The Carrow Road crowd will cherish this memory for years to come. Echoes of ‘93 and all that bounded across the stadium as Norwich City – newly promoted, short of money and with eight first-team players out injured – took on, outplayed and beat the celebrated champions of England. The Canaries might just have put a cat amongst the pigeons in the title race.
Manchester City are now five points behind Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table and given the tightest margin by which the title was decided last year – 11.7mm of ball by one account – that’s not a meaningless total. On the other hand it is still September and there are many games to go, but beyond the points, Pep Guardiola will have seen enough in this match to worry him. City were not at their attacking best, but their defending left a lot more to be desired.
Norwich led from the 19th minute when Kenny McLean exploited a City weakness, getting across to the near post to score with a header from a corner. Todd Cantwell, fresh from an England Under-21s debut in midweek, doubled the lead before half-time with his second goal of the season.
Sergio Agüero then clawed one back before the break, only for the decisive goal to be struck by Teemu Pukki five minutes into the second half after Nicolás Otamendi was mugged for the ball on the edge of his box. Rodri’s 20-yard drive came late on and ultimately did not make a difference.
“It’s definitely a proud night, without a doubt”, said Daniel Farke. “To win against the best team in the world as Norwich City who is promoted and have no chance to spend money and an incredible amount of injuries. The mentality and spirit and bravery was exceptional.
“I always believe in my players. We knew that we were not the favourites, but we started to play [this kind of] football because we want to do something extra. The mood was difficult this week, because we had good performances in [the first] four matches but the outcomes were not great. We were struggling a bit for self-confidence. We made a point of trying to give them some belief this week.
“There is an unbelievable spirit and unity around Carrow Road right now. This result is brilliant proof that if we stick together even in difficult times and go further on with bravery and spirit then you always have a chance. It’s a night to remember without any doubt, but we must further go on. I’ll be happy when I’m back on the sofa, I’m too exhausted to celebrate.”
From Norwich’s patched-up side some of the standout performances came in defence. Sam Byram, recruited from West Ham, for less than a million pounds in the summer, stood up to Raheem Sterling throughout. At centre-half, Ibrahim Amadou provided a brave foil to Ben Godfrey. Alexander Tettey – the only player in the Norwich squad remaining from their last Premier League campaign – was authoritative despite making his first appearance of the season. Then there was Pukki and Cantwell, the two effervescent forwards continuing to make their mark on a division they might have never expected to play in just a year ago.
City’s problems mirrored Norwich’s strengths. Agüero’s far-post header was City’s most successful tactic before Kevin De Bruyne – left out in favour of Ilkay Gündogan after the international break – was hastily summoned from the bench in the second half.
Much of City’s attacking lacked alacrity while, at the back, the combination of Otamendi and John Stones looked anything but authoritative. Norwich toyed with them at 3-1 up. It’s only one game, and both managers know that, but they will each be taking very different lessons from it.