Norwich head coach David Wagner singled out Kenny McLean for praise after watching his side continue their Championship play-off bid with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Sunderland at Carrow Road.

Josh Sargent’s late goal earned the Canaries a narrow win and while Wagner was delighted with the American’s display, he felt it was McLean’s contribution that should be highlighted.

He said: “When Kenny woke up on Thursday he was struggling to walk and he was not able to train on Thursday or Friday.

“He had stiffness in the back and full credit to him and our medical staff that he was able to play. He is a top, top professional who does everything he can to be successful, a proper Scottish braveheart!

“Josh also turned in top performance, not just with the goal but the way he linked play and worked hard to close them down.”

Wagner added: “We were up against a good, well-organised team and had to work hard to break them down.

“But I thought it was a deserved win, we created a lot of good chances and also defended really well, restricting them to very few box entries. I was very pleased with the performance and now we have to keep it going.”

The game was settled by an 81st-minute goal from Sargent, who scored for the seventh successive home game and took his tally to 11 in an injury-hit campaign overall.

The USA international shrugged off the attentions of two Sunderland defenders when a Ben Gibson cross came over and when they ball bounced kindly for him swivelled and fired home from close range.

It was a deserved goal for the Canaries who had carved out the better chances.

Visiting substitute Abdoullah Ba hit the woodwork just before the Norwich winner but the hosts were on the front foot for most of the game and goalkeeper Anthony Patterson made a number of good saves to keep them out until nine minutes from time.

The defeat left Sunderland nine points adrift of the top six but interim head coach Mike Dodds isn’t giving up on the play-offs just yet.

He said: “I look back to this time last season when I think we were in a very similar position to where we find ourselves now.

“Then we went on an unbelievable run to take it to the final game of the season and there’s no reason why we can’t do that again.

“I look at the players and I don’t see a group that are giving up on it. They are a group who are really close to turning it around and sooner or later I believe the tide will turn.

“We have now got two matches coming up against two of the best teams in the league and we are really looking forward to it.”

As for the game itself, he added: “Norwich are a really good side, especially at home, and I thought for long spells we nullified their threat, even though we have to do better with their goal.

“Going forward we got into some good positions but we have a lot better quality in the final third than we showed.

“I have got faith in the players but when we got in their area we were a bit tense and erratic.”

Josh Sargent scored for the seventh successive home game as Norwich maintained their Championship play-off challenge with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Sunderland.

The USA international struck in the 81st minute as the Canaries finally found a way past a stubborn visiting defence to make it five victories on the trot at Carrow Road.

While Norwich can look forward to an exciting end the campaign, it looks like being a different story for the visitors, with a fourth consecutive defeat leaving them nine points adrift of the top six.

After a cagey start Norwich went close to taking the lead on 15 minutes when Sargent’s first-time drive was deflected just wide by Jenson Seelt.

It then took a superb finger-tip save from Anthony Patterson to thwart Borja Sainz after the Spaniard had latched on to a loose ball when a corner was only half cleared.

These were rare moments of alarm for Sunderland, however, with both sides tending to cancel each other out in a tight opening period.

Pierre Ekwah had two long-range efforts for the visitors, one comfortably saved and the other sailing well wide, and those proved to be their only shots of the half.

Norwich started the second period on the front foot, with Jack Stacey’s right-wing cross almost catching Patterson out and coming back off the crossbar.

The keeper then pushed away a Gabriel Sara shot which was heading for the bottom corner before making a good stop to keep out a fizzing low effort from Sainz.

Substitute Abdoullah Ba cut into the box and struck the woodwork from a tight angle in a rare Sunderland raid but it was the hosts who deservedly broke the deadlock with nine minutes left.

The visitors failed to deal with Ben Gibson’s cross from the right and Sargent won the battle for the ball before lashing it home from close range.

David Wagner was “frustrated” after Norwich surrendered a lead to draw 1-1 at Blackburn.

With Hull and West Brom’s drawing earlier in the day, the Canaries had the opportunity to close to within a point of the play-off places and looked on course to do so after their early superiority was reflected in Marcelino Nunez’s 22nd-minute opener – his first goal of the season.

They could not turn the screw, though, and Blackburn fought back, deservedly equalising through Dominic Hyam’s first goal in 17 months in the 56th minute.

Norwich have lost just once in their last nine outings and are a place and three points behind sixth-placed Hull, and although Wagner felt his side deserved the victory, he was frustrated at the nature of the equaliser.

