Norwich City began the New Year with a 1-1 draw at home to Crystal Palace on Wednesday thanks to goals at the start and end of the match from Todd Cantwell and Connor Wickham respectively.
Cantwell’s early strike in the fourth minute wasn't enough to bring home all three points in a tense and cagey battle with Roy Hodgon’s side at Carrow Road, as Wickham's late equaliser was awarded after a VAR check for offside.
City were unfortunate not to increase their lead, Emiliano Buendia and Kenny McLean both going close to finding the net in the second half.
Daniel Farke made three changes to the side that started Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur, with Sam Byram, McLean and Cantwell returning to the starting eleven in place of Jamal Lewis, Marco Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez. Michael McGovern and Adam Idah replaced Ralf Fährmann and Dennis Srbeny on the bench.
The first shot of the game fell to Luka Milivojevic just outside the 18-yard box, who saw his effort deflected wide by Christoph Zimmermann.
When Cantwell opened the scoring in the fourth minute, sections of Carrow Road seemed almost reluctant to celebrate, and it wasn’t hard to see why, given VAR decisions that have gone against them in recent weeks.
But Todd was just onside, Buendia’s flick behind the Palace defence timed to perfection, allowing the former to slot into the bottom left corner from close range with relative ease. No VAR check took place, and the home fans were allowed to find their full voice.
What followed was a somewhat drab opening period, as Palace grew into the game in terms of possession but failing to get another shot at goal until the 25th minute, Martin Kelly lifting a cross to Jordan Ayew to head straight at Tim Krul.
One minute later, Buendia went for the spectacular, showing his flair with a chest and volley from distance, but Vicente Guaita gathered comfortably.
Good chances were few and far between for both sides, with Ayew’s blaze over the bar from a tight angle one of few notable efforts after the half-hour mark.
Some staunch rear-guard action was required when a Palace pass wrong-footed Zimmermann and led to a goalmouth scramble. Krul came charging out and the ball ended up at the feet of James McArthur, but City’s number six made amends, diving in to block the shot and hold onto the clean sheet.
At the other end, efforts from Max Aarons and Cantwell went wayward, as the tempo picked up again with half-time approaching.
Cantwell connected better with a cross from Aarons in the 41st minute, swivelling his body to volley into the ground and straight at Guaita.
An aerial pass from Buendia caused havoc on the brink of half-time, Teemu Pukki gathering it and darting towards goal with only James Tomkins in his way. Tomkins did well to force the Finn wide, however, before Aarons’ shot went across the face of goal and wide to wrap up the first-half.
After the interval, it was the home side who emerged with the first real chance of the second half. Buendia latched onto a soft pass from Cheikhou Kouyate before riding three challenges and playing it to Mario Vrancic, who won City a free-kick about 25 yards out.
Buendia and Vrancic were both standing over it, but it was the Argentine who stepped up to pull the trigger, curling an effort towards the top left corner. It would have been an excellent finish, but for the superb out-stretched save from Guaita.
Palace responded with a long-ranged effort of their own, Max Meyer testing Krul when turning and shooting to the Dutchman’s left from just inside the D.
With just under half an hour remaining and still holding onto a 1-0 lead, City went close to doubling it from a Buendia corner. McLean headed it towards the far post where Vrancic was on hand, but the latter was unable to steer it inside of the woodwork.
The visitors almost troubled the Canaries with an intelligent set-piece routine, Milivojevic taking a free-kick quickly to allow Ayew to drill a cross into the danger area, but the ball came out to Zaha who volleyed well over.
McLean came so close to making it 2-0 in the 73rd minute, after Aarons slammed a cross into him. He took it down well and leathered the ball onto the underside of the crossbar, City really unlucky not to make the score-line more comfortable.
At the other end, it was looking like it really wasn’t going to be Zaha’s day. He found himself in plenty of space when Milivojevic sent a corner towards him, but scuffed the volley wide of the post.
With just a few minutes remaining, Palace had the ball in the back of the net when Zaha's cross was met by Wickham to equalise, Zimmermann's foot playing him just onside.
A painful way to drop points at the end of an evening when it looked like City were taking home all three.
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Hanley ©, Zimmermann, Byram, Vrancic, Tettey (Idah 90'), McLean, Buendia, Cantwell (Hernandez 78’), Pukki (Stiepermann 82’)
Unused substitutes: McGovern, Amadou, Lewis, Trybull
Goals: Cantwell (4’)
Bookings: Zimmermann (42’), Aarons (74’), Hanley (76’), Stiepermann (83')
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Kelly (Pierrick 82'), Tomkins, Sakho (Kouyate 46’), Riedewald, Milivojevic ©, McArthur, McCarthy, Meyer (Wickham 60’), Zaha, Ayew
Unused substitutes: Hennessey, Woods, Daly, Kirby
Goals: Wickham (87')
Half time: 1-0
Venue: Carrow Road
Referee: Jonathan Moss