In their first league game since an astonishing eight-goal thriller at Southampton just over a week ago, Norwich City were looking to pick up three points against a Millwall side that suffered a last-gasp loss to Bristol City last time out. Gary Rowett’s side, who finished just outside the playoffs last season, arrived at Carrow Road also in search of their second win of the season, following an opening-day victory against Middlesbrough.
NOR: Gunn; Stacey, Duffy, Gibson, Giannoulis; McLean, Fassnacht, Rowe; Sara, Sargent, Barnes
MIL: Sarkic; Wallace, Hutchinson, Cooper; McNamara, Mitchell, Saville, Esse; Watmore, Flemming, Nisbet
A gorgeous day at Carrow Road almost started out perfectly for the Canaries as Gabriel Sara got forward down the left hand side and cut the ball back towards Josh Sargent, but the ball was then cleared for a corner that narrowly missed the head of former Brighton & Hove Albion centre back Shane Duffy.
Sargent had another chance to open the scoring a few moments later after Christian Fassnacht teed him up on the edge of the Millwall box, but the American’s thunderbolt whiskered past the bottom left corner – a shot that assured the home faithful that their side were on top early on.
As the game entered the twentieth minute, Sara saw his teasing free kick saved superbly by Matija Sarkic in the Millwall goal, showing more signs that David Wagner’s men could find the opener in what was proving to be a close game of football.
Academy graduate Jonathan Rowe had been a shining light for the Canaries so far this season, and it would be him who would finally break the deadlock. Some magical build-up play between him, Ashley Barnes and Dimitris Giannoulis would see him finish in superb style – curling a beauty into the far corner past a diving Sarkic. As defensively resolute Millwall had been, it was also a goal that had been threatened since the opening minutes.
Norwich threatened a second just eight minutes from the conclusion of the first half, as Sara won the ball just inside the Millwall half, drove forward, and saw his fizzling float just over the bar. On his 500th senior appearance, Ashley Barnes almost doubled Norwich’s lead a few minutes later – but his volley was tipped away by Sarkic. Rowe almost added a second to his own name just before the interval too, as he stormed into the Millwall box and headed just wide of goal.
The second half looked to be more of the same as Sara whipped in a beautiful free-kick in towards Josh Sargent, who headed towards goal and, remarkably, the ball smacked off both posts before nestling into the net for a second goal that Norwich had richly deserved. From a Millwall perspective, it would be one that Lions boss Gary Rowett will not want to watch back at all.
Millwall’s first real chance of the game would appear just minutes later as George Saville turned on the edge of the Norwich box and fired a curling effort just wide of the top corner.
However, it felt like game over for the Lions in the 56th minute, as Norwich looked dangerous once again. Jack Stacey, signed from Bournemouth in the summer, cut the ball back towards Barnes, who turned and smashed home past Sarkic for his 100th league goal – and his first in a Canaries shirt. Once again, another goal that the Lions will not want to watch back from a defensive perspective.
It almost got even worse for Millwall later in the half, as Ashley Barnes’ effort deflected just wide of the bottom corner, with the resulting corner producing a good punch away by Sarkic, who prevented any further danger to what was already an embarrassing scoreline.
As the game entered added time at the end of the second half, Millwall did grab a consolation through substitute Aidomo Emakhu, who curled home beautifully past Angus Gunn to leave Norwich still searching for their first clean sheet in the league this season. However, it would only slightly dampen what was an excellent afternoon for David Wagner’s side as the game reached its conclusion.
Norwich City travel to Neil Warnock’s Huddersfield Town next Saturday, while Gary Rowett’s men return to The Den where they’ll host Stoke City. Both games kick off at 3pm.