He said: “Offensively we played some good football, played from our structure, created enough to score more than only one goal.

“Defensively, we put a shift in, we worked hard. Yes we gave one other opportunity away but in general I think it was a good away performance.

“I’m frustrated at the result to be totally honest, not to win this game after the opportunities which we created, after we got the lead.

“To concede off a set piece, off the corner, this is what frustrates a little bit, but at the end of the day the performance was good.

“We have to be focused on the performances because in recent weeks, the players have performed on a very good level.

“Nothing is decided today. We have a lot of games to play, a lot of points to collect. This game is gone, we got a point, we should have got three.”

Since changing head coach Blackburn have stemmed the tide of defeats and have lost just once in five.

Sam Gallagher was denied three times in the first half before Hyam’s equaliser.

Rovers are four points clear of danger, but John Eustace focused on the team’s “character and commitment” to fight back.

He said: “I thought it was a very good performance.

“We were up against one of the top teams in the league at the moment. They’re in a good run of form.

“I thought we created some really good chances in the first half, showed great character to come back in the second half and equalise, which I think is the first time this season at home we’ve managed to do that.

“We’re making small steps forward and I was pleased with the point in the end. I’d have loved three points of course, but again, I thought the lads showed great commitment and character to come from behind.

“To win a game or to stay in games, you have to show that level of commitment and be very difficult to play against. You have to earn the right to play.

“I thought our football at times today was very good. We created two or three fantastic chances from some really good moves.

“It’s about being patient and you can see us growing as a group.”

Norwich missed the chance to cut the gap on the top six after drawing 1-1 at Blackburn.

The Canaries started well and their early possession was rewarded in superb style when Marcelino Nunez curled his first goal of the season into the top corner midway through the first half.

Both sides had chances, though, with Sam Gallagher denied three times in the first half by Angus Gunn, and they were eventually rewarded through Dominic Hyam’s towering header after the break.

A point was a fair outcome for both sides as neither managed to create a clear-cut chance after the equaliser which means Norwich remain three points outside the play-offs after extending their unbeaten run to five.

Blackburn are still looking for their first win under John Eustace but even though they are winless in four, they have not lost in their last three.

The Canaries certainly enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the early exchanges, but it was Blackburn who had the first real opening when Harry Pickering’s 19th-minute corner found Gallagher, whose downward header was parried away brilliantly by Gunn.

That save proved crucial as Norwich hit the front in spectacular fashion three minutes later when Nunez bent a 20-yard free-kick into the top-left corner.

David Wagner’s men almost doubled their lead two minutes later when Gabriel Sara slipped Josh Sargent in on goal but goalkeeper Aynsley Pears was out quickly to smother his low effort.

Gallagher had another chance on the half hour when he latched onto a ball down the left but he took one touch too many and Gunn was able to spread himself to block from a tight angle.

Gunn made it a hat-trick of saves from Gallagher when he palmed his far-post header away after the striker met John Buckley’s searching cross.

The interval came at a good time for the visitors and they almost regrouped to devastating effect when Christian Fassnacht sprung Blackburn’s offside trap but Pears’ outstretched leg diverted the ball to safety just as the Swiss winger was set to take the ball around him.

For the second time in the game, superb goalkeeping proved crucial as Rovers levelled in the 56th minute. Pickering’s deep corner was met by Hyam who rose above three Norwich players to head home from six yards.

At that stage a grandstand finish felt like it was on the cards but surprisingly it failed to materialise.

Canaries substitute Onel Hernandez looked the most likely provider as he first sent in a cross that Ashley Barnes directed well wide, before more trickery saw him centre for Sargent who was just ahead of the pass.

Norwich head coach David Wagner praised a ‘top quality’ performance from his side after watching them beat Cardiff 4-1 to give their Championship play-off bid a further boost.

The Canaries recovered from the shock of conceding first when totally on top to score four goals at Carrow Road for the second time in five days following Tuesday night’s 4-2 success over Watford.

Jamilu Collins put Cardiff in front but Josh Sargent (2), Gabriel Sara and substitute Christian Fassnacht replied to secure Norwich a fourth successive home win.

Wagner said: “The lads played very well, all the departments of our game were top quality.

“We started well and the only criticism I could make was we were not ruthless enough early on. But we stayed calm, kept playing our football and scored some wonderful goals.

“You can see from the way we are playing at the moment that there is a lot of confidence in the group.
All of the players are doing their jobs at a high level and full credit to them for that.

