A return to a blustery Carrow Road. For me, completely alien, sitting as I am in Dubai watching the game on beIN Sports with Arabic commentary replacing the usual dulcet tones of Chris Goreham.
From the start, it looked like Bristol came to play a game of football, rather than the 10 men behind the ball tactics seen so often at Carrow Road. The first few minutes were finely balanced, City looking comfortable in possession yet never really progressing far out of their half.
As the minutes passed though, Bristol were pushed back. There were a few passes that went astray – into space where there was no player, but that only seemed to emphasise the fact that City were barely out of first gear.
It was earlier in the season that this analogy first came to mind. The current Norwich team are like a Boa Constrictor. They wrap themselves around the opposition, gradually squeezing them tighter and tighter until something gives.
The first goal was much like this. A sustained period of Farkeball culminated with a dangerous ball into the box. Bristol saw this off but it came to Aarons to recycle the ball into the area. Once again Bristol fought it off. This time Aarons found Cantwell whose delightful cross found Hugill at the far post.
1-0 and richly deserved.
The second half started brightly for Bristol, yet for all their decent approach play, they mustered barely a single attempt on Tim Krul’s goal.
The Boa Constrictor gradually flexed its muscles. A diving Hugill header was correctly ruled offside after a sweeping Canaries’ move. Bristol tried to progress, but the grip got tighter and tighter.
Even a Semenyo shot into the side netting could do little to resist the irrepressible force that is the current Norwich side. Good possession lead to good opportunities being created, but it wasn’t until the 74th minute that the efforts bore fruit.
City played a ball in from the left. No target was found but regaining possession, City played the ball back into the Bristol area. This time Aarons picked it up. Demonstrating the prowess that attracted big name attention in the closed season, he played a dangerous ball into the box. The Bristol defender could only parry it into the gleeful chest of Hugill – 2-0.
Bristol rarely threatened. Krul, on his return from Coronavirus, had very little to do. Gibson was once again majestic in defence, his slight of foot triggering several meaningful City attacks. No downer on Hanley though, he was equally good!
I touched upon it a few weeks ago; Paddy Davitt expanded in a recent column for the Pink’un: Norwich are an irresistible force. Bristol came to Carrow Road trying to play football and were not nonchalantly swept aside like the Norwich of two seasons ago.
But what we saw last night was far more clinical. City controlled the game from start to finish. The finishes of the much-maligned Jordan Hugill may do little to banish his naysayers, but he delivered when it matters.
City, despite injuries and Covid, remorselessly march on towards the Promised Land.