Norwich City 2-2 Sheffield Wednesday: Super Mario to the rescue for Canaries in dramatic Championship draw
PUBLISHED: 00:19 20 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:40 20 April 2019
Mario Vrancic salvaged a last gasp equaliser that could be pivotal in Norwich City's Championship promotion push after a 2-2 Good Friday draw against Sheffield Wednesday.
The super sub stepped up in the 97th minute to whip a gorgeous free kick over the wall and past Cameron Dawson to spark euphoric scenes at Carrow Road.
City edged five points clear of both Sheffield United and Leeds with three league games to go in their quest to reach the Premier League.
But it looked as if they might slip to a controversial defeat when Steven Fletcher appeared to handle the ball over the line in a far post collision with Tim Krul close to the Norwich goalline.
Krul was booked for his protests in the aftermath but referee Eltringham and his assistant failed to spot Fletcher's handball.
Marco Stiepermann had put Daniel Farke's side in front before a stunning equaliser from Fernando Forestieri from long range. Fletcher's 53rd minute intervention looked to be the decisive action until late fireworks from Vrancic.
Moritz Leitner got the nod to replace Todd Cantwell in one change to the Norwich starting line up that drew 1-1 at Wigan.
Sheffield Wednesday were forced into a late change during the warm up, with Keiran Westwood appearing to pick up an ankle injury after being named in the original line up. Back up keeper Dawson came in for the Republic of Ireland international
Leitner's early position on the right was something of a surprise, although it was not long before the German was hunting for work in more familiar central areas.
The visitors appeared to respond to the electric atmosphere inside Carrow Road, with Fletcher's aerial threat evident.
City sprung a counter in the seventh minute following a spell of pressure from Steve Bruce's men that ended with Teemu Pukki jinking inside two but hammering a rising shot over.
Dawson was rightly booked for handling outside his penalty area, after clearly getting his bearings wrong in trying to deal with Christoph Zimmermann's raking pass.
Stiepermann stepped up with a venomous hit from 20 yards but Dawson redeemed himself with a fisted save.
Tim Krul was pressed into service at the opposite end shortly after, as the frenetic pace showed few signs of abating. Forestieri took aim from fully 35 yards with a swinging shot the Dutchman parried. That was a prophetic sign of what was to come from the talented South American.
Wednesday's attacking endeavour was fearless. A flowing burst of short passes across midfield worked Liam Palmer into space down the left who crossed for the towering Fletcher to plant a looping header wide.
Back came Norwich as the breathless tempo picked up more intensity. Kenny McLean and Stiepermann worked Onel Hernandez into an open channel, but Dawson saved his angled shot with an outstretched leg.
The Owls' ambition perhaps proved their undoing with Norwich making the all important breakthrough in the 19th minute.
Leitner and Trybull had too much time to pick out Hernandez to coolly roll the ball back to the edge of the area for Stiepermann to guide a precision left-footed strike low into Dawson's bottom left-hand corner.
Pukki fluffed his lines moments later when Max Aarons swerved into the visitors' penalty area to pick out the Championship top scorer.
Norwich were just threatening to exert a modicum of control as the energy levels dropped for the first time near the half-hour mark.
But Forestieri had other ideas, turning Trybull before unleashing a stunning hit from fully 35 yards that arrowed into Krul's top corner with the Norwich number one at full stretch.
Aarons took the weight of a falling Palmer on his right ankle in a full-blooded duel that saw both end up clattering into the advertising boards. The England Under-19 starlet was able to re-join the fray after treatment as both sides continued to trade on equal terms.
It was a cagey start after the interval until Ben Godfrey ranged forward onto Leitner's corner but was unable to direct his close range header on target.
The game exploded into life again in the 51st minute when Fletcher barrelled forward before teeing up Forestieri who unleashed another hit Krul brilliantly tipped over the top.
The Lower Barclay roared their approval as Aarons raced to congratulate his keeper. Wednesday continued to press the Canaries and got their reward in the 53rd minute. Palmer's cross travelled all the way to the back post where the sliding Fletcher bundled it home in a collision with Krul. The keeper was booked in the aftermath for his protests - with television replays indicating Fletcher's arm helped the ball over the line from point blank range.
Stiepermann's swerving effort from the restart was a couple of yards wide with Dawson beaten. Norwich went even closer in the 65th minute when McLean's diving header veered the wrong side of the post from Aarons' delivery.
Referee Eltringham was now firmly testing the patience of the home fans when Pukki was adjudged to have fouled Barry Bannan. From the free kick, Fletcher hammered a shot goalwards Krul powered at his near post.
Aarons tumbled millimetres outside the Sheffield Wednesday penalty area in the 73rd minute, after a rash challenge from Forestieri, but the official rejected home penalty appeals.
The Owls' talisman was back weaving his magic at the opposite end, with a curling right footed attempt that drifted narrowly wide.
Leitner typified City's increasing desperation when he wildly fired over in the 83 minute from the edge of the area. Farke introduced Vrancic and Dennis Srbeny for the final push before Timm Klose was thrown on as auxiliary forward in stoppage time.
Vrancic was upended by Marco Matias a yard outside the Owls' box seven minutes into time added and composed himself to whip a sublime free kick into top left hand corner to clinch a dramatic point.
• Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Zimmermann, Godfrey, Lewis (Srbeny 84), Trybull (Vrancic 80), McLean, Leitner, Stiepermann, Hernandez (Klose 90), Pukki. Subs (not used): Oxborough (GK), Tettey, Hanley, Cantwell.
• Booking: Krul (dissent, 53)
• Goals: Stiepermann (19), Vrancic (90+7)
• Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, Onomah (Bannan 67), Fletcher, Lees, Matias, Boyd, Hutchinson (Pelupessy 33), Iorfa, Hector, Forestieri (Joao 76). Subs (not used): Fox, Winnall, Nuhiu.
• Bookings: Dawson (unsporting behaviour, 9); Boyd (foul on Aarons, 81)
• Goals: Forestieri (33), Fletcher (53)
• Time added on: 3 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Co Durham)
• Attendance: 26,744