“I was also impressed with the way we defended. Cardiff are one of the best set-piece teams in the league and we didn’t concede a single corner, which was very pleasing.”

Wagner was critical of sections of the support on Tuesday, after a negative reaction to his substitutions, but was delighted with the backing today.

He added: “I thought the fans were top class and full credit to them.

“They backed their team throughout, even when we conceded, and in the end it was a great afternoon for the people in the stands – and the people on the pitch.”

Norwich were dominant throughout but fell behind against the run of play after 19 minutes when Collins squeezed the ball home at the back post after good work from Rubin Colwill.

But the hosts didn’t panic and were ahead at the break.

Sargent got them back on level terms 20 minutes later with a close-range finish after Sam McCallum’s effort had been parried by Ethan Horvath and Sara quickly made it 2-1 by curling a 20-yard free-kick into the far corner.

Norwich wrapped up the points after 54 minutes, Sargent reaching double figures in an injury-hit season as he acrobatically steered the ball home after his first shot had come back off the upright.

Fassnacht later made it back-to-back four-goal home wins when he finished emphatically after being set up by fellow substitute Sydney van Hooijdonk.

Manager Erol Bulut admitted Cardiff had been beaten by a better side on the day.

“They are a good team with a lot of good players and it was difficult for us, ” he said. “I thought we did well to stop them scoring early on and then we got a goal.

“But it was still tough, they kept coming at us and once they got their equaliser and then scored their second and third it was always going to be difficult to come back.

“It has been a difficult spell, the worst of my managerial career, but we have 40 points with 14 games left to play and there is plenty of play for.

“We need to get back to the sort of team we were at the start of the season. This team will come back again – I believe in them.”

Norwich reeled off their fourth straight home win as they cruised past Cardiff 4-1 to maintain their Championship play-off push.

The Canaries recovered from the shock of going behind completely against the run of play to record a dominant victory which followed hard on the heels of a 4-2 triumph over Watford in midweek.

Jamilu Collins fired Cardiff ahead after 19 minutes but the hosts were in front by half-time thanks to two goals in five minutes from Josh Sargent and Gabriel Sara.

Sargent went on to add his 10th of the season after the break, with a fourth from substitute Christian Fassnacht completing a comfortable win against a Cardiff side who have now lost three on the trot to drop away from the play-off battle.

Norwich completely dominated the first half but needed a late double to go in ahead at the break after conceding a sloppy opener.

A goal-line clearance from Nat Phillips to deny Sargent set the tone early on, with the Cardiff goal under almost constant siege as the Canaries turned on the style.

Ethan Horvath made a fine reaction stop to deny Borja Sainz, Ashley Barnes headed over from close range and Sara hit the upright from distance but it was the visitors who opened the scoring.

Rubin Colwill did well to work his way into the area on the right before drilling in a cross that Angus Gunn was unable to gather and Collins was well placed to bundle the ball in at the past post, with Grant Hanley’s attempted block merely diverting the ball into the net.

The one-sided nature of proceedings soon resumed, however, and Norwich were deservedly back on level terms in the 39th minute when Horvath could only palm away Sam McCallum’s rising drive from a tight angle and Sargent was on hand to tuck the loose ball away.

Barnes netted again almost immediately, only to be thwarted by an offside flag.

But the home fans didn’t have to wait long for a second Norwich goal.

On the stroke of half-time, Sara won a free-kick some five yards outside the box and completed the job by curling a delightful effort into the far corner, via a slight deflection off the Cardiff wall.

Norwich gave themselves some breathing space by making it 3-1 nine minutes into the second period.

Sargent got on the end of a Jack Stacey cross from the right only to be foiled by the upright but the American striker acrobatically got to the rebound to reach double figures in an injury-hit season.

Sargent missed a chance for a hat-trick on the hour mark when he shot straight at Horvath when well placed while at the other end Cardiff barely posed a threat.

It was merely a question as to whether Norwich could add to their tally and they duly did so in the 77th minute as two of their substitutes combined.

Sydney van Hooijdonk, who had come on for Sargent, did well to spot the overlapping Fassnacht in the box and the Swiss drilled home for his sixth goal of the campaign.

Norwich head coach David Wagner was critical of a section of the club’s support after watching his side recover from losing a two-goal lead to beat Watford 4-2.

Late goals from Gabriel Sara and Christian Fassnacht saw the Canaries move into the play-off places on goals scored, after enduring an uncomfortable opening to the second half.

