Derby manager Phillip Cocu paid tribute to all of his players after a moment of individual brilliance from skipper Wayne Rooney earned his side a precious 1-0 victory at Norwich.
Rooney curled home a magnificent free-kick with just three minutes remaining to secure a first Championship win of the season after the Rams had started the campaign with three successive defeats.
Derby turned in a gritty display to kick their season into life after a poor start as they took full advantage of a huge slice of luck early in the second half when Norwich striker Teemu Pukki slipped when running up to take a penalty and spooned his effort onto the top of the crossbar.
Cocu said: “We had a little bit of luck with the penalty but I think we deserved that for the way we played. All the boys deserve a lot of credit for the performance we put in.
“We knew a lot of eyes were on us after the results in our first three games and we were up against a side with a lot of quality. It was a case of stepping up the defensive side of the game and I thought we did that, with everyone playing their part.
“Everyone showed great discipline tactically and also showed a great attitude. The players worked hard throughout the game and while we were defending for a lot of the time and I thought we also posed a threat on the break, especially in the second half.
“When we got the free-kick near the end after a great run by Jason Knight I knew it was a great chance, especially with a player like Wayne to take it. As everyone knows our captain has great quality and he showed that with his free-kick.
“He had put in a lot a hard work for the team and we were about to take him off but I was certainly glad he was on the pitch when we were awarded the free-kick!
“It was a great strike – but this was a great team performance and we are all absolutely delighted.
“We now have a short break after playing a lot of games and this win gives us something to build on going forward. We just have to make sure we continue this improvement when we get back.”
Norwich manager Daniel Farke was feeling hard done by for the second week running as his side followed up last Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Bournemouth with another narrow loss.
He said: “This is football – sometimes you can’t explain how it turns out.
“We should have taken six points from our last two games, four at the very least, but we have ended up with none at all. It is unbelievably harsh.
“We have played well in both games, created some good chances but we come away with nothing.
“On this occasion their goalkeeper has made two unbelievable saves near the end to deny Max Aarons and Jordan Hugill after Teemu has slipped when taking his penalty – I am sure that has never happened to him before.
“Then Derby have a late breakaway and score with their first chance of the game. With a player of Rooney’s quality in the side that was always going to be a problem.
“I can’t really fault my players after that, although I do accept that we need to be more ruthless when the chances come our way. When you don’t take your chances these sort of things can always happen.
“But as I said I can’t fault the players for their level of performance. It was one team going all out to win the game and one team defending very well to try and come away with something out of it.
“I have been in the game a long time and it’s just the way it is sometimes.”
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