Unless you’re a supporter of one of the ‘big six’, in particular Man City or the late Liverpool FC, then football is less about trophies and more about moments. The special ones don’t come along too often but when they do, you remember them forever.
You know what moment I’m talking about.
In the absence of Teemu Pukki and Josh Sargent, David Wagner’s reshuffle in the striking department saw Marcelino Núñez promoted to the number 10 role – a decision that left the German purring in his post-match appraisal.
Even before his 27th-minute thunderb@stard, Núñez had whistled one past John Ruddy’s near post following a clever flick from Adam Idah, and it was clear he was enjoying a central role rather than having to try and impact the game from deeper and wider.
It still didn’t stop me from questioning his effectiveness and, as if to emphasise how little I know, just a couple of minutes before his first goal I was whinging to my son about how the Chilean tends to skirt around the edges of games.
And then he goes and rattles one in from 25 yards, Jonny Howson style.
The technique was perfect. The body shape. The connection. Everything.
It takes its place alongside other Carrow Road specials like Jonny’s:
Safri against Newcastle; Tettey against Sunderland; the often-overlooked Russell Martin thunderstrike against Brighton, and, of course, Justin’s goal of the season against the mighty Reds of Merseyside.
Esteemed company, but Núñez is now up there.
That he was able to casually stroke home Kenny McLean’s brilliant, curling cross just nine minutes later was borne of the confidence given to him by the volley.
Wagner described the Chilean’s evening as a “real 10 out of 10”, and the trick now is for him to build on this and use it as a platform from which to kick on.
The player himself will, I suspect, have been disappointed with his overall contribution so far, especially after excelling in his first few weeks in the country, but he was one of many who found themselves stifled by Smudgerball
In fairness to Dean Smith, it could also have been a case of Núñez falling victim to Vrancic syndrome where, once the initial excitement wears off, the breathless and relentless nature of the Championship takes a good season to come to terms with.
Either way, there was more than enough there last night to confirm that there’s a good player in there if used and managed correctly.
There was also the not-insignificant matter of a goal from Christos Tzolis – something many of us feared we’d never see again.
While his overall contribution was still limited, the confidence his 94th-minute strike will have given him will be immense.
Like Núñez, the Greek international is another slightly lost soul in whom Wagner has shown faith. That his head coach fought so hard to bring him back from his loan at FC Twente will, in itself, have given him a considerable lift.
The clear mutual respect between player and coach will have instilled in the former a desire to succeed and, for his part, Wagner clearly believes he has a player on his hands from whom he can get a tune.
If it clicks, everyone wins. Let’s hope last night is just the start.
There was obviously the customary defensive wobble to contend with, during which we conceded what was another humdinger of a strike, and it was a nervy, staccato second-half performance that bore little resemblance to the ebb and flow of the first.
We shouldn’t forget though that teams don’t come to Carrow Road to have their bellies tickled and play the role of the Washington Generals. John Eustace will have got stuck into them at halftime and it was no surprise that the Blues improved significantly after the break. Neither was their goal.
Having said that, aside from one bullet header that Angus dealt with comfortably, Birmingham were kept pretty much at arm’s length but that didn’t stop it coming as a huge relief when Tzolis’s clever, curling finish found the corner of Ruddy’s net.
Worth mentioning too was the contribution of Adam Idah who, I understand, took considerable flak online for, presumably, missing a couple of presentable chances. I thought he did a lot of things well, including being the first line of defence with his tireless closing down of Birmingham defenders.
While Idah’s movement may lack the subtlety of Pukki’s, he did it his own way and I’d imagine his head coach was more than happy with his evening’s work. It was just missing a goal.
So… our famine or feast existence under Wagner continues. If we score, we score a minimum of three but if we don’t we tend to stink the place out.
But there were smiles on faces again last night – a stark contrast to the Wigan game – with the biggest of all on the face of little Chilean.
More of the same please, Marcelino.
