Canaries capture Championship promotion with dominant Boro triumph
In one of the most prestigious days of the football calendar, Norwich City and Middlesbrough clashed at Wembley with England’s top-flight in their sights, but it was the Canaries who triumphed 2-0 on a glorious afternoon in London, with early goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond sealing promotion to the Premier League.
In typical fashion, both sides started rapidly, in keeping with the illustrious occasion, as the Canaries kept up constant pressure in the early stages.
Bradley Johnson saw his long-range effort crack off the crossbar in the opening few minutes, and only moments later, Boro frontman Patrick Bamford smashed his half-volley off the woodwork in a thrilling early exchanges.
Norwich soon went in front after just 12 minutes when topscorer Jerome clinically dispatched past a diving Dimitrios Konstantopoulos, after a series of defensive errors from Daniel Ayala down the right flank.
Alex Neil’s men continued to build momentum and it paid off as wicked wingman Redmond doubled the lead with a thunderous close-range finish in the penalty area, after a surging run down the centre of midfield.
Middlesbrough were completely shell-shocked in the first-half, unexpectedly going two goals down swiftly and appearing seemingly incapable of recovering from their early blip.
The North East side’s most threatening attack came when Chelsea loanee Bamford was narrowly unable to connect with a knocked down cross, following a strong pacey run down the right wing from Albert Adomah.
Republic of Ireland international playmaker Wes Hoolahan began to grow into proceedings at Wembley, receiving the ball in dangerous positions, and continued to pick out his striker and goalscorer Jerome.
Norwich saw out the first period with their comfortable two-goal lead still intact and looked in a composed mood, with no real threat coming from their stuttering opponents.
Boro’s key downfall throughout the first hour of action in this Championship play-off final was their lack of prowess in central midfield, with Norwich dominating in the middle.
Set-pieces seemed to be the most likely chance of getting back into the game for Aitor Karanka’s side, but they failed in their many attempts, with deliveries failing to produce any genuine scoring opportunities.
Former England international shot-stopper John Ruddy enjoyed a quiet afternoon, with Boro’s usually clinical attack being pinned back and not testing the Norwich keeper, until Bamford’s effort on the hour mark, when he spun in the box and shot towards the bottom left corner, forcing a fine save.
Goalscorer Jerome seemed to pull a hamstring while making a darting run forward towards the end of this encounter, but the striker struggled on and could have created another chance of extending Norwich’s lead, if not for a solid challenge from Ben Gibson.
Norwich skipper Russell Martin should have killed the tie off when he broke free to connect with a corner from the six-yard box, but the captain somehow sent his header off target, giving Boro a late reprieve, but it was short-lived as they suffered a 2-0 defeat as Neil’s Canaries secured promotion.
Neill’s dominant Canaries outfit held out strongly, earning a sensational return to the top-flight, with those early strikes from Jerome and Redmond proving pivotal.