- in Technology
Sheffield United came from behind to earn their first win in five Premier League games and leave Norwich City still four points adrift of safety.
George Baldock provided the cross for Enda Stevens’ equaliser and then turned to fire in what proved to be the winner in a vastly improved second-half performance from the Blades.
In doing so, the visitors maintained their record of going unbeaten away from home in the top flight this season, a feat matched only by league leaders Liverpool.
As United moved eighth, two points behind fifth-placed Manchester United, Norwich, in 19th, missed the chance to close the gap on Aston Villa and Southampton, who were both beaten.
They deservedly led at the break after Alexander Tettey capitalised on confusion in the United box to lace in a skimming shot.
But the Canaries’ defence buckled in the face of Blades pressure and paid the price for being both timid and static.
They might have seen a way back into the game when Chris Basham was shown a straight red card for a lunging challenge on Kenny McLean, only for VAR to downgrade the dismissal to a yellow for the first time in the Premier League.
Blades’ week of VAR
A bizarre second goal in United’s 2-0 home defeat by Newcastle on Thursday led Blades manager Chris Wilder to say that football was “sucking the life” from him.
Whether or not today’s events have changed his opinion, there is no doubt that the visitors’ final 16 minutes would have been much more uncomfortable had the red card been allowed to stand.
On first look, Basham’s connection with McLean seemed reckless, but the United player lingered on the touchline as the decision was checked and reversed.
A week on from a 2-2 draw at home to Arsenal punctuated by VAR checks, the Carrow Road crowd sang that the technology has made the game “not football any more”.
In fairness, it did appear that the replays had ensured the correct decision was made.
Blades back on track
For all their deserved plaudits and impressive results so far this season, United arrived in East Anglia on the back of three draws and that poor defeat by Newcastle.
In the first half, it looked like that run would continue as Norwich made most of the running and Lys Mousset cut an isolated figure in the Blades attack.
Whatever was said at half-time produced an instant improvement from Wilder’s men, led by the enterprising wing-backs on whom much of their success has been built.
Baldock’s deep cross from the right was met by Stevens, who overpowered Max Aarons to bullet a header past Tim Krul.
Three minutes later, the turnaround was complete when the excellent Baldock won the ball in the 18-yard box and smartly pivoted to unleash a handsome finish across Krul.
Though United rarely looked like surrendering the lead, they were still indebted to goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who denied substitute Todd Cantwell with a fine save low to his left.
Contrasting fortunes for promoted sides
Norwich were promoted ahead of Sheffield United as last season’s Championship winners, but are finding life in the top tier much more of a struggle.
They have improved of late, a struggle in front of goal ended with a win at Everton and that draw with Arsenal.
And they looked sharp in the first period, a front four led by the running of striker Teemu Pukki causing problems for the tight Blades defence.
When the visitors failed to clear a corner, Tettey lashed in a finish from around 12 yards out to give Norwich due reward for their first-half endeavour.
However, wile their cutting edge has returned, the Canaries’ defence has remained leaky and they have now conceded at least two in six of their past seven league games.
Aarons was bullied by Stevens for the first goal and Baldock was given too much time to steal, turn on and hit the ball for the second.
From there – bar the momentary confusion over the red card – the result seemed in little doubt and could have been more emphatic had David McGoldrick not wasted two late chances.
Man of the match – George Baldock
‘The swear kitty is into the 100s’ – what they said
Norwich City manager Daniel Farke told BBC Sport: “I can’t complain about the attitude, but if you make mistakes you are punished at this level. It is always a concern to lose a game and to concede goals. Today we were not good enough.
“We will be down after this hard knock. It was a big game for us. It’s important to feel this disappointment and then we will have to go again.”
On VAR: “Its not my topic today. We lost and we are self-critical. All the VAR decisions against us we can’t do anything about. I was not sure it was a clear and obvious mistake, but I am more concerned about the mistakes we made today.”
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder told BBC Sport: “They needed a bit of a stir at half-time – maybe we were feeling sorry for ourselves after losing on Thursday night. They looked leggy in the first half but I think we deserved to win the game.”
On what was said at half-time: “If there’s a swear kitty I think it’s into the 100s quite easily. I know my players. They listened. We were too safe in the first half and allowed Norwich to dictate. We were more like Sheffield United in the second half.”
On VAR: “My point on Thursday was not about the decision, but the amount of decisions. Today we have 29,000 singing the same song and its at the forefront of everything. There are some really good referees who have earned the right to referee in the Premier League and make those decisions. I’m not sure if the percentages that we’re looking for in improvement are offset by the controversy that’s being stirred up.”
Happy Blades travels – the stats
- Sheffield United are still unbeaten away from home this season (W2 D6), their longest run without defeat from the start of a top-flight season since 1899-1900 (10 games).
- Sheffield United are the first promoted side to remain unbeaten in their opening eight away Premier League games since Blackburn Rovers in the 1992-93 campaign.
- Only Southampton (23) have conceded more home goals than Norwich in the Premier League this season (20), with the Canaries conceding at least twice in each of their last seven at Carrow Road.
- Norwich lost a Premier League game from ahead for the first time this season, while this was Sheffield United’s first comeback win of the campaign.
- Sheffield United’s George Baldock has been involved in five Premier League goals this season (2 goals, 3 assists). Among defenders in the competition, only Liverpool full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold (7) and Andrew Robertson (6) have been involved in more.
- Norwich’s Alexander Tettey scored his first Premier League goal in 1463 days, since netting against Southampton in January 2016.
- Sheffield United forward David McGoldrick has had more shots without scoring than any other Premier League player this season (28), with the Irishman having a further three unsuccessful attempts in this match.
Norwich travel to in-form Leicester City next Saturday (15:00 GMT). At the same time, Sheffield United host Aston Villa.