Last week I reported on the efforts of Tony Pulis’ team to suffocate Norwich. This week the free scoring Blackburn tried a different tack, but the result was the same.
Daniel Farke elected to bring Alex Tettey into the team that won in midweek and deploy Mario Vrancic further up the pitch, in place of Marco Stiepermann.
For much of the first half, the Bosnian was able to find pockets of space between the Blackburn defence and midfield, orchestrating a string of Norwich attacks.
In contrast to the patient, precise build-up of Norwich, Blackburn tried to get behind Norwich, initially with high balls to their left, where 6’4” Gallagher towered over Max Aarons, then as the half went on they relied more and more on balls from Bradley Johnson driven to the Blackburn right where the rapid Harvey Elliott was up against Jacob Sorensen.
It is credit to both City defenders that they were more than up to this challenge and these attacks began to falter. After the initial passes were stymied, City were often able to push Blackburn all the way back into their own half.
For City, Teemu Pukki was playing like a man possessed in his 100th appearance. He harried and hassled the defenders into making mistakes, stopping Blackburn from mounting effective attacks.
Norwich, at times, played some lovely slick football and deservedly took the lead on 21 minutes. Tettey played the ball to Pukki who somehow turned inside and slotted past the keeper at the near post.
The pattern on play continued, but City seemed certain to score another, looking dangerous every time they came forward. Pukki somehow hit the bar, Sorensen’s follow-up was saved followed by Pukki’s shot also being saved.
Whatever had been in Pukki’s tea before the game obviously found its way into the Blackburn dressing room at half time. They began the second half in an aggressive, energetic manner and pinned City in their own half.
With no real outlet up front to play long to, City were pressed back by repeated waves of Blackburn attacks, repelling three decent efforts on goal before Elliott received the ball in space behind Sorensen, skipped past Grant Hanley and tucked the equalizer past Michael McGovern.
Farke responded, preparing a triple substitution to counter the invigorated Blackburn when Pukki once again stole possession and powered forward.
His way was eventually blocked but Norwich recycled possession and Buendia tried a long-range effort that looked to be going wide. Somehow his driven shot went to Pukki who diverted it goalwards to score his 50th goal for the club.
Blackburn were clearly rocked by this and never really managed to mount such sustained pressure on the City defence again.
City defended solidly and could have added another goal late on. Hugill, on for Pukki, won the ball and City had three-on-one. He pulled the ball back to Stiepermann but the keeper saved with his legs with the goal beckoning.
Special mention must go to McGovern. With Tim Krul waiting in the wings next week, he pulled off a superb save early in the game, hooking the ball put from under the bar, and made several other decent stops.
If this is to be the Irishman’s last game for a while, then he has done his part in such difficult circumstances.
So another win and an entertaining game, and how nice to be able to bring on players of the quality of Kenney McLean and Todd Cantwell.
It feels like the corner has been turned on the injuries and the rest of the Championship must be looking on with trepidation as City still remain proudly at the top of the league.