Goals: Zohore (86′), Hoilett (90+4)
Cardiff City struck late to secure their first win at Carrow Road since 2007 on what could be a defining afternoon in their season.
The Blubirds looked to be heading towards another slip-up at Carrow Road before Kenneth Zohore and Junior Hoilett struck late on.
Zohore was a second-half substitute but he made all the difference for Neil Warnock’s men on a tough afternoon in Norwich, with Junior Hoilett rubber-stamping the win seconds before the final whistle.
The win puts Cardiff two points ahead of Fulham, who play this evening against Brentford but after that fixture, the Bluebirds will have a game in-hand.
Cardiff started brightly in the sunshine at Carrow Road and they managed to win a corner within the opening 30 seconds but they couldn’t make it count.
The first opportunity went Norwich’s way and it arrived after positive work from Josh Murphy out wide before he found starlet James Maddison. The attacking midfielder turned and unleashed a shot goalwards but it was a comfortable save for Neil Etheridge.
Cardiff then come close with Mendez-Laing creating a fine chance with a whipped ball across the box and Harrison Reed saved the day, tipping the ball past the onrushing Junior Hoilett.
Norwich responded well and they were desperately unlucky not to take the lead when a quickly taken corner created an opportunity for Dennis Srbeny, whose effort hit the post and stayed out.
Cardiff were dealt a blow on the 34th minute when Sol Bamba had to be replaced Bruno Ecuele-Manga due to an injury and while it had no baring on the first-half, it could yet impact the rest of the Bluebirds’ season if it turns out to be serious.
Manga did make a mistake in added time at the end of the first-half but he got away with one when the ball ricocheted out of play. A let off and it meant the two teams went in at the break goalless.
Neil Warnock made his second change at the break with Callum Paterson coming on for Loic Damour, who had been booked in the first half.
However, it was Norwich who started the better of the two teams after the restart with Junior Hoilett lucky not to concede a penalty after a risky challenge.
It was relatively even in the opening exchanges of the second half but Norwich looked slightly more dominant with James Maddison again impressing, controlling play for the home side.
Josh Murphy was another of the influential players and he forced Neil Etheridge into a save with just over 15 minutes remaining.
But it summed up the afternoon for Norwich, who had plenty of the ball but they couldn’t create any real opportunities. Neil Etheridge should have been a lot busier given the time Norwich spent in the Cardiff half during the second half.
Cardiff did have their chances, though, and substitute Kenneth Zohore came close after a Junior Hoilett cross, but he could only find the side-netting.
And then came the turning point as that missed chance turned out to be just a sighter for Zohore. The striker kept the ball in on the byline, before firing one goalwards from the angle to catch out goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
And the elation didn’t end there for the travelling fans who witnessed a stunning second goal when Junior Hoilett found the top corner from the edge of the box.
A fine way to end the tie with referee Tim Robinson blowing his whistle seconds after the second goal, handing Cardiff City a potentially season-defining win.
Man of the Match – Nathaniel Mendez-Laing
Few men in blue stood out on an uneasy afternoon for the Bluebirds but Nathaniel Mendez-Laing seems to have rediscovered his confidence and it could be crucial between now and the end of the season.
Mendez-Laing gave the Bluebirds an outlet with his pace out wide and supporters will be pleased to see him back on his toes.
Junior Hoilett put a shift in and his hard work defensively meant he more than deserved his fine goal late on. He needed the confidence boost, too, given his recent dip in form.
Gary Madine disappointed up top and Callum Paterson didn’t really make an impact after coming on at the break. Kenneth Zohore is clearly the man to lead the Bluebirds’ promotion push and he proved that this afternoon.
They talk about defining results in a season and this one for Cardiff City on a ground that they seldom leave with any points.
The Bluebirds came into this one on the lowest of lows after those two crushing defeats but they stood up to all the Norwich pressure and found a way through.
A bit of individual class from Kenneth Zohore turned the game late on and Hoilett made sure on an afternoon which saw him work his socks off – he’ll be glad there’s no game on Tuesday.
This is a monumental win for Cardiff City, make no mistake about it, and it means the pressure is back on Fulham when the Londoners may have expected the Bluebirds to slip-up this afternoon.