Captain Bruno Manga scored Cardiff City’s first goal of the season – and lifted the hearts of Bluebirds fans around the stadium.
It was a beautifully worked set piece goal with Bobby Decordova-Reid providing the delivery.
Manager Neil Warnock had made three substitutions and Reid took responsibility to take a corner, picking out Manga’s run. The Gabon international headed into the top left hand corner from the centre of the penalty area.
City City crashed out of the Carabao Cup 3-1 and they won’t remember this second round tie with too much affection, but Warnock’s warriors will be lifted but their first goal of the season.
That came after 77 minutes and City almost added a second when Reid’s free-kick flicked off a defender’s shoulder and hit the outside of a post with goalkeeper Michael McGovern wrong-footed by the deflection.
There were good moments from Gary Madine, Danny Ward showed promise and Kenneth Zohore showed a good work ethic when he was sent on to lead the line.
That centre-forward slot is up for grabs with Cardiff still looking for their first Premier League goal and the impressive Ward may have edged ahead of his rivals when it comes to this weekend’s home clash with Arsenal.
McGovern was almost beaten when Ward and Zohore and a flick by Ward was close to going in.
It was a disappointing cup exit for Cardiff, but the players showed plenty of character and spirit in front of almost 7,000 spectators.
This wasn’t a disastrous team performance by Cardiff and no individuals really had a nightmare, but it was far from the levels of quality needed.
To be fair, manager Neil Warnock made a lot of changes to his line-up and tried out tactics and combinations which didn’t really work out.
Goalkeeper Alex Smithies and defender Greg Cunningham both made their City debuts, while development team players Ciaron Brown and Cameron Coxe were among the substitutes.
German striker Dennis Srbeny fired Norwich ahead after 26 minutes, firing home right-footed from the left-hand side of the penalty area into the top corner.
It was a German combination which led to a second Norwich goal when Marco Stiepermann created a chance and Srbeny headed his second goal of the match.
The impressive Maximillian Aarons added a third for the Canaries after 69 minutes, firing into the bottom right corner after good work by Emilio Buendia.
Manga’s goal gave the Bluebirds hope on a night when the players worked hard, but could not find the team rhythm and cohesive team structure needed.
Decordova-Reid was clearly fired up to make an impression, but little went right for a young man I believe is going to be a hit over the season.
He had a mixed night overall, but showed flashes of real quality.
The young man has that X-factor if Warnock, a genius at getting the best out of players, can find a way of making the former Bristol City man more consistent.
The Bluebirds had a right go in the last 20 minutes, but it proved too little too late.
The big question is which of these players will Warnock be considering when it comes to the clash with Arsenal.
Reid, certainly, has the talent, while Ward improved the Bluebirds’ performance when he went on from the bench.
Madine can reflect with satisfaction on his input and Zohore will be hoping he is given the nod to start against the Gunners.
My vote would be for Ward to lead the line against Arsenal. He’s not the biggest striker, but he’s lively and showed again he has the ability to put defences under pressure.