Sheffield United-Norwich City Preview
After finally looking like a promoted side in a disappointing loss, Sheffield United look to bounce back and further their unbeaten road record Sunday at Carrow Road versus fellow new boys Norwich City - who have played the part all too well given their current bottom-two status.
The Blades (4-7-4) were second-best most of Thursday's 2-0 home loss to Newcastle United, but gaffer Chris Wilder also had a rightful point of contention after a botched offsides call by a linesman resulted in Newcastle's Jonjo Shelvey being able to attack unimpeded and beat Dean Henderson in the 70th minute.
VAR confirmed Shelvey was onsides, and the goal essentially killed off the match as Sheffield United went from having a seven-match unbeaten streak to now being winless in four (0-3-1).
"The position I play, it's going to come up a lot. When you see a flag go up, your natural instinct is to stop," centre-back John Egan explained to The Star about the disputed goal. "The boy who went through (Shelvey), he did it as well. Then there were times when the flag went up and he (referee Stuart Attwell) blew straight away.
"So it's confusing, And it's frustrating. I don't think there's genuine confusion. I know there's genuine confusion."
Egan added the frustration was more intense given Sheffield had a goal chalked off by VAR in their 1-1 draw versus Tottenham Hotspur on Nov. 9, saying the system "definitely needs to be looked at and become more consistent."
Despite the decisions going against them, the Blades still have been a formidable package outside Bramall Lane. They have claimed nine points from their seven road matches with a victory and six draws and have split the points in their last four such contests.
While Norwich City (3-2-10) were the better side last term as they and Sheffield United earned direct promotion from the Championship, life in the top flight has not been as kind to the Canaries. Daniel Farke's side have been ravaged by injuries, and Norwich have taken just five points from their last 10 league matches (1-2-7) since their famous 3-2 upset of two-time champions Manchester City.
The Canaries were on the wrong end of a six-point belter Wednesday at St Mary's, losing 2-1 to Southampton after being unable to overcome a pair of first-half goals. Teemu Pukki raised hopes of nicking a point with a goal in the 65th minute, but an equaliser was not found as Farke lamented his team's play in the first 45 minutes.
"To be 2-0 down at half-time is really difficult, especially for a newly promoted side," Farke told The Times. "We are not Liverpool or Man City. They can have a slow start but we are a newly promoted side and we need to be on top of our game. We were in the second half but not in the first. Overall my feeling is that the performance deserved a point."
The other silver lining was Pukki scoring for the second straight match after going eight without a marker. The Finland international has eight of Norwich City's 16 league goals, and six of them have come at home.
Despite being separated by just over 200 kilometres, there is a bit of a rivalry between the clubs. It is not surprising given the team's simultaneous rise to the top flight, but what was surprising was Wilder admitting he bears most of the responsibility for the antagonism between the teams.
"It has developed because I lost my rag," Wilder said, recalling Norwich City's 1-0 win at Bramall Lane in September 2017. "I'd woken up in a bad mood because we didn't have any forwards on the morning of the game and, when their bus driver didn't get to the ground on time, it just escalated from there.
"So basically the whole thing was set up by me being a grumpy old git. I'd been sent off in the game as well, for booting a ball down the touchline and the referee thought I'd taken a load of water bottles out. I actually reckoned it was a pretty good pass and, when I got told to go, one of their coaches smiled at me and pointed upstairs."
Wilder did add he and Farke do have a good working relationship when the clubs are not playing each other and lauded Farke for his work last term in leading Norwich City to the Chamionship, saying the Canaries were "by far and away the best team."
Pukki proved troublesome to contain in last season's corresponding fixture, setting up one goal and scoring the other in a 2-2 draw salvaged by Sheffield United when Billy Sharp capped his brace in the 79th minute.
Updated December 6, 2019