Norwich secured a fifth successive win to tighten their grip at the top of the Championship with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Cardiff at Carrow Road.
Beautifully taken goals in either half from Emi Buendia and Todd Cantwell took Daniel Farke’s in-form side six points clear of second placed Bournemouth, ahead of the Cherries’ clash with Luton later in the day.
It was a thoroughly deserved victory for the hosts, whose win broke a sequence of hard-fought 2-1 successes and would have been even more emphatic had they taken more of the plentiful chances that came their way during a one-sided clash.
The leaders gradually got into their stride after a slow start and top scorer Teemu Pukki almost opened the scoring midway through the first half, steering his shot just wide of the far post after being slid in by the recalled Cantwell.
At the other end, keeper Michael McGovern did well to grab a powerful header from Sean Morrison on the line, but Norwich were looking the stronger side and deservedly took the lead on 27 minutes through a superb strike from the in-form Buendia.
The Argentine was picked out by Kenny Mclean just inside the Cardiff half and raced to the edge of the box before unleashing a low shot into the bottom corner to make it five goals in seven games.
Cardiff, who were giving a decent account of themselves, almost got back on level terms just before the break when Morrison got his head on a Harry Wilson cross but McGovern proved again what an able deputy he is for the injured Tim Krul by pulling off a brilliant reaction save.
Norwich also went close moments later when a goalbound strike from Cantwell was deflected wide by defender Curtis Nelson.
Pukki had a pair of glorious chances to stretch Norwich’s lead early in the second period but was unable to take either of them. After latching onto an under hit backpass, his chip over the advancing Alex Smithies was just wide of the target and then a poor touch let him down after he had been put clean through by Cantwell.
Another opportunity went begging on the hour mark when a slick four-man move gave Mario Vrancic a clear sight of goal but the Bosnian’s low shot was wide of the target, while Smithies then did well to tip a Buendia effort around the post as the Canaries continued to dominate.
Cardiff’s only threat came from the occasional set piece and Vrancic wasted another chance to wrap it up when he fired just wide after working himself some space on the right of the area.
The writing was on the wall for the visitors and an overdue second Norwich goal finally arrived in the 70th minute. Buendia picked out Cantwell 30 yards out and the young midfielder used the space he was afforded to good effect by striding forward and curling an unstoppable strike past the exposed Smithies.
Buendia might have grabbed his second on 80 minutes after latching onto a loose ball in the box but screwed his shot just wide while Morrison was narrowly off target with a header in the closing minutes as Cardiff searched in vain for a consolation.
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