Norwich City took a giant step towards an immediate return to the Premier League by beating their nearest challengers Brentford 1-0 at Carrow Road.
A sixth successive Championship victory for Daniel Farke’s side took them 10 points clear at the top of the table with just 12 matches left to play. It was a fourth defeat in six games for Brentford, who now appear to be battling Swansea and Watford for the second automatic promotion place.
The game was settled by a moment of magic from Norwich midfield maestro Emi Buendía, who scored a brilliant individual goal midway through the first half. The Argentinian collected the ball on the right, skipped past two defenders on the edge of the box and fired a perfectly-judged low shot into the bottom corner.
The visitors had made an impressive start, Bryan Mbeumo skipping past Dimitris Giannoulis on the right hand side of the area before playing in Sergi Canós. With the goal at his mercy, the former Norwich winger slipped as he prepared to shoot and failed to even hit the target.
Brentford’s top scorer Ivan Toney then did well to get on the end of a deep free-kick, with his effort going straight into the arms of a grateful Tim Krul. Norwich broke away in the 25th minute to take the lead through Buendía’s superb solo goal, and he nearly added an assist before half time. A wonderful through ball sent Teemu Pukki in on goal, but David Raya produced a strong hand to deny the Finnish forward.
Raya made another top drawer save to deny Pukki again five minutes into the second half, pushing a fizzing shot from the edge of the box around the upright. Brentford continued to have most of the possesion but were kept at arm’s length by a well drilled City defence and Norwich almost made it two after 65 minutes. Ben Gibson got his head on an inswinging Buendía free-kick to test Raya, who then comfortably gathered a snap-shot from Onel Hernández.
In stoppage time, Toney sent a shot narrowly wide and there were loud appeals for a penalty when Mbeumo went down in the area under a challenge from Grant Hanley, but Norwich deservedly took the points.