Wagner’s decision to substitute Onel Hernandez and Josh Sargent drew chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” from some fans – and the edgy atmosphere seemed to play a part in Watford battling their way back into the game.

“We are talking about a small group but I think they should stay at home if they are going to be like that, because it clearly affected the players on the pitch. It was just unacceptable in my view,” said Wagner.

“Both Onel and Josh were struggling with injuries and that is why I took them off – I think the players who came on deserved more respect, they shouldn’t have heard booing when they came on. And I think I deserve more respect too.

“We know the target in front of us, we know the chance we have got and we need all the supporters to be behind us. Hopefully the bigger group can be louder and we don’t hear what the small group are saying.

“I thought it was a big result tonight – in the first half I thought we were outstanding.

“And after it went to 2-2 we kept playing our football and scored two more goals. I am very proud off all the players.”

Norwich opened the scoring after 20 minutes when goal-line technology ruled that Ashley Barnes’ far-post  header had crossed the line before Ben Hamer clawed the ball away.

Eight minutes later the Watford keeper made another save that counted for nothing as he kept out Sargent’s penalty, awarded for a foul by Wesley Hoedt on Kenny McLean, only for the American striker to nod home the rebound.

Watford got themselves back in it just before the break when Mileta Rakovic tapped home Ken Sema’s cross from close range, and equalised in sensational fashion after 71 minutes as substitute Yaser Asprilla beat Angus Gunn with a screamer from 30 yards.

But it was Norwich who went on to take all three points. Six minutes later Barnes fed the overlapping Sara to make it 3-2 with an unerring low finish into the far corner and substitute Fassnacht quickly made the points safe with a close-range effort which took a big deflection off Ryan Porteous.

Watford boss Valerien Ismael felt his side had wasted a good opportunity to get back to winning ways.

“It is very frustrating – we are scoring goals at the moment  but we are conceding too many as well and that makes it very difficult,” he said.

“After finding ourselves 2-0 down we then got ourselves back in it. From that moment I thought the momentum changed and we had a great chance to equalise just before half-time through Matheus (Martins).

“In the second half I thought we got on top  and Yaser (Asprilla) equalises with an incredible shot.

“But from then on it was very disappointing – all the players on the pitch need to be 100 percent committed to helping their colleagues.

“You need to win your duels in football, that is one of the basics of the game, and we lost the control that we had.

“The players have had their say in the dressing room and all we can focus on now is going out and trying to win our next match.”

Norwich recovered from losing a two-goal lead to beat Watford 4-2 at Carrow Road and maintain their Championship play-off push.

The Canaries appeared to be in command  after scoring twice in eight first half minutes through Ashley Barnes and Josh Sargent, only for Hornets to hit back as Mileta Rajovic netted just before the break and Yaser Asprilla scored a long-range stunner to equalise midway through the second period.

But the home side kept their nerve and two quick goals from Gabriel Sara and Christian Fassnacht sealed a hard fought win that made it nine home games without defeat, while dealing another blow to Watford’s rapidly receding hopes of finishing in the top six.

Norwich made a bright start and deservedly took the lead after 20 minutes, with a little help from goal-line technology.

When Barnes got his head on Onel Hernandez’s cross to the back post it appeared as though Ben Hamer had made a spectacular one-handed save to keep it out.

But it was all to no avail, with referee Stuart Atwell signalling a goal after being informed that the ball had crossed the line before the keeper’s last-gasp intervention.

Hamer made another save which counted for nothing eight minutes later as the Canaries doubled their advantage.

This time he parried Sargent’s penalty, awarded for a foul on Kenny McLean by Wesley Hoedt, only for the ball to rebound kindly for the American to nod home his seventh goal of an injury-hit campaign.

Norwich looked in complete control at that stage but Watford got themselves back in it through Rajovic after 42 minutes.

Ismael Kone picked out Ken Sema’s run down the inside left channel and what appeared to be an attempt at a shot turned into a perfect cross for Rajovic to poke home from inside the six-yard box.

The Hornets might have got back on level terms a few minutes later after Barnes was caught in possession in a dangerous area but Matheus Martins delayed too long and his shot was blocked.

Watford wasted another good opportunity seven minutes into the second period when Sema dragged his shot wide from a good position after being set up by Martins’ cutback.

Despite being in front Norwich were beginning to look more than a little nervous, with the crowd getting edgy too, and the mood slumped still further as the visitors scored a quite brilliant equaliser after 71 minutes.

