Belfast Telegraph

Norwich hit the Premier League jackpot after Wembley heroics

Norwich 2-0 Middlesbrough

By Nick Mashiter

Norwich claimed an instant return to the Barclays Premier League as a lightning start helped them record a 2-0 Sky Bet Championship play-off final victory against Middlesbrough at Wembley.

Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond put Norwich 2-0 up inside 15 minutes as the Canaries returned to the top flight a year after suffering relegation, banking a £120m windfall in the process.

It was also 12 months to the day since Canaries boss Alex Neil, who replaced Neil Adams in January, took Hamilton to the Scottish Premier League and the manager, largely unknown south of the border before joining the Canaries, has written his name into Norwich folklore.

Norwich were outside the top six when Neil took over but he guided them to third before a stunning Wembley win.

Jelle Vossen hit the bar for Boro and Daniel Ayala twice went close but they never recovered from Norwich's quick-fire double.

Neil said: "I believed we would do it, but it's one thing believing it and another thing doing it.

"Big players arrive on the big stage and you saw that in the first 20 minutes - we were unbelievable.

"We worked so hard to get here. The worst thing you can do is walk off having been scared."

Norwich skipper Russell Martin said: "It's emotional after being relegated last year, which was so hard to take.

"Middlesbrough have been brilliant all season, but we came here and put in our most accomplished performance of the season.

"We knew we had big-game players, people who've been there and done it, and it paid off."

Norwich defender Steven Whittaker added: "The fans have been great. We're going to enjoy tonight.

"We knew we had to get off to a great start. The boys worked their socks off and we deserved it.

"Nothing is easy in this game and we worked hard to achieve it. We knew we had the squad. We were unlucky not to go up automatically. We put it right."

Jerome, scorer of Norwich's first goal, commented: "I caught the defender in possession and got in the box.

"I was looking for a cut back but the defender cut off the angle, so I went for the near post and I was lucky to squeeze it in.

"I'm glad to get on the scoresheet, but more importantly we got over the line."

Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka put on a brave face after the full-time whistle and is already planning for next campaign. He said: "It's difficult because this team have done everything to get promotion. They played better, they didn't make mistakes, we made two mistakes, and in a final you pay for those mistakes.

"But we have to be proud of the players and crowd. It's amazing to be here. It's not our moment now.

"It's a big step forward this season and we have to keep going the same way because this club, this crowd and this city deserve to be in the Premier League.

"I will start tomorrow to prepare for next season."

Jerome broke the deadlock when he cashed in on Ayala's mistake in the 12th minute.

The striker robbed the former Norwich defender on the left-hand side of the box and raced towards Dimi Konstantopoulos.

With no Boro challenge coming the forward then had the simplest of chances to roll the ball between the goalkeeper and the near post.

And three minutes later, the Canaries doubled their lead with a superb 17-pass move which Redmond lashed home.

Martin Olsson started the move, intercepting the ball, and it ended when Whittaker found Redmond and his touch gave him space to drill across goal and into the bottom corner of the net from 12 yards.

Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos, Whitehead (Nsue 46), Ayala, Gibson,

Friend, Clayton, Leadbitter, Adomah, Vossen (Garcia 68), Tomlin, Bamford. Subs Not Used: Ripley, Reach, Amorebieta, Forshaw, Woodgate.

Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond (O'Neil 87), Howson, Tettey, Johnson, Hoolahan (Dorrans 75), Jerome (Grabban 74).

Subs Not Used: Hooper, Elliott Bennett, Ryan Bennett, Rudd.

Goals: Jerome 12,Redmond 15.

Attendance: 85,656

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral).

Belfast Telegraph


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