time of asking after a magnificent 2-0 Championship play-off final win over Middlesbrough at Wembley.
Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond's salvo inside two early first half minutes capped a fairytale return for Alex Neil's squad after relegation 12 months ago.
City clinched the final promotion place behind champions Bournemouth and Watford on a thrilling afternoon in front of 39,500 jubilant City supporters.
Neil resisted the temptation to bring Lewis Grabban back into his starting line up after serving a three-match ban with Jerome preferred from the start in an unchanged first XI from the semi-final, second leg win over Ipswich.
Graham Dorrans was retained on the substitutes' bench, along with Gary O'Neil who was a Wembley play-off final winner with both West Ham and QPR.
Boro's on-loan Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford started after a build-up dominated by whether the Championship player-of-the-year would recover from an ankle problem injured in the Teessiders' 1-0 league win in Norfolk last month.
Dani Ayala stooped to head clear after City had slipped into a smooth passing motion inside the opening minute with Wes Hoolahan picking out the overlapping Martin Olsson.
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Redmond then powered beyond George Friend in what appeared to be a key personal match-up, but Bradley Johnson was unable to climb high enough at the far post to test Dimi Konstantopoulos.
Steven Whittaker coaxed a ball over the top of the Boro central defence for the on-rushing Johnson but Dean Whitehead did enough to ease City's player-of-the-year under the ball.
Johnson underlined his prowess on his left foot with a thunderous strike against the bar in the ninth minute after Jerome was inches from connecting with Whittaker's cross.
Back came Boro with an instant riposte as Jelle Vossen's rising shot clipped the angle and post of John Ruddy's bar in a frenetic burst of activity.
City powered ahead in the 13th minute, however, when Jerome robbed Ayala before drawing Konstantopoulos and whipping a finish inside his near post from an acute angle to spark a huge explosion of noise from the Canaries' fans.
Life got even sweeter for City with Redmond finishing a brilliant move two minutes later built on controlled possession before Whittaker picked out the England Under-21 starlet to touch and finish low past Konstantopoulos.
Boro were rocking in the aftermath of Norwich's salvo with Jerome eventually subdued after Redmond popped up on the opposite flank.
Vossen's glancing flick slithered well wide of Ruddy's far post in the 26th minute with signs the Teessiders were starting to clear their heads.
Ruddy recovered from a potentially heart-stopping moment when he spilled Bassong's miscued head under pressure from Bamford but the England international gathered at the second attempt.
Karanka made a change at the interval with Emilio Nsue replacing Whitehead. City understandably kept the same personnel on show after a ferocious opening half.
Boro tried to up the ante at the start of the second period but Ayala headed a corner over under pressure from Bassong as the Teesside fans then berated Ruddy for taking his time with the goal kick.
Jonny Howson then had to shut down Friend with the north-east club increasingly desperate in their attacking motions.
Vossen was then yellow-carded for what referee Dean deemed simulation after tumbling under the attentions of Whittaker and Hoolahan.
Ruddy dived to gather Bamford's low, fizzing strike in the 59th minute with the Teessiders enjoying their best spell of concerted pressure, trigged by the pace and directness of Albert Adomah.
Russell Martin headed over inside the Boro six-yard box in the 69th minute after the Canaries had weathered that gathering threat from the Reds – a chance which owed everything to the persistence of lone raider Jerome.
Karanka introduced Kike and his compatriot triggered a momentary alarm when he burst into the Norwich box but his deflected cross dropped in the vicinity of Ruddy.
Neil made a double change with Grabban replacing Jerome and Dorrans on for Hoolahan to pep up his counter-attacking spearhead for the final push.
Dorrans drove at the heart of a tiring Boro midfield before Ayala and Kike took evasive action at the cost of a free kick 25 yards out but Redmond's curling effort drifted over the top.
Boro surged forward again with Ayala rising unmarked but heading Grant Leabitter's corner at Grabban who hacked clear inside is six yard box.
Neil made his final change with O'Neil on for Redmond who was hailed by the Norwich supporters for his influential shift.
The experienced midfielder tested Konstantopoulous deep in stoppage time with the Canaries' fans producing a fantastic noise to drag their men over the finishing line and back to the Premier League.
• Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Whitehead (Nsue 45), Ayala, Gibson, Friend, Adomah, Leadbitter, Clayton, Tomlin, Vossen (Kike 68), Bamford. Subs (not used): Ripley, Forshaw, Reach, Amorebieta, Woodgate.
• Booking: Vossen (simulation, 56)
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond (O'Neil 87), Tettey, Howson, Johnson, Hoolahan (Dorrans 75), Jerome (Grabban 74) Subs (not used): Rudd, Hooper, E Bennett, R Bennett.
• Booking: Howson (foul on Tomlin, 62)
• Goals: Jerome (13), Redmond (15)
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 4 minutes
• Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)
• Attendance: 85,636
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