Norwich City 1-2 Sheffield United: Blades score huge win as Chris Basham survives a scare

First we had poor time-keeping.

Sunday, 8th December 2019, 6:33 pm
Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder (centre) and Norwich City manager Daniel Farke (left) on the touchline during the Premier League match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Joe Giddens/PA Wire.

Then, after Chris Wilder’s wild celebrations following a win here angered Norwich City’s supporters, Sheffield United’s decision to redecorate Carrow Road’s away dressing room because they objected to its bright pink paint job.

Now we can add another controversial episode to the list of incidents which has helped fuel one of football’s most surprising rivalries. The red card that never was. Or, as City manager Daniel Farke preferred to call it, the VAR “disaster”. That was his take on the sight of visiting defender Chris Basham being sent-off and then ushered back onto the pitch following a review by Stockley Park.

“What I have learnt this season, is that every VAR overruled decision seems to go against us,” Farke sighed, when asked about Basham’s tackle on Kenny McLean. “It has been a disaster for us, and I don’t know why. If it was not a red card, then we have to accept this. But my feeling was, on the touchline, that it was not a 100 per cent clear and obvious mistake. So why was it overturned? I have stopped complaining about this. Because I do not expected any VAR decision to go in our favour through the season.”

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Despite leading after goals from Enda Stevens and Geiorge Baldock had cancelled-out Alex Tettey’s opener for the hosts, Wilder acknowledged Basham’s reprieve had spared his team the prospect of a nervous and potentially damaging 15 minutes at the end of the game. With both these clubs gaining promotion from the Championship last season, Wilder had acknowledged this fixture’s significance beforehand. It was a point, after watching eighth placed United put further daylight between themselves and the Premier League relegation zone, he repeated afterwards.

“That was a tough game for us,” Wilder said. “As tough as Chelsea, Spurs or anything like that. It was a dangerous game and I always knew it would be dangerous because of the familiarity of the two teams. Maybe, to begin with, my lads didn’t take that on board.”

United’s comeback came following a subdued first-half performance, which ended with them trailing at the break. Tettey’s finish was excellent - a clinical, low finish past Dean Henderson - but United will have been disappointed with their failure to clear from a set-piece.

“They were better than us first-half,” Wilder said. “We went backwards and square. We didn’t do the fundamentals. Then, second-half, we were Sheffield United.”

As Wilder then reminded, the real United, the one which remains unbeaten away from home in the top-flight this season, emerged after the interval. Stevens headed George Baldock’s cross before the Irishman’s fellow wing-back produced a moment of brilliance; tying Mario Vrancic in knots before firing beyond Tim Kruhl. City, who remain 19th, appeared to have been handed a lifeline when referee Simon Hooper dismissed Basham for a foul on Kenny McLean. But when the decision was reviewed by officials at Stockley Park, the centre-half was shown a yellow instead.

“We tried everything after that,” Farke admitted. “But it was a shock for my young team, and we are hugely disappointed.”

Norwich City: Kruhl, Aarons, Byram (Lewis 72), Godfrey, Zimmermann, Vrancic (Srbeny 80), Hernandez (Cantwell 72), Buendia, Pukki, McLean, Tettey. Not used: Fahrmann, Stiepermann, Trybull, Amadou.

Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Stevens, Baldock, Norwood (Besic 66), Fleck, Lundstram, Mousset (Robinson 66), McGoldrick (McBurnie 83). Not used: Moore, L Freeman, Sharp, Jagielka.

Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 26,881.