Bottom club Norwich City kept alive their slim hopes of avoiding a quick-fire return to the Championship and dealt a blow to fellow strugglers Burnley with a crucial win at Carrow Road.
Pierre Lees-Melou’s first goal since signing from Nice for £3.5m last July and Teemu Pukki’s 86th-minute finish settled a tense relegation scrap – and earned the Canaries only their fifth Premier League victory since winning promotion last season.
French midfielder Lees-Melou’s ninth-minute deflected shot, which went in off the post, put the hosts on their way before Pukki drilled home the second to give Norwich a glimmer of hope of staying up, with Dean Smith’s side now seven points from safety with seven matches left.
Burnley had their moments, with Maxwel Cornet, the match-winning hero against Everton in midweek, missing a glorious chance from three yards out.
In what was a must-win game, Norwich’s defence came under relentless pressure at times but recorded back-to-back clean sheets in the league for the first time since October.
The result leaves the Clarets 18th in the table, four points from safety with eight matches remaining.
With struggling Everton beating Manchester United on Saturday, Norwich started Sunday’s game 10 points from safety with eight matches left.
But Smith’s side passed the pressure test in style with the first win in nine league games.
It will still require a monumental effort for them to survive. Three of their final seven matches include teams challenging for Europe – West Ham (home), Tottenham (home) and Manchester United (away).
Smith said before the match he still had belief, and his players responded with a thoroughly professional performance against a team with renewed belief following their win over Everton.
Even before Lees-Melou’s goal, Milot Rashica forced Nick Pope into a diving save, while the Burnley keeper denied Pukki by saving with his legs.
Just as impressive for Smith was his side’s performance at the back.
Norwich made several vital blocks to frustrate Burnley, including one by former Clarets defender Ben Gibson to keep out Ashley Westwood’s volley.
In the closing stages, Norwich’s Grant Hanley headed against the bar while Pope denied Rashica before Pukki had home fans celebrating a rare win.
Cornet will have nightmares about his 65th-minute miss, just days after he left the pitch at Turf Moor with fans singing his name following his late winner against Everton on Wednesday.
He looked certain to equalise as he slid to meet Dwight McNeil’s lovely pass, but somehow put it wide as Burnley failed to score for the 15th time in the league this season.
Earlier, Cornet was denied by Tim Krul, but the Norwich keeper was not tested nearly enough in what was a high-stakes game.
Sean Dyche will still believe his side can climb out of trouble in the closing weeks, and they still have to meet fellow strugglers Watford on 30 April. But Burnley’s survival hopes to fade with each game without a win.
Substitute Matej Vydra headed against the bar in the closing moments before Josh Brownhill was frustrated by Krul, but the damage was already done.
source – BBC