A second-half strike from Teemu Pukki helped Norwich City return to winning ways as they beat Middlesbrough 1-0 at Carrow Road.
City dominated for large periods but had to be patient against a well-organised Boro side however they took the decisive moment just before the hour mark as Pukki managed to poke the ball home following nice build-up on the right-hand side.
Daniel Farke made just two changes to the side which drew 1-1 with Ipswich Town in the East Anglian derby two weeks ago. Christoph Zimmermann came in for his first league start of the season in place of the injured Grant Hanley, with the captaincy moving over to Alex Tettey. The other swap saw Marco Stiepermann come in for Jordan Rhodes who dropped to the bench, meaning Teemu Pukki was pushed further forward.
After a couple of early set-pieces for Boro which came to nothing, City began to plug gaps in the visiting defence. Stiepermann was the architect of both their early chances, first playing in Pukki whose deflected shot went wide and then Onel Hernandez who cut in a shot wide of Darren Randolph’s near-post with a low strike.
City continued to look the more threatening of the two sides as the half progressed but chances were at a premium, partly down to Boro’s organisation out of possession. Quick play on the right on 26 minutes saw Max Aarons and Emi Buendia almost fashion an opening but the ball was cleared. Alex Tettey quickly regained possession and fed Hernandez but he lashed over after creating some room just inside the box.
It took until 33 minutes for Boro to test Tim Krul and it came via a lucky ricochet which fell kindly for Britt Assombalonga in the area. His cutback found Jonny Howson whose powerful strike was beaten behind by the City stopper at his near post. The resulting corner from Stewart Downing had to be acrobatically punched away by Krul underneath his own crossbar.
City weathered that mini-Boro storm and were still looking the better of the two sides as the game headed towards the break but, again, were restricted to strikes from outside the area. Alex Tettey volleyed over from a Jamal Lewis cross before Marco Stiepermann shot straight into the arms of Randolph from range.
The Canaries began where they left off in the second-half, controlling the flow of the game and stifling any attempt of a Boro attacking move. But the first chance of the half was, again, via a long-range strike as Tettey shot straight at Randolph.
But City’s persistence and dominance finally paid off just before the hour mark. From the right-hand side, Aarons managed to cut the ball back to Buendia who guided the ball towards goal – it fell kindly for Pukki who managed to stab the ball home for give the Canaries a deserved lead.
Boro almost responded moments later though as substitute Martin Braithwaite broke the offside trap and shot low but Krul produced an outstanding stop with his right foot to deny him.
With the game opening up as Boro searched for an equaliser, City began to have some joy on the counter attack, although Hernandez on both occasions was prevented. At the other end, a lofted pass from Downing picked out substitute Jordan Hugill but he headed over.
City made a double substitution with just under 15 minutes to play with Mario Vrancic coming on for his first appearance of the season in place of Buendia. The other chance saw Tom Trybull replace Stiepermann.
Moments later, City looked as if they were going to be reduced to ten men as referee Andy Davies showed a red card to Timm Klose after a foul on Assombalonga. However, Davies reversed his decision and instead gave City a free-kick for what appeared to be an offside call by the linesman on the near side.
City came under inevitable pressure in closing stages but managed to hold on for a welcome three points and inflict Boro's first league defeat of the season.