Norwich manager Daniel Farke said he “expected there would be difficult times” in the Premier League as his injury-hit side were beaten by Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
Palace captain Luka Milivojevic scored a first-half penalty on his 100th appearance for the club before Andros Townsend sealed the win for Roy Hodgson’s side.
Serbia international Milivojevic struck confidently into the top corner after 21 minutes after Norwich defender Ibrahim Amadou fouled James McArthur.
Substitute Townsend then finished neatly in the bottom corner in second-half injury time as the Eagles equalled their Premier League record of six unbeaten home matches.
In for injured first-choice Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul, Schalke loanee Ralf Fahrmann was himself replaced by fellow debutant Michael McGovern following Milivojevic’s penalty, while defender Jamal Lewis suffered a possible broken arm as the promoted side’s injury problems continued to mount.
“We expected that there would be difficult times. Right now, especially because of the injury situation, we have a difficult period. We must stick to our guns to improve this,” said Farke.
“At this level, as a newly promoted side and with so many players injured it’s difficult to dominate a game. You have to help yourself when you’re on the front foot.
“Each and every game is important. Of course our biggest concern is the injury situation. It is a difficult situation but we must work on the small details. The only way is hard work.”
In a lively encounter, the hosts almost led after two minutes but Zaha’s curling shot narrowly missed the target, while Jordan Ayew forced Fahrmann into action.
The visitors ended the first half in the ascendancy, with Emiliano Buendia drawing a fine save from Vicente Guaita. But they struggled to impose themselves after the interval as they fell to a fourth defeat in five matches.
Palace’s unbeaten top-flight home run stretches back to April, when they lost to eventual champions Manchester City.
Their home record would have been even better if Wolves had not scored a 95th-minute equaliser last weekend, but the reasons for their nonetheless impressive home run were evident once more in this astute victory.
Although Palace had scored the joint-fewest Premier League goals this season prior to kick-off, their steely, regimented defence has conceded just once in four home games.
Martin Kelly came in for the injured Mamadou Sakho, and his excellent sliding block to deny Todd Cantwell at a crucial stage of the match – as Norwich began to dictate the play – epitomised the defensive platform from which Hodgson’s side are able to go and win matches.
Zaha, oozing confidence, may have scored just once in his past 19 home league games, but he played a notable part in this win, which takes Palace up three places to ninth in the table.
The Ivory Coast international cut inside and found McArthur before the foul that rewarded Palace for their early dominance with a spot-kick. The tricky winger later wriggled free of his marker to set up Townsend in the closing stages as the substitute calmed the home fans’ nerves following last week’s late sucker-punch.
Questions undoubtedly remain over Palace’s profligacy, as McArthur, Patrick van Aanholt and Zaha all blazed over the bar when it good positions during the second half. McArthur and Milivojevic join Ayew and van Aanholt as their side’s only league scorers this term – but, with their sturdy defence, the Eagles will fancy their chances against anyone at Selhurst this season.
“When you see the five minutes go up on the board it was a bit of a deja vu situation. Norwich are a good team with good, quality players and they came back into in the first half which made our one goal lead look fragile,” said Hodgson.
“The second goal was coming but we couldn’t produce the last pass or last shot and it was nice when it eventually came.”
On captain Milivojevic, he added: “He’s enormously valuable, that’s why he’s captain of the team. He’s been a massive influence on and off the field, particularly on the field, with the way he plays and his understanding of the game.”
Injury-struck Canaries stutter
Life had not become any easier for Daniel Farke following his side’s 2-0 defeat at Burnley last weekend, as first-choice goalkeeper Krul and captain Alexander Tettey joined Norwich’s already lengthy injury list this week.
Unable to rediscover the level of performance that saw them stun Manchester City two weeks ago, the Canaries struggled with the challenge posed by a trip to Turf Moor and it was a similar story at Selhurst Park.
Second best for much of the opening half hour, Farke’s visitors closed out the first half with a breathless spell that at its peak saw Buendia force Guaita into a fine save.
The increasing influence of attacking trio Buendia, Cantwell and Marco Stiepermann temporarily flipped the momentum – but the visitors were ultimately unable to capitalise.
In sharp contrast to the hosts’ solidity, last season’s Championship winners have conceded at least twice in six of their opening seven fixtures and can ill afford to be so wasteful.
Teemu Pukki, kept quiet by Palace pair Kelly and Gary Cahill, has won his side five points with his goals this season but cannot be expected to deliver in every game as sides begin to pay the Finnish striker special attention following his electric start in the top-flight.
While Farke did not want to blame Norwich’s “unlucky” injury situation, he will be keen to have bodies back for the arrival of fellow promoted side Aston Villa next Saturday.
Man of the match – Wilfried Zaha
No luck in London for Canaries – the stats
- Crystal Palace’s six-game unbeaten Premier League home run is their longest at Selhurst Park since 1993.
- The Eagles have kept more home clean sheets than any other Premier League side this season.
- Luka Milivojevic’s goal was his 25th in the Premier League, with 20 of those coming from the penalty spot.
- Of all Premier League players to have scored 25 or more goals, Milivojevic’s ratio of 80% from the penalty spot is the highest.
- Norwich are winless in 20 away Premier League games in London, the longest run in the competition since Leicester between November 2000-March 2015.
- The Canaries have scored just once away from home from 13 shots on target in the Premier League this season. At home, they have scored eight from 16 shots on target.
- Norwich gave Premier League debuts to two goalkeepers in this game – only the second time in Premier League history that has happened.
Norwich host Aston Villa on Saturday (15:00 BST), while Crystal Palace travel to West Ham later that day (17:30 BST).