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Manchester City Unable To Overcome The Irrepressible Might Of Norwich City

Photo: Marc Atkins (Getty Images)

In what could end up being the most stunning upset of season, recently-promoted Norwich City took down defending Premier League champions on Saturday, 3-2. The result came on the back of a stellar performance from Norwich’s Finnish veteran Teemu Pukki and a putrid display from City’s two center halves, Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones.

Perhaps the least surprising part of the match happened when The Canaries opened up the scoring in 18th minute. Midfielder Kenny McLean headed a corner kick past goalkeeper Ederson. Seeing the ball trickle in that set up has been a familiar sight for City as of late, with now eight of the last nine goals the defending champs had conceded coming from set pieces—four of those coming from corner kicks—according to OptaJoe.

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The frequent concession of set piece goals didn’t mean that the header was devoid of any surprise. McLean’s goal was just the second time that City had allowed a goal in the opening 30 minutes of a Premier League game under Pep Guardiola—the last one coming against Leicester City in December 2016.

City was able to dust itself off and continue with their game plan as if nothing had happened. In the moments following the opener, they forced Norwich into some reactive defense on a few strong pushes thanks to efforts from Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling. But the more chances that City got, the further their backline moved up the pitch, which soon proved to be a fatal set up. After a bad miss from Aguero, Norwich keeper Tim Krul launched a goal kick up to the halfway line, which made its way from Marco Stiepermann to a streaking Pukki. The striker waited for Stones to commit over to him on the breakaway before sending a cross to Todd Cantwell, who doubled his side’s lead.

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But City did what City does best, and got one back just before halftime in a goal that looked like it was intentionally set up for Aguero to make up for his missed header earlier on.

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The goal was not enough to get City going into the second half, however. A quite lazy giveaway from City’s Otamendi put Norwich forward Emi Buendía in a one-on-one scenario with Ederson. Rather than take the shot, Buendía tapped a pass over to Pukki, who slotted in his team’s third goal of the game after a brief stumble.

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Norwich’s older, but still rising, star has been a rare bright spot for a team that’s only managed to secure three points through four matches. As OptaJoe points out, only Aguero has been involved in more goals (nine) during his first five Premier League appearances than Pukki has (eight: six goals, two assists).

Following their opponent’s trifecta, City did what they could to send the cavalry forward and use their superior talent to force a draw at the very least. All they could muster, however, was one goal back—a low, driven shot from Rodri— before the final whistle blew, leading to a loud eruption of joy from Carrow Road. The celebrations marked the end of City’s 25-game unbeaten streak against newly-promoted sides, a stretch that dates back to March 2015.

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