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Report: Blues 1 Norwich City 3

It appeared nothing would separate the sides until the final 15 minutes.

BCFC

Blues were beaten by Norwich City in the Sky Bet Championship on Tuesday night.

Aitor Karanka’s side gave the league leaders a serious scare at St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium but were eventually seen off in the closing stages.

Teemu Pukki had given the away side the lead against the run of play, but Blues deservedly went into the break level after Neil Etheridge saved a penalty and Ivan Sanchez drew the hosts level.

It appeared nothing would separate the sides until the final 15 minutes when Pukki hit his second goal of the game before Oliver Skipp added a third late on.

TEAM NEWS

Karanka named an unchanged starting XI for the visit of the league leaders to B9. The bench also remained as it was from the successful trip to Hillsborough last Saturday.

MAIN EVENT 

Blues started brightly and a Jeremie Bela free-kick found its way through a crowd of bodies and only fractionally evaded Gary Gardner with barely 90 seconds played. And the high tempo start which had forced the early set-piece continued with Norwich struggling to get out of their own half.

Ivan Sunjic was next to try his luck with a powerful curling effort that went over after neat footwork from Sanchez created the opportunity outside of the penalty area.

Norwich’s first chance fell to Kenny McLean but Neil Etheridge was quickly out to deny the Scotsman.

That was a rare venture forward from the visitors in the opening quarter of the match and Gardner saw a goalbound header blocked from a well-worked passage of play.

However, with 26 minutes played the Canaries showed why they handsomely lead the division. McLean found top scorer Pukki and the Finnish striker only needed half a chance to find the far corner with a rifled effort.

Blues nearly responded instantly when Maxime Colin’s sweetly struck volley stung the palms of Tim Krul and the Dutch stopper was tested again moments later when Bela’s effort had him scrambling.

It was next the turn of the home side’s number one to come under the spotlight. Initially at fault for bringing down Todd Cantwell in the penalty area, Etheridge redeemed himself by stopping Pukki’s spot-kick with his feet.

This proved a turning point in the game as just three minutes later Blues were level. At first it appeared the moment had gone when Sanchez’ strike was saved, but the Spanish winger was the quickest to react and poked the loose ball into the corner for a well-deserved equaliser.

Karanka’s side could have completely turned the tide going into the break when Scott Hogan broke the offside trap, although a tricky bounce went against him and he could not keep his half-volley down.

Half-time: Blues 1 Norwich City 1

The second-half took a little while to get going after the whirlwind opening 45, but again it was Blues setting the agenda and Bela tested Krul with a whipped effort after 56 minutes.

There was almost a clearer opening for the Angolan shortly after with the livewire just unable to find a connection to a rogue header intended for the Norwich keeper by one of the away team’s defenders.

There was, however, to be a cruel twist for Blues with 15 minutes remaining. An Emiliano Buendia effort was stopped by Etheridge but Pukki pounced upon the rebound to score his and Norwich’s second to retake the lead.

Karanka rolled the dice and utilised his bench, including the introduction of Lukas Jutkiewicz to work alongside Scott Hogan. But chasing a leveller always carries a risk and late in added time Norwich wrapped up the win when Skipp finished from Lukas Rupp’s pass.

KEY MOMENT

Blues could have been facing a mountain to climb had Pukki converted from 12 yards in the first period, instead Etheridge won the battle of wits and kept Blues in the contest. Of course, it may be forgotten given the final outcome, but that was a third penalty save of his maiden campaign at St. Andrew’s.

FINAL OUTCOME

The result means Blues have 31 points from 32 matches played.

MATCH DETAILS

Blues (4-2-3-1): Neil Etheridge, Maxime Colin, Harlee Dean (captain), Jake Clarke-Salter, Kristian Pedersen, Rekeem Harper (Mikel San José 70), Gary Gardner (Lukas Jutkiewicz 84), Ivan Sunjic, Ivan Sanchez (Yan Valery 75), Jeremie Bela (Marc Roberts 84), Scott Hogan.

Substitutes not used: Andres Prieto, George Friend, Riley McGree, Jonathan Leko, Alen Halilović.

Booking: Hogan 69, Clarke-Salter 84.

Norwich City (4-3-3): Tim Krul, Max Aarons, Grant Hanley (captain), Christoph Zimmerman, Dimitris Giannoulis, Maro Vrancic (Onel Hernandez 64 (Jacob Sorensen 93)), Oliver Skipp, Kenny McLean, Todd Cantwell (Lukas Rupp 89), Emiliano Buendia (Jordan Hugill 93), Teemu Pukki (Adam Idah 89).

Substitutes not used: Daniel Barden, Kieran Dowell, Xavier Quintilla, Alex Tettey.

Booking: Zimmerman 19.

Referee: Oliver Langford.

NEXT STEPS

Blues return to St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium for their second game of the week when they take on Queens Park Rangers this Saturday. Attention then focuses on back-to-back away matches in Yorkshire at Huddersfield Town and Barnsley.

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