Nelson Oliveira’s early strike was enough to see Norwich City deservedly battle to a 1-0 victory over Birmingham City.
Oliveira tapped home on five minutes after Timm Klose kept the ball alive in the box and that proved to be the difference between the two sides at a wet Carrow Road.
City had numerous chances to make the scoreline more comfortable but Oliveira and Josh Murphy both missed good opportunities when clear on goal.
Daniel Farke rang the changes, making no less than five alterations from the team that started the defeat at Millwall. Klose returned from injury for his first appearance of the season and Tom Trybull started for his full debut in a yellow and green shirt. Christoph Zimmermann, Marco Stiepermann and Alex Tettey earned recalls.
City came out of the traps firing on all cylinders and took the lead inside five minutes. Mario Vrancic’s corner was headed away but James Maddison did well to divert the ball back into danger, with Klose there to square it for top scorer Oliveira who couldn’t miss from two yards.
Both sides had spells of possession in the time afterwards but it was the hosts who went close to doubling their lead on 21 minutes. Tettey played a delicate ball through to Oliveira whose effort beat David Stockdale but trickled just wide of the post.
Birmingham’s best chance to equalise came from a set-piece on 34 minutes. Record signing Jota floated a corner kick into the box but his delivery was nodded harmlessly over by Sam Gallagher.
Jota was involved again just after the restart but his free-kick just grazed over before, at the other end, Oliveira came close again to doubling City’s advantage again minutes later. He broke clear and cut in from the left, leaving Jason Lowe all ends up, but his curling shot flew inches wide of the post.
City were almost in again on 54 minutes when, out of nowhere, Mario Vrancic split the Birmingham defence open with a delicious reverse-pass, however, Oliveira’s cross was cut out well by Harlee Dean. Josh Murphy then wasted a great chance moments later, dispossessing Liam Walsh but slicing his shot into the stand.
Birmingham boss Harry Redknapp introduced Che Adams shortly after and the midfielder almost had an instant impact, firing wide from long distance.
City were defending superbly and had another chance to make the game safe on 74 minutes but Murphy scuffed his shot just wide when clear on goal. Seven minutes later, Oliveira was inches wide from a spectacular second, whipping a fierce strike just past the post.
Birmingham rarely threatened in the final stages, with their only chance of note coming from Jeremie Boga whose tame free-kick was safely blocked by Angus Gunn.
City were relatively comfortable in the dying embers and that allowed Farke to introduce Grant Hanley for his Norwich City debut in stoppage time.
And as referee Simon Hooper brought an end to proceedings, it was Oliveira’s early strike which proved pivotal.