Emi Buendia boosts Norwich bid for promotion
Emi Buendia scored the winner as Norwich moved five points clear at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table after recording a hard-fought 1-0 win over Swansea at Carrow Road.
The Canaries were well below their best against spirited opponents but still had enough about them to get over the line, with an emphatic 54th-minute finish from talented midfielder Buendia settling it.
It was another big step on the road towards promotion for Norwich, who are now seven points ahead of third-placed Sheffield United, although both their rivals have games in hand, with the Blades at home to Rotherham on Saturday while Leeds visit Bristol City.
It was Swansea who looked more like a top-of-the-table side in the first half – despite losing top scorer Oli McBurnie to illness in the lead-up to the game.
They had the bulk of the ball, passed it around nicely and might easily have been ahead at the break.
From the moment the lively Daniel James closed down keeper Tim Krul in the third minute and almost deflected the ball in, the Swans looked comfortable on a miserable, windswept night and it was not long before Krul needed to make a smart stop to foil the same player after he had burst into the box.
George Byers also fired in a low shot which tested the keeper while nothing of any note was seen of Norwich until the half-hour mark when Onel Hernandez got to the byline and delivered a dangerous cross which no one could get to.
Two minutes later top-scorer Teemu Pukki had a good chance to fire City in front after being put in by Buendia but just for once the Finnish frontman was off target, in keeping with a below-par first half from the hosts.
Swansea were soon back on the offensive and Krul again needed to be alert to tip over a long-range effort from Bersant Celina that took a nasty deflection.
Norwich looked more like their normal selves after the break, as is often the case, and took the lead with their first decent effort of the match in the 54th minute.
Hernandez picked up the ball on the left and held it up patiently before picking out Buendia on the edge of the box and the little Argentinian beat his man before lashing an unstoppable rising drive into the roof of the net.
It was rough on Swansea but the goal gave the Canaries the lift they needed and it took a good block from Cameron Carter-Vickers to keep out Marco Stiepermann’s on-target shot from inside the area as the game passed the hour mark.
For all their good approach play Daniel Farke’s men were still struggling to create clear openings although the same could be said of the visitors, who struggled to replicate their impressive play of the opening period and resorted to desperate, long-range efforts as the clock wound down.
There was a late scare for the Canaries when Mike Van Der Hoorn got his head to an 85th-minute corner, but the defender failed to get his effort on target.
At the other end Buendia again slipped through a delightful pass, this time for Pukki, but the striker missed out on what would have been a 26th goal of the season when his shot came back off a post.