Norwich City 3 Blackburn Rovers 1
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Norwich City produced a thrilling late show to sink Blackburn on Tuesday night and seal a second consecutive Championship home win at Carrow Road.
Lewis Grabban struck a brace and Bradley Johnson’s 87th minute curler cancelled out Tom Cairney’s first minute strike, but that barely told the story of a breathless encounter at Carrow Road.
Grabban slammed home a rebound after Paul Robinson had saved his first half spot kick before Johnson reprised his stunning Watford strike and Grabban slotted deep in stoppage time.
Neil Adams retained the same starting line up that beat Watford 3-0 in Saturday’s home Championship opener. Andrew Surman returned to the substitutes’ bench after his absence against the Hornets in place of Leroy Fer, who was in London finalising a club-record transfer switch from Carrow Road.
Rovers’ chief Gary Bowyer made one change from the team that won at Blackpool with Lee Williamson replacing Josh King in midfield.
The visitors stunned Norwich inside the opening minute when Cairney smashed an unstoppable left-footed half-volley up and over John Ruddy from fully 25 yards after the highly-rated midfielder had latched onto Rudy Gestede’s knockdown.
City survived loud Blackburn penalty appeals seconds later when Jordan Rhodes’ header appeared to strike Steven Whittaker’s arm inside the congested home penalty box, but referee Scott motioned to his chest.
Norwich looked vulnerable with each fresh wave of visiting pressure at this stage; Gestede rising unmarked to plant Craig Conway’s free kick a yard wide of Ruddy’s far post.
Cairney tested Ruddy again from 25 yards with City worryingly second best to every ball in the frenetic opening exchanges.
Kyle Lafferty earned a pressure-relieving free kick after a buccaneering run but Wes Hoolahan’s over-hit pass intended for Grabban underlined the lack of precision about Norwich’s early work.
Alex Tettey slammed a right-foot strike against the foot of Robinson’s post in the 14th minute in the first stirrings of real menace from Adams’ men after Nathan Redmond and Javier Garrido had combined down the left-flank.
Lafferty then measured up the same spot but Robinson dived low to his left to palm behind as the home crowd responded with vocal backing.
City were a coat of paint from an equaliser in the 19th minute when Grant Hanley inadvertently diverted Lafferty’s flick towards his own goal from Redmond’s inswinger.
Norwich’s surge brought some tangible reward when Hoolahan’s clipped cross on the edge of the area struck the left arm of Jason Lowe and referee Scott wasted little time in pointing to the spot.
Grabban stepped up but Robinson parried his initial penalty only for the former Bournemouth striker to calmly guide the rebound into the opposite corner from seven yards.
Norwich continued to dictate, in a sharp contrast from the opening carnage, and Robinson was forced to go full length to his right this time on the half-hour mark to claw away Redmond’s low dig from long range.
Rovers still carried an air of counter-attacking threat with Rhodes momentarily lifting the ball beyond Michael Turner before the big centre back recovered his ground.
Hoolahan displayed a rare lack of composure five minutes prior to the interval when Lafferty’s looping header dropped to the Irishman just outside the Rovers’ six-yard box, but his miscue spared Robinson any further employment.
Grabban stabbed a left-footed effort well wide much to his frustration from Garrido’s teasing delivery, but it needed Hanley at his best to make a last-ditch intervention seconds later in a strong finish to the opening period from the Canaries.
Ryan Bennett was introduced at the interval for Garrido, which prompted a re-organisation to City’s backline, with Whittaker swapping flanks and Russell Martin re-deployed to right-back.
Rovers started sharper in an echo of the first half with Norwich struggling to re-gain the level of control they had exhibited in advanced areas of the field.
Grabban wriggled his way past Hanley at close quarters but Alex Baptiste cleared behind after Robinson had parried his initial low shot.
Johnson slipped a slide rule pass into Redmond who fed Tettey but the Norwegian could not match the accuracy of his thumping goal against Watford from the same distance.
Ryan Bennett’s far post header in the 65th minute from Redmond’s deep free kick forced Robinson to take emergency action but the keeper had no chance when the centre back’s encore from Tettey’s cross cannoned the top of his bar from seven yards out.
Tettey’s half-volley from the edge of the area struck Markus Olsson with Blackburn now starting to wobble approaching the final quarter. Robinson then produced a majestic stop to divert Grabban’s close-range header against the underside of his bar before Rovers’ scrambled the rebound clear.
Lafferty made way for Elliott Bennett with City now firmly in the ascendancy and the home fans turning up the volume once again.
Adams played his last throw of the dice with Josh Murphy given the final 10 minutes in place of Redmond. City raided forward again and their persistence paid off when Johnson curled a sublime effort over Robinson from the edge of the area to spark bedlam at Carrow Road with three minutes of normal time remaining.
Rovers threw men forward in a desperate search for an equaliser, with Ruddy acrobatically denying Olsson, and that proved a crucial stop when Murphy broke with Robinson stranded inside Norwich’s penalty box before squaring to Grabban who coolly slotted a match-clinching third.
• Norwich City: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Turner, Garrido (R Bennett 45), Tettey, Johnson, Redmond (Josh Murphy 80), Hoolahan, Lafferty (E Bennett 73), Grabban. Subs (not used): Rudd, Loza, Surman, O’Neil.
• Goals: Grabban (23, 90), Johnson (87)
• Blackburn: Robinson, Baptiste, Olsson, Hanley, Lowe, Conway (Marshall 81), Evans, Cairney, Williamson (Varney 89), Rhodes (King 64), Gestede. Subs (not used): Eastwood, Henley, Dunn, Taylor.
• Bookings: Lowe (foul on Garrido, 19); Evans (foul on Hoolahan, 26); Williamson (foul on Hoolahan, 65).
• Goal: Cairney (1)
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: G Scott (Oxfordshire)
• Attendance: 25,835