Norwich City produced a magnificent all-round display yesterday to inflict Manchester City’s first Premier League defeat since January at an ecstatic Carrow Road.
The Canaries were missing eight players but made light of those injuries and took full advantage of a performance from the reigning champions that was careless in the extreme and characterised by chaotic defending.
Norwich were 2-0 ahead within 30 minutes after Kenny McLean rose unmarked to meet Emiliano Buendia’s corner and then Todd Cantwell finished a flowing move involving Marco Stiepermann and Teemu Pukki.
Sergio Aguero’s header just before the break hinted at a Manchester City comeback but a misunderstanding between John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi saw Buendia rob the Argentina centre-back and set up Pukki to score.
Rodri scored his first goal for Manchester City with two minutes left before referee Kevin Friend’s final whistle was the cue for wild celebrations for the home side.
The rare defeat, meanwhile, leaves Pep Guardiola’s side five points behind Liverpool.
It was inevitable City would miss the class and composure of Aymeric Laporte – set to be out for six months with a knee injury – but this display suggests the gap he leaves is even bigger than Manchester City may have feared.
Guardiola has lost quality and influence with Laporte’s injury, as well as Vincent Kompany’s departure, and his nightmare scenario unfolded at Carrow Road.
Stones and Otamendi had a harrowing time and City’s manager will know he must now rely on the pair at least until January.
Guardiola himself should not escape criticism for the defeat though after he left Kevin de Bruyne out of his starting team then delayed his arrival until after Norwich had re-established their two-goal lead. They were mystifying decisions and a heavy price was paid.
It would be ludicrous to start writing off the title hopes of a team so rich in quality but that five-point gap to Liverpool looks large when you consider Jurgen Klopp’s team only lost once in the league last season, to City, and have won their opening five games this term.