Don Harold says
Another performance that lifts the spirits and gets us looking at the table with optimistic eyes. I don’t suppose there are many of us who aren’t looking forward with trepidation to the inevitable disappointment of a future performance! But let’s enjoy the good stuff while it lasts.
Last night will be remembered for the brilliant Nunez goal (the other two looked excellent as well), and for the fact that Ruddy was not only the opposition goalkeeper, but also the solution to the day’s Wordle.
Gary Field says
“The late Liverpool FC”, made me chuckle far more than it really should!
And, as for all those special goals to which you refer, Gaz, only those from Justin and Jonny were down at the right end of the ground! 😉
The second half was an invitation for an ACN if ever there was one.
Aaron’s 200th game and a head injury let’s hope he’s fit for his 201st on Saturday.
Wagner must be having a wild Ride with the Valkeries at the moment and will wonder what turns up next.
Cardiff will be no easy game neither will be the Millwall game and Sunderland dropped points last might so is it the playoffs with another Don Quiota tilt at windmills or another season in the Championship and a tilt at next seasons title who know.
Onwards and upwards
martin penney says
Great to see the word *thunderb@stard* back in circulation.
What a cracker 🙂
Good write-up Gary. It really was a game of two halves which really was dictated by Birmingham’s wilingness / abilty to press effectively. In the first half they didn’t do it well which gave Norwich plenty of time to do their thing. In the second, Birmingham were much more aggressive and Norwich really struggled to work the ball around effectively. Norwich really don’t look comfortable when teams press them aggressively, it tends to result in horizontal balls and we know what happens then!
Nunez, quite rightly, is getting the plaudits for that wonder goal but his overall performance, touch and movement was good. The technique and timing to strike the ball considering it dropped out of orbit with snow on it was stunning. Also a special mention to Tzolis – a real quality finish, which I’m sure we all hope will give him the confidence to kick-on! OTBC!
Dave Cole says
I’m just here for the ride now – no expectations. I’m pleased that the atmosphere has picked up with the drum, and if that’s what it takes to get the best out of this group, so be it. I’ve no idea what this squad will look like in August, but there’s some talent in there when it works.
The same old traits surfaced once Birmingham decided to press Sara and Kenny and stop our fullbacks, so I’m not hopeful of many points against the better teams, but here we are.
It was interesting to read some of the Chilean tweets translated from Nuñez where he said he’d been going through a bad time but just kept working, so hopefully his confidence will get a massive boost from his performance. Everyone loves a thunderb@stard!
I’m not bothered about where the season ends up, I’m just pleased we seem to all be getting on the same page about the state of the team.
MYSTIC KEV says
Well it’s a result I wasn’t expecting with some incredible goals well done boys first positive thing I’ve seen tzolis do since he’s been here hope he kicks on from it and for me the most telling thing we have won without pukki in the side again and also have scored 6 so maybe a bencher for rest of season nice to see a plan b or c working coyy !
Keith B says
Watching the stream last night one thing that struck me was Sara’s intelligence, not just going forward with his flicks and tricks, but getting back quickly into positions to break up the opposition. I guess he’s the nearest we’ve had to a replacement for Emi. And unlike the Argentine he doesn’t dive in recklessly. I thought he was immense, but no doubt as soon as we lose again he’ll be back to being one of Webbers many “duds”, along with Nunez, Tszolis and all the rest….
Interesting that Sorensen was preferred to McCallum. Presumably he’s seen as more reliable defensively. And he’s another intelligent player with a good temperament, not a bad trait if you’re looking to see the game out.
As for Idah, he was being slated by Greg Downes on the commentary for being caught offside, which is possibly why social media went after him. But it takes two to tango when it comes to offsides and there were two or three involving him and others where the player delivering the ball was as much at fault by leaving it too late. The margins are tight and it only needs a fraction of a second’s hesitation to go wrong.
