Blades prove too strong for tired City as unbeaten run comes to an end
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City's four-match unbeaten Championship run has been brought to an end by a frustrating 2-1 home defeat to Sheffield United.
An early goal from debutant James Wilson was added to midway through the second half by substitute Clayton Donaldson, only for Ivo Pinto to set up a tense finish with a fine header, but the hosts couldn't find an equualiser
Daniel Farke made just one change to the team which started the gruelling midweek shoot-out defeat at Chelsea in the FA Cup, key midfielder Alex Tettey replacing Mario Vrancic in midfield.
The aftereffects of that draining night was immediately apparent though with the visitors – who didn't have a game in midweek – obviously sharper from the off and taking the lead in just the sixth minute.
Young left-back Jamal Lewis – fresh from scoring his fist Canaries goal on Wednesday – conceded an unnecessary corner and John Fleck's set-piece bounced around the City area until Manchester United loanee Wilson fired home a low shot from 10 yards.
Angus Gunn made a fine stop at his near post from another Blades debutant in the 15th minute, midfielder Ryan Leonard bursting into the penalty area unchallenged and firing at goal, before also lifting the rebound over the bar.
Leonard also stooped to somehow squeeze a header goalwards five minutes later after skipper Leon Clarke flicked on a cross from the left from Enda Stevens, but Gunn was down smartly to save.
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Christoph Zimmermann made an important block from Wilson in the 30th minute as the visitors continued to dominate the tired Canaries, although Nelson Oliveira slipped Josh Murphy down the right six minutes later and United keeper Simon Moore got down well to hold the low shot.
Farke's team rallied as the half-time whistle approached, with James Maddison fouled several times and seeing a free-kick turned behind by Moore in the 40th minute, with Timm Klose lashing a powerful 25-yard shot just wide a minute before the break.
Clarke missed a fine chance to head at goal three minutes into the second half, when he misread a great cross from the left from Fleck, and Leonard tested Gunn from 25 yards soon after following the keeper's poor kick.
As the home crowd grew restless Farke made a double change, taking off Reed and Hanley for Wes Hoolahan and Mario Vrancic to switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation just before the hour mark.
Leonard made a superb block from a Murphy shot in the 67th minute but soon after the Blades countered and doubled their lead.
Their second goal came thanks to a nightmare moment for Tettey, his awful back-pass allowing Donaldson clean through with Gunn completely exposed, with the striker rolling home easily.
Just as all looked lost, the hosts came back into the game, through the unlikely source of captain Ivo Pinto.
The Portuguese right-back rose to flick a near-post header over everyone from a Vrancic corner from the right, scoring just his second goal for Norwich, during his 80th appearance.
Just after the Canaries went close to an equaliser, with Zimmermann getting his head to a Maddison corner, only to see Moore tip the ball over as the home supporters prepared to celebrate.
But from there the third hosts struggled to apply too much pressure, despite Hoolahan's best efforts and even Gunn going forward for a late free-kick – with United boss Chris Wilder dancing a jig of celebration to get the away fans excited at the final whistle.
The Canaries return to action next Saturday when they make the trip to fellow play-off chasers Brentford.
Norwich: Gunn; Hanley (Hoolahan 59), Zimmermann, Klose; Pinto (C), Tettey (Stiepermann 87), Reed (Vrancic 59), Lewis; Maddison, Oliveira, Murphy. Unused subs: McGovern (GK), Raggett, Husband, Cantwell
Goals: Pinto (70)
Bookings: Klose (foul on Baldock, 90+1), Pinto (foul on Stevens, 90+3)
Sheff Utd: Moore; Basham, Stearman, O'Connell; Baldock, Leonard, Evans (Lundstram 82), Fleck, Stevens; Clarke (C), Wilson (Donaldson 58). Unused subs: Eastwood (GK), Holmes, Lafferty, Duffy, Sharp
Goals: Wilson (6), Donaldson (68)
Bookings: Fleck (foul on Maddison, 66), Clarke (foul on Hoolahan, 87)
Referee: Tony Harrington