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Match Reports

Pukki strikes late yet again as City beat Blackburn

22 December 2018

Teemu Pukki's late strike helped Norwich City to a priceless 1-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park.

A hugely physical encounter saw City lose Emi Buendia and Moritz Leitner to injury during the game but Daniel Farke's men dug in and took all three points when Pukki slotted Onel Hernandez's low cross past Blackburn goalkeeper David Raya on 86 minutes.

Daniel Farke made just one change to his starting eleven from the game at Bristol City last weekend with Moritz Leitner returning to the side in place of Mario Vrancic. City lined-up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Alex Tettey in the heart of the midfield, captaining the side on his 200th appearance for the Club.

City started well and dominated possession in the opening stages. Jamal Lewis threaded a teasing delivery across the six-yard box on four minutes after measured, patient build-up but no man in a green shirt could apply a finishing touch.

However, the hosts went close to opening the scoring on eight minutes when Amari’i Bell released Adam Armstrong down the left. He cut inside but curled a low strike just wide of the far post.

Shortly after Buendia required treatment for a knock to his thigh, Pukki broke the offside trap following a precise through ball from Todd Cantwell, although he could only hit the side netting with a deft lob over Raya.

Buendia re-entered the field of play but failed to recover from the injury and was replaced in the 20th minute by Hernandez.

Moments later, Ryan Nyambe beat Lewis down the left and crossed for Danny Graham whose shot was deflected just wide for a corner.

The physicality of the game then went up a notch. Hernandez was booked for a late foul on the left before Richie Smallwood was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch for a crunching tackle on Todd Cantwell. The foul saw only a yellow card brandished by referee Darren England.

After weathering a positive spell from the hosts, City started to seize back the intitative as the game approached the interval. On 37 minutes, Marco Stiepermann turned his marker and fired a fierce drive towards goal, resulting in a fingertip save from Raya. Ben Godfrey nodded the following corner home but Mr England blew for a foul in the penalty area and Rovers were awarded a free-kick.

City almost stole the lead on the stroke of half-time. Superb work from Cantwell saw him evade at least three challenges and poke the ball through to Pukki who could only drag his shot wide from inside the area.

Seconds before half-time, Leitner suffered an injury and, although he got back to his feet, didn’t emerge for the second-half. He was replaced by Vrancic.

Within moments of the restart, Hernandez almost gave City the lead. Cantwell spreaded the ball to the Cuban winger who cut inside and shot low towards goal, however a slight deflection made it easier for Raya to claim.

After that, Blackburn started to pen City into their own box and some brilliant last-ditch defending was denying them an opener. However, on 52 minutes, Bradley Dack should have done better when he was released by Graham, firing a low strike straight at Tim Krul.

Blackburn continued to enjoy more territory as the game approached the final quarter but they struggled to test Krul, with Graham having their best chance when he nodded over from a corner on 59 minutes. 

Once City played out of Blackburn's press, they looked a threat and Pukki almost opened the scoring on 65 minutes latching onto a Vrancic through ball and shooting low and just wide of Raya's goal.

Godfrey once again showed his aerial presence minutes later, forcing Raya into another stop from a corner, and the same man put the ball in the net on 70 minutes after a Cantwell scooped pass, however the linesman on the nearside had his flag up for offside.

The game was poised for a nervy final ten minutes with both sides looking keen to grab a late winner, but they were the telling pass at both ends was lacking.

But City took the lead with just minutes left on the clock after a period of real persistence. Vrancic spread the ball wide to Hernandez who then slid the ball across goal for Pukki to dispatch past Raya and send the travelling support into huge celebrations.

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