Norwich City bounced back to winning ways with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Stoke City on Saturday afternoon.
Goals in the first-half from Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki put the Canaries in firm control at half-time, only for Stoke to benefit from a defensive error to pull one back on the hour mark through Nick Powell.
However, the Canaries wrestled superiority back and eased to victory with further goals from the returning Emi Buendia and Pukki (pen).
Daniel Farke made three changes to the starting line-up from the side that faced Swansea City last time out. In came Dimitris Giannoulis, Mario Vrancic and Buendia for Jacob Sorensen, Lukas Rupp and Przemyslaw Placheta.
Michael O’Neill also made two changes to his side’s starting eleven as James Chester and Nick Powell came into the side at the expense of James McLean and Danny Batth.
City, with leaders Brentford not playing against Barnsley until Sunday, knew a victory would take them back to the top of the division, while Stoke were looking to halt a run of eight Championship games without victory to reignite their own promotion push.
Stoke went closest in the early exchanges when John Obi Mikel fired just wide from a corner, but Norwich responded really well after that. Buendia and Pukki both had close range efforts blocked after five minutes and then Vrancic tested the returning Stoke keeper Angus Gunn with a first-time volley.
However, there was nothing Stoke or Gunn could do about Norwich’s opener. It was a free-flowing move which started with Tim Krul, Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley keeping the ball superbly at the back for Cantwell to then suddenly break forward from halfway and play a neat one-two on the edge of the box before firing home.
The goal was no more than City deserved and they continued to pressurise Stoke as the half progressed. However, the Potters were more than a threat at the other end and they had the ball in the net on 25 minutes when Steven Fletcher nodded home but the flag was up for offside.
It was 2-0 on the stroke of half-time as City capitalised on some weak Stoke defending. Buendia pickpocketed Morgan Fox and crossed for Pukki to nestle home his 12th goal of the season.
Stoke came out the second-half firing and superb recovery work from Hanley prevented Fletcher’s goalbound effort reducing the arrears.
City gifted Stoke a route back into the match ten minute after the restart – Giannoulis’ pass across the edge of the area was picked up by Powell and he rolled the ball past Tim Krul. Game on.
However, Giannoulis recovered superbly from that lapse in concentration to dribble past Nathan Collins and cross for Buendia to divert home City’s third of the game on 64 minutes and restore the two-goal buffer.
City sealed the three points with a little over ten minutes remaining. Buendia was fouled in the area after producing a neat piece of skill and Pukki rolled home the penalty for 4-1.
Norwich City: Krul; Aarons, Hanley (C), Gibson, Giannoulis; McLean, Skipp (Sorensen, 81); Cantwell (Hernandez, 82), Vrancic (Rupp, 71), Buendia (Dowell, 85); Pukki (Idah, 85)
Subs not used: Barden, Zimmermann, Quintilla, Tettey
Goals: Cantwell (15), Pukki (44, pen 78), Buendia (64)
Red cards: None
Stoke City: Gunn; Collins, Souttar, Chester, Fox; Mikel (C) (McClean, 62), Clucas (Cousins, 82), Allen (Thompson, 85), Powell, Clarke (Matondo, 46); Fletcher (Vokes, 71)
Subs not used: Bursik, Batth, Smith, Brown
Goals: Powell (61)
Bookings: Powell (42), Obi Mikel (43)
Red cards: None
Venue: Carrow Road
Referee: Jeremy Simpson