Pukki is the gold standard for Stoke chief
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Teemu Pukki is the gold standard in the Championship for Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill.
The Norwich City frontman’s brace helped seal a 3-2 win in the Potteries and took his recent tally to eight goals in 10 appearances.
Pukki spearheaded the Canaries’ previous title success with a 29-goal league haul and O’Neill felt the Finn was the difference.
“We played against probably the best striker in the league in Teemu Pukki and we struggled to deal with him,” he said. “The quality of his movement, the quality of his finishing.
"We said to the players before the game we are conceding too many. We cannot expect to have to score three or four to get something at home. We changed the shape with a back three because we were conscious of the quality Norwich possess. But we couldn’t defend the space in behind us and that is where we conceded the goals.
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"For my young player like Harry Souttar it is a different level. He is coming up against Pukki who was in the Premier League and is an international striker. It is a learning curve for some of my younger players.”
O’Neill felt the Canaries underlined their pedigree in the first half with Emi Buendia and Pukki a constant menace.
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Buendia opened the scoring after a flowing move from the visitors before turning provider with an exquisite first time pass slotted by Pukki on the run.
“We played against a very good team and you can see why they are at the top of the league,” said the former Northern Irish boss. “I thought in that first half Norwich were excellent.
"No doubt about that. We struggled with their movement, we struggled with their quality.
"We got a little bit of a foothold just before half-time and were unlucky not to score when he hit the bar. I thought, second half, we are the better team but we conceded at a bad time.
"We capitalised on the sending off but couldn’t find the third goal but by all accounts the goal disallowed was very soft.
“The most important thing we have to take is we have to be better in the opening part of a game. But give credit to the opposition. I believe they are the best team we have played this season.”