Finally, not getting to many games means you remember a screamer when you see one. Steen Nedergaard v Coventry anyone (from much the same spot as last night’s belter). I’m also surprised Marc Libbra’s not been mentioned – but then what little else he did was eminently forgettable.
Yep a game of two halves,great goals and lots of empty seats,(again).,oh and the drummer!
Jim Davies says
I sit in a direct line with Nunez’s thunderblaster, and when I saw him shaping up to volley it, I was expecting it to end up near me on the back row of the lower tier. How he got it to dip like that was incredible. What really made mr laugh was seeing Ruddy after the goal, watching the big screen to see what had happened. He never moved as it flew into the net.
I’m privileged to have seen some great goals at Carrow Road, starting with a diving header from Johnny Gavin, but I think the four best, in no particular order, were Justin Fashanu’s MOTD goal of the season, Safari’s, Howson’s, and now Nunez’s.
Loved his comment in a post match interview, when he was asked how good it was – with no English, his answer was “lovely jubbly”!
Let’s not forget Gossy’s volley against Bayern OMG that’s 30 years ago!
Great 1st half last evening.
Gary Gowers says
Very good shout Colin … in my head I was listing goals at Carrow Road. If we’re delving into away games, Gossy’s equally brilliant volley at Elland Road warrants a mention too.
Very good article Gary!
The Latin theme is having a major effect at Carrow Road, what with Onel Hernandez tearing defenders up, Sara’s silky performances, and now a Nunez break-out!
Not much wrong with any of that and Nunez’s 2nd goal had hints of Martin ‘the Ghost’ Peters about it, nice to see!
Tzolis’s goal was like a precise and delicate chip, lovely to see, we are starting to see how well these guys can tick and it all started with an absolute cracker from Nunez.
The Birmingham goal was pretty good too but we can’t expect Norwich to play exceptional football, and not expect some good moments from the opposition can we? More great possession from our team, a 65% to 35% split.
Bring on Cardiff and lets do it all over again!
An uplifting report on a much needed morale boosting win Gary.
For the second time in a week we were treated to a proper football match. The right mix of quality attacking, near misses, jeopardy, odd refereeing plenty of goals and a thumping home win.
Forget for a moment that we will likely fall short of the play offs, this was enjoyable. A friend said to me today that he is fed up with us blowing hot and cold. I pointed out that for 15 months we have been blowing cold and cold so the current yo yo of performance and results is actually an upgrade.
Much has been made of wagners influence, the tactics, the improvesd fitness but I think the simple expedient of playing players in positions that they feel most comfortable in is equally as valuable. Nunez thrived in an advanced role and appears so much happier now.
The tzolis goal was significant and welcome. He had become a viable attacking option for wagner and the quality he displayed is hopefully the precursor to much more of the same. We simply cannot afford to write off the 9 million quid invested in him.
Looking forward to Saturday and cardiff where hopefully we can build on the improvement and general upwards direction of travel. With promotion probably off the menu I’m looking to simply enjoy the football for its own sake.
A bit of a nervy second half to endure once Brum scored but overall a much more enjoyable experience than we were being served pre Christmas. I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the after match celebrations from my spot in the lower Barclay and its blindingly obvious that just like Farke, Wagner fully understands the importance of fan engagement. He just ‘gets it’ in a way that his predecessor from the Midlands never did and I’m sure this will afford him the required time to build a successful team. This was clearly demonstrated by him shouting towards Kenny who was drifting towards the tunnel a tad too early for his liking and insisting that he returned to the group to join in the celebrations.
As for ‘smiler’ aka Marcelino Nunez, what a character he is as well as being a gifted player and exciting prospect going forward, when I watched his ‘lovely jubbly’ comment on YouTube it conjured up visions of him turning up at Colney with some dodgy iPhone’s to sell that he’d got from monkey Harris.
Whatever happens in the remainder of the season, its just nice to be back on board as far as I’m concerned.