Wilfried Zaha scored a stunner only to miss a penalty moments later as Crystal Palace were held to a 1-1 draw by Norwich at Carrow Road.
Norwich got off to a flying start when Teemu Puuki broke the deadlock with just 38 seconds on the clock – the fastest goal of the Premier League season – and the Canaries might have been out of sight had the Finn not passed up chances to complete a first-half hat-trick inside 22 minutes.
Despite seeing a Jean-Philippe Mateta equaliser ruled out for offside before the break, Palace were toothless in the first period but the Eagles improved hugely after the interval and levelled on the hour when Zaha, back after a six-game absence, curled a beauty into the top corner from 18 yards.
Zaha had the chance to fire Palace in front from the spot three minutes later after Max Aarons brought Tyrick Mitchell down in the box, but a costly slip saw him shank the spot-kick wide.
Palace pushed for the winner but Norwich’s spirited defence, backed up by the inspired Angus Gunn, held on for a point when saw them move to within a point of safety and denied Patrick Vieira’s side what would have been only their second away win of the season.
Norwich: Gunn (8), Aarons (6), Gibson (7), Hanley (7), Williams (6), Lees-Melou (7), McLean (7), Placheta (6), Rashica (8), Idah (6), Pukki (7).
Subs: Gilmour (6), Normann (6), Rowe (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Guaita (6), Ward (5), Andersen (6), Guehi (7), Mitchell (7), Gallagher (6), Hughes (6), Schlupp (7), Olise (6), Zaha (7), Mateta (6).
Subs: Ayew (5), Eze (n/a), Edouard (n/a).
Man of the Match: Milot Rashica
Zaha misses penalty as Canaries cling on
Norwich hit the front before the fans inside Carrow Road barely had the chance to take their seats.
Man-of-the-match Milot Rashica sparked a thrillingly-impressive individual display into life with an early dart down the left flank which ended with Adam Idah laying his square pass into the path of Pukki, whose scuffed effort evaded Vicente Guaita and cannoned in off the post in record time.
Mateta stung the palms of Norwich goalkeeper Gunn as Palace sought an immediate response, but despite dominating possession, the Eagles could only watch on as the hosts continued to create the better openings.
After the returning Zaha dragged a shot harmlessly wide, a crucial last-gasp clearance from Mitchell prevented Pukki from reaching Rashica’s inviting cross and doubling his and Norwich’s tally.
Had Pukki shown more hunger Norwich would have been two to the good, and he would have had a hat-trick three minutes later had he been more clinical when another Rashica pass presented him with a gilt-edged opportunity, but further hesitation allowed Mitchell to intervene for the second time.
Palace had the ball in the Norwich net two minutes before the interval when Mateta latched on marc Guehi’s brilliant through pass and lifted a delicate effort over the on-rushing Gunn, but it was ruled out after he was adjudged to have strayed offside.
Palace were much improved after the break and peppered the home goal from the outset. Jeffrey Schlupp’s stinging volley forced a great save from Gunn on 54 minutes but there was nothing the Norwich ‘keeper could do when Zaha collected the ball out wide, cut inside and unleashed a sublime effort which found the top corner.
Things quickly unravelled for Norwich when Aarons brought Mitchell down in the box, but they were granted a reprieve when Zaha lost his footing and fired a woeful effort wide – his first ever penalty miss in the Premier League.
Conor Gallagher tried to find Palace that elusive winner but saw a free-kick and swivelled shot thwarted by Gunn as Norwich claimed another priceless point with a performance which will only increase their hope of avoiding relegation.
Can Norwich beat the drop?
In football, there is such a thing as scoring too early. At first glance, this draw for Norwich may look to fall into that category. Pukki scored the fastest Premier League goal of the season and that lead was pegged back by the time the final whistle sounded.
But on this occasion, rather than scoring too early, it was more a case of failing to put the game to bed, with Pukki guilty of failing to finish off the assignment he and Norwich had started so well.
On a night when victory would have lifted Dean Smith’s Canaries out of the drop zone 24 hours after Newcastle’s victory over Everton had demoted them back into the bottom three, victory was there for the taking. Had Pukki been more clinical and decisive, Norwich would have been out of sight before half-time.
In the end, they had to settle for a point, although settle doesn’t do justice to the second-half onslaught they had to withstand from a markedly improved Palace side who woke up after the interval. Despite that, it was still a night packed full of positives for Norwich.
Rashica was superb, as was Gunn between the sticks. Better still, Smith appeared to have a squad packed full of options capable of navigating a Premier League game – and the survival battle that lies ahead – and the performance level was well received by the Carrow Road crowd.
A Premier League point is never to be sniffed at, especially for a club who many consigned to relegation before a ball had been kicked this season. Come May, you just wonder how big a point it could prove to be for Norwich’s survival bid.
Smith: Who knows how big that point could be
Norwich boss Dean Smith: “It was a little bit of a rollercoaster. They solved the problems we gave them and then we had to change. Unfortunately they scored in that period we made changes. We lost shape in the second half because we weren’t good enough when we won the ball back.
“Did we score too early? We created two other big chances in the first period. Teemu [Pukki] was disappointed he didn’t score another one of them, had he I think the game might have got away from Palace if we scored a second.
“Who knows how big this point could be? It was important we didn’t lose, we’re disappointed because we could have added to the one goal we did score, but Palace were good second half, so it was a deserved draw for both teams.”
Vieira: Goal was Zaha at his best
Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira: “It was a fantastic goal, Wilf at his best. We need him to produce more goals and performances like that. He was really good for us. I think the goal of course was fantastic, it is one of the goals of the month. It was an unbelievable finish, but what I was really happy with was his performance.
“He played well, he worked well, and he created chances, that is the Wilfried Zaha I want to see for the rest of the season. It is the Wilfried Zaha I want to see, the one who works hard with his team-mates and with the other players to create chances.
“I don’t forget the number of penalties he has scored for us, but it is part of the game, when you look at the goal he scored and the impact he had on the game today, I think it is a good benchmark for him for what I want from him for the rest of the season.”
- Crystal Palace have won just one of their last 13 away games in the Premier League (D5 L7), drawing consecutive away games for the first time since January 2020 (3), a run that included a 1-1 draw at Norwich.
- Norwich City are winless in seven Premier League matches against Crystal Palace (D3 L4) since a 1-0 win back in November 2013 under Chris Hughton.
- Wilfried Zaha registered the 80th goal involvement of his Premier League career (53 goals, 27 assists), with 79 of those goal involvements coming for Crystal Palace. Indeed, tonight saw Zaha miss a penalty in the competition for the very first time (5th penalty attempt).
Man of the Match – Milot Rashica