Atalanta came from behind as City fell to a 4-1 defeat in their penultimate pre-season match of the summer.
Norwich dominated for the first 30 minutes of the match, with the excellent Todd Cantwell deservedly putting City ahead after 16 minutes. Some of the Canaries’ play was very impressive against an Atalanta side that had finished 3rd in Serie A last season, but Atalanta grew into the game and equalised just before half-time through Luis Muriel. As the second half became a procession of substitutions, with the flow interrupted, Atalanta showed their Champions League class to score three times.
Norwich may well be disappointed with defeat, but it was an excellent work-out against a quality side, and before the series of subs kicked in they were more than a match for a very slick outfit.
City attacked the Barclay first half, and in a free-flowing start to the game the first chance fell to Teemu Pukki on nine minutes. A neat interchange on the edge of the box between Onel Hernandez, Cantwell and Emi Buendia led to the ball being stabbed through to Pukki six yards out but his shot was well blocked.
Two minutes later and Pukki had another half-chance, flicking a Jamal Lewis cross from the left just over the crossbar.
City’s fine start was rewarded on 16 minutes. A delicious ball from Moritz Leitner sent Hernandez away on the left – where Norwich had been getting a lot of early joy. His ball into the box was cleared to Moritz Leitner 25 yards out who, with the crowd urging him to shoot, had other ideas. Instead he picked a pass to Cantwell, who had found space in the box, and he slotted calmly under Pierluigi Gollini.
Norwich continued to ping the ball about rapidly and press quickly when out of possession, with Leitner and Cantwell looking particularly smooth and influential through the middle. Tom Trybull was sat on Atalanta dangerman Alejandro Gomez, and Atalanta – who played some outstanding football last season – struggled to find their rhythm while he was well shackled.
However, Gomez showed his class on 32 minutes when he finally got away from Trybull and had a dig from 25 yards, but Ralf Fahrmann saw it all of the way. Atalanta started to see more of the ball – with Gomez dropping deeper – and Luis Muriel almost made their possession count but his curled effort from just inside the area went wide with five minutes remaining. City responded immediately, with Cantwell playing through Pukki on the right, but his low effort was well saved.
Atalanta were forced into a change shortly before half-time, with the highly-regarded Josip Ilicic limping off to be replaced by Ruslan Malinovskyi.
The last kick of the half saw an equaliser for Atalanta. Timm Klose overhit his square backpass to Fahrmann, and Muriel nicked in to finish.
There were no changes at the break, and Pukki almost restored City’s lead immediately. He met Hernandez’s cutback crisply, but Gollini pushed it around the post.
In an increasingly end-to-end match Sam Byram was forced into three excellent tackles as Atalanta looked to get around the back.
Gomez’s day was done on 59 minutes, and he was replaced by striker Duvan Zapata, who was Serie A’s second-highest leader scorer last season.
On 62 minutes Atalanta took the lead, Muriel tucking in after a slick move across the box. It also resulted in a first for Carrow Road – the use of VAR, with the hub checking for offside but Muriel was ruled onside.
Shortly after that Daniel Farke made four substitutions with Cantwell, Pukki, Trybull and Hernandez replaced by Patrick Roberts, Kenny McLean, Josip Drmic and Dennis Srbeny. That was followed soon after by the introduction of Max Aarons for Sam Byram, and Leitner was replaced by Mario Vrancic for his first taste of pre-season football.
Vrancic almost scored with his first touch, curling a free-kick just over the ball after a brilliant run from Roberts was ended by a foul on the edge of the area.
On 80 minutes Zapata had the ball in the net, but admitted he’d pushed it in with his arm and the score remained at 2-1.
After Adam Idah and Philip Heise came on for Jamal Lewis and Emi Buendia, Mario Pasalic put Atalanta 3-1 up with five minutes remaining. With no flow to the game due to the substitutions, sub Musa Barrow ran clear to make it four for Atalanta in injury time.