The home defence were guilty of failing to close down substitute Asprilla as he made ground towards their goal down the left and the Colombia international took full advantage, beating Angus Gunn from all of 30 yards, with his searing effort going in off the woodwork.

It was the second time this season that Watford had come from 2-0 down to level against Norwich – but this time it was the Canaries who scored the fifth goal of the game.

With 77 minutes on the clock Barnes did well to control the ball and switch it to the overlapping Sara, and the Brazilian burst into the box before beating Hamer with a low shot into the far corner.

Five minutes later Norwich gave themselves some breathing space by making it 4-2, with Jack Stacey’s cross being turned in from close range by substitute Fassnacht via a big deflection off Ryan Porteous.

QPR boss Marti Cifuentes is hopeful his side’s new signings can keep the club in the Championship after they combined to rescue a point in a 2-2 draw at home to Norwich.

Swiss striker Michael Frey headed in a cross from fellow pre-deadline signing Lucas Andersen to earn the west London side a draw.

Meanwhile, loan signings Isaac Hayden and Joe Hodge impressed in midfield, giving head coach Cifuentes plenty of encouragement in the battle to avoid relegation.

The Spaniard said: “I’m very happy for the new players. I think that all of them are showing they are great professionals.

“These four players are coming from situations where we will need to take into account that they will perhaps need a couple of weeks to be at their best version, but I’m happy with them.

“The assist from Lucas to Frey was brilliant. All of them are giving good performances for us.

“They need match fitness but they’ve shown fantastic performances and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do together with the rest of the guys.

“We definitely feel like we’re stronger now than we were before.”

QPR took the lead through Jack Colback’s opener but Norwich hit back with second-half goals from Kenny McLean and Josh Sargent.

Frey’s leveller meant third-bottom Rangers closed the gap on Huddersfield, the team immediately above them, to two points.

“I can never be happy with just a point, but we played against a strong team that scored two quality goals,” said Cifuentes.

“We managed to have good moments, both in the first half and the second, and I want to praise the attitude and the mentality of the guys.

“It’s not easy to be behind at home in the situation that we are in. But we had the mental strength and capacity to keep on pushing – and after the equaliser from Frey we still tried to go for the victory.”

Norwich boss David Wagner was left to rue a miss by Ashley Barnes shortly before QPR’s equaliser.

“Performance-wise, OK. Intensity and energy, top. Result, a little bit frustrating,” said Wagner.

“But I think it’s a positive if we are frustrated at getting a point away from home against QPR in a game where we have come back from one down.

“Unfortunately we didn’t score the third one where Barnsey had a great opportunity. Then we conceded a sloppy goal, which cost us.

“Our biggest challenge today was not to get too emotional and to stay calm. I think when we did that we looked very good in possession and were able to break them down and create opportunities.

“So I’m a little bit frustrated that we haven’t won this game, because it was possible. We should be fair also and say that performance-wise this was OK.

“Unfortunately it’s only a point. I think it’s OK if there’s a little bit of frustration about only getting the point after being 1-0 down at half-time away from home.

“We should look at the performance as well. You only have positive results if you perform consistently and this is what the players have done in recent weeks.”

New signing Michael Frey rescued a point for struggling QPR and put a dent in Norwich’s play-off aspirations in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Loftus Road.

Second-half goals from Kenny McLean and Josh Sargent looked to have sealed the points for the visitors after Jack Colback put Rangers in front midway through the first half.

But Frey diverted a cross from fellow new boy Lucas Andersen past keeper Angus Gunn to extend QPR’s unbeaten run to four matches.

QPR started the better side, with Joe Hodge shooting just wide from distance, while Chris Willock should have done better when he fired straight at Gunn from inside the six-yard box.

Borja Sainz saw a shot flash just past the post for Norwich’s best chance before Colback opened the scoring in the 28th minute.

Gunn palmed Willock’s right-wing cross only as far as Colback and the midfielder fired in his third goal of the season.

Norwich came racing out of the traps after half-time and levelled in the 48th minute when McLean escaped his marker to tap in a short corner past the leaden-footed Asmir Begovic.

Canaries boss David Wagner introduced the exciting Jonathan Rowe from the bench in the 59th minute and he made an immediate impact by setting up the move that led to Norwich’s second goal.

Rowe picked out Jack Stacey on the right flank after a good run from midfield and the full-back swung in a perfect cross to find Sargent who rose above the Rangers defence to head past Begovic and give the visitors a 62nd-minute lead.

The goal stunned the sell-out home crowd and it was Norwich who looked the more likely to win the game, with Ashley Barnes and Onel Hernandez shooting wide.

But it was the introduction of new arrivals Frey and Andersen from the bench by head coach Marti Cifuentes that got Rangers back on level terms in the 77th minute.

Picking the ball up on the right flank from a throw-in, Denmark international Andersen, who only joined the club on Monday, rolled a smart pass into the box and Frey held off Ben Gibson to divert the ball past Gunn.

Norwich pushed hard for a winner and Begovic made a vital stop with his body to deny Barnes as he bore down on goal.

The point was not enough to see Rangers climb out the bottom three but it closed the gap on Huddersfield, the team immediately above the drop zone, to two points.

Norwich slipped to eighth in the table – two points outside the play-off positions.

Norwich head coach David Wagner reflected on a job well done after watching his side come from behind to beat Coventry 2-1 at Carrow Road to boost their Championship play-off challenge.

Second-half goals from Josh Sargent and Borja Sainz saw the hosts stay on the fringes of the top-six battle.

Callum O’Hare had given the Sky Blues the lead shortly after the break before they finished the game with 10 men after Liam Kitching was sent off.

Wagner said: “I thought it was a fantastic afternoon, both with the result and the performance which I also thought was top class, especially in the first half.

“We didn’t get the goal we deserved and then went behind early in the second half with a goal that was avoidable from our point of view.

“But the players reacted well and to come back from 1-0 down to win 2-1 against a top side like Coventry is a fantastic achievement.

“It was good the players from the bench made an impact and that’s how it should be. We have a competitive group so when we lose our top scorer (Jon Rowe who missed the game with a hand injury) we can cope.

“It’s another good step in the right direction and we now look forward to the next challenge at QPR next Saturday.”

Norwich’s scorers both picked up injuries in the early part of the season but now appear to be back to something nearing their best.

Wagner added: “Borja has shown he can score great goals but he also put in a shift, which was very pleasing.

“Josh has shown what a big miss he was for us for four months – he can’t be at his best yet but he is working hard and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do over the next 16 games.”

After a low-key opening period the game burst into life three minutes into the second period when the visitors took the lead.

Norwich carelessly lost possession on the edge of their box and Victor Torp was able to play in O’Hare, who tricked his way past two defenders before curling the ball past Angus Gunn.

The Canaries responded well and were back on level terms on the hour mark as Sargent rifled home the loose ball after substitute Ashley Barnes’ effort had been blocked.

The Sky Blues were forced to play the final 19 minutes with 10 men following the dismissal of Kitching for bringing down Sargent as the USA international prepared to race into the box – and the home side made the extra man tell.

With six minutes of normal time remaining, Sainz exchanged passes with Barnes on the edge of the area before finding the far corner with a delightful finish to settle a keenly-contested encounter.

Coventry manager Mark Robins felt his side were unlucky to come out of the game empty-handed.

He said: “I can’t help feeling hard done by after that – we played some decent football out there and to come away with nothing was bitterly disappointing.

“There’s no doubt the red card changed the game – at that point I felt we had a good chance to go and win it.

“We were still in it with 10 men but Norwich have a lot of quality and they punished us in the end.

“In the end I think it comes down to taking chances – we scored a good goal and then Haji Wright has had an excellent chance to make it 2-0 and I think it would have been game over then, red card or not.

“The keeper has made a save but he shouldn’t have had that chance. Kasey (Palmer) has also had a great chance at 1-1 but the keeper has saved again.

“It is a disappointing result and we also lose Liam Kitching for a couple of games now as it was his second sending off while Ben Sheaf is out for six-to-eight weeks.

“But we just have to take this on the chin – the games are coming thick and fast now and there are plenty of other good players in the building.”

A late strike from Borja Sainz saw Norwich come from behind to beat Coventry 2-1 in an entertaining Championship clash at Carrow Road.

The Spanish winger produced a neat finish in the 84th minute to condemn the 10-man Sky Blues to their first defeat in 13 matches.

Mark Robins’ side had gone ahead early in the second half through Callum O’Hare’s well-taken goal, only to be pegged back 12 minutes later through Josh Sargent’s close-range finish.

The game turned again with 19 minutes remaining when Liam Kitching was sent off for bringing down Sargent as he burst into the box, with Norwich going on to make their extra man tell to move level with their opponents in the play-off race.

Norwich had marginally the better of a competitive first half which featured plenty of neat passing football but with little end product.

Coventry goalkeeper Bