Lewis Grabban came back to haunt his former club as Sunderland came away from Norwich with three points from an excellent 3-1 win. The on-loan Bournemouth striker scored twice either side of a superb effort from Aiden McGeady to help the visitors to their first Championship success of the season.
Grabban also scored a late own goal to provide some consolation for Norwich, who deserved better, but it was Simon Grayson’s side who ended up with a win to go with their opening-day draw.
Afterwards Grayson was determined to keep his feet on the ground. “It’s a great win and it has been a strong-ish start for us, but that’s all it is, a good start, and no-one is getting carried away.
“What has happened here is in the past – it’s all about what happens in the future now and what I will say is that I have got a good, hard-working group here – it’s a working class city and that’s what the people demand.”
Norwich made a bright start in their first home league match under Daniel Farke, with James Maddison winning an early free-kick on the edge of the box and seeing his curling effort deflected wide for a corner. The Canaries’ possession-based game was keeping the visitors pinned back in their own half for long periods, but goalkeeper Jason Steele was not exactly overworked, and it was not until the 20th minute that he had to make his first save. He comfortably gathered a low drive from Russell Martin after a typically slick move from the hosts but seven minutes later the home fans were silenced as Sunderland took the lead against the run of play.
A routine high ball forward was flicked on by James Vaughan and Grabban shrugged off the attentions of Christoph Zimmermann before calmly slotting the ball past Angus Gunn. It was rough justice for Norwich, and they nearly went two down five minutes before the break when George Honeyman found himself free in the area after poor marking from a free-kick, only to shoot weakly straight at Gunn.Advertisement Norwich soon began building up a head of steam again after the interval, and Martin nearly restored parity on 56 minutes after Maddison’s corner had been headed on. But it was Sunderland who scored next, making it 2-0 with a real beauty from McGeady. The Irishman was lurking on the edge of the box when a corner was only half cleared and, after being picked out by Lee Cattermole, he fired in a superb first-time effort with his left boot to give Gunn no chance.
Farke brought on Nélson Oliveira in an attempt to get back into the game, having left the striker out for his squad in midweek following an angry goal celebration at Fulham the previous weekend. But it would not faze the visitors, who made it three on 71 minutes when McGeady beat his man on the left before whipping in a gorgeous cross to the back post which was headed in from close range by Grabban.
Norwich looked dead and buried but pulled one back six minutes later. A deep free-kick was headed back into the danger area and Grabban managed to hit the target at the wrong end when trying to hook the ball clear in the six-yard box. It was suddenly game on and Martin saw a fierce drive come back off an upright before Marley Watkins had a goalbound effort blocked.
Grayson said: “This is a tough place to come to and we knew they would be putting us under pressure in their first home game of the season, but I thought the lads stuck to the game plan really well.
“Obviously when you defend well and then take your chances really well to go 3-0 up, you have got to be absolutely delighted. We were disciplined and well organised, sitting back and letting them have the ball in certain areas and then moving in when we had to.
“I was also really pleased with the finishing. Lewis is always going to cause sides problems and at this level, while Aiden is probably the most talented player I have ever worked with and is looking good value at only £250,000.”
Farke was disappointed with the result, but not the performance of his side. “I thought it was a really good performance; we had 75 per cent of possession in the first half, just over 70 in the second, it was 13-1 in corners and we had a lot more chances than them.
“But in this game it doesn’t matter about your philosophy or your performance, it is about the results and it is down to the small things that we lost this game. For the goals, we defended sloppily and that cost us. For the first goal we failed to deal with their goal-kick and for the third we should have stopped the cross coming in.
“It is very frustrating but the fact that we dominated a game against a side who have only just come down from the Premier League is a good sign. They were well organised and sat deep and it’s not easy to score goals against a team like that. This just showed that you can always lose a game when you are not awake defensively for the full 90 minutes.”