Wolverhampton Wanderers followed up their excellent win over West Ham United with a hard fought goalless draw at revitalised Norwich City on Saturday.
The Canaries, who have now collected four points from a possible six under the management of Dean Smith, were the better side but Wanderers’ back three turned in an excellent display across the back to ensure they left Norfolk with a share of the spoils.
Norwich, fresh from putting successive Premier League wins over Brentford and Southampton together, began sharply. Milot Rashica on the left gave Nelson Semedo plenty to think about in the opening stages, while Teemu Pukki got caught in two minds when well placed and his cross, or shot, passed over the bar.
As Wolves, who were without Daniel Podence after he tested positive for Covid, continued to warm themselves up, Norwich created another chance when Josh Sargent struck a first time effort from the edge of the penalty area just wide of Jose Sa’s goal.
Perhaps that was a wake up call, because from there Wolves began to dominate the ball and they looked far more threatening, especially out wide, from there.
Rayan Ait-Nouri had plenty of joy on the left and one low cross to the near post was met by Raul Jimenez, who couldn’t direct his shot on target. Despite being comfortable for the entirety of the first half, that was their only effort on goal – until shortly before the break when they should’ve taken advantage of the Canaries’ ineptitude in their own box.
Wolves’ press forced a moment of hesitation between Grant Hanley and keeper Tim Krul, whose clearance under pressure from Hwang Hee-chan only reached Joao Moutinho on the edge of the D. The diminutive Portuguese’s strike wasn’t powerful enough and the recovering Krul blocked.
Right before half time, Norwich themselves opened Wolves up at the back. A neat 1-2 between Max Aarons and Lukas Rupp allowed the former in on goal, and Sa saved with his legs.
Smith’s men returned to the field for the second half with their tails still up, but Wolves’ back-line were holding firm. Rashica continued to dazzle, and earned a booking out of Semedo, and while the slippery Pukki continued to pop up in the pockets, but Wolves – who were comparably slow to get going bar one decent Trincao run and cross for Jimenez, whose header wasn’t on target – had them at arm’s length.
Norwich continued to lay it on Wolves. Sa was called into action again when he was left one-on-one with Pukki, who’d been slipped in by Rupp. Lage called for Adama Traore and, later, Leander Dendoncker, but his side continued to be under the cosh.
Rupp ought to have done better when he received the ball in the box from Rashica, but Sa was equal to a rather juggled effort.
All in all, this was a point that was hard earned by Wolves, who while they were uninspiring in attack defended supremely well and completed a second successive clean sheet.
In truth, the defensive shield in front of him did most of the work in the first half. Commanded his area well and collected crosses when required. Also did well to get down and deny Aarons who was rampaging into the box, and then Pukki when he was slipped in. Not awful amounts to do, but completed what was asked of him.
Found the lively Rashica a little hot to handle for periods. Was eventually booked for upending the winger on the edge of his own box. He did win a couple of very important headers in his own penalty area when Norwich applied pressure from wide and from set-pieces.
The right-sided-left-footed centre half was a big presence in the back-line. He was assured throughout and carried the ball out from the back with distinction. For a player who has only really nailed down a starting spot in this side since the beginning of Lage’s reign, he looks so comfortable at the highest level.
The middle man in the back-line and the captain made a couple of crucial interventions and blocks at a time when Norwich were really coming on strong. One Rashica strike in particular certainly would’ve stung, but as per Coady did what was required.
Some of his balls around the corner for left wing back Ait-Nouri were excellent in the first half, but as Norwich began to raise their intensity levels in the second, Saiss was expected to fulfil his regulation defensive duties, and he did so with gusto.
Got in a muddle at the beginning when Josh Sargent escaped his attention, but going forwards Ait-Nouri was really positive, and imaginative with his through balls, even if they didn’t always come off. His influence on proceedings rather waned in the second.
You could watch his diagonal balls all afternoon. One through ball intended for Semedo was frustratingly heavy, because the wing-back was well placed to hurt Norwich had the weight of the pass been on the money. Work-rate was undoubted and on one occasion he made a crucial sliding challenge to cut out a dangerous counter. The most pro-active of those going forward.
Always available, kept his passing out to the flanks largely simple. Much quieter in the second half, and quite a bit deeper too with Wolves having to cope with applied pressure for large spells. Some of his intended deliveries into the box frustratingly failed to beat the first man, from either open play or set-pieces.
Too quick for Grant Hanley but in the final third his influnce, particularly in the first half, was pretty limited. You can’t knock the work he did in off the ball in his own half as he covered Ait-Nouri throughout, but going forwards Wolves needed more inspiration from him.
Proved a little too lightweight when shrugged off the ball when in possession on more than one occasion. Wonderfully flighted ball to the back post which Jimenez couldn’t head home at the start of the second 45. On another occasion he bounded forwards in threatening fashion but, as was often the case, he was eased out of possession.
Managed Wolves’ only shot on goal in the first half, when he made a darting run but couldn’t apply a decisive finish. His attempted lay-off for Neves was almost perfect when he nodded down Hwang’s cross into his path, but Norwich cut out the danger. Might’ve done more with a well crafted delivery from Trincao. Not his day.
Traore (for Trincao 68) 5
Only really had a couple of chances to run at young Brandon Williams, and forced a couple of corners out of Norwich, but he and Jimenez failed to find any cohesion in the time he was on the pitch.
Dendoncker (for Semedo 76)
Hoever (for Hwang 90)
Subs not used: Ruddy, Moulden, Marcal, Cundle, Silva
Norwich City: Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams; Normann (Rupp 35), Gilmour, McLean; Rashica (Dowell 82), Sargent (Tzolis 68), Pukki
Substitutes not used: Gunn, Lees-Melou, Idah, Omobamidele, Cantwell, Giannoulis
Norwich – ; Wolves –
The ref: Simon Hooper
Up next: Burnley (h) – Wednesday 1 December, 19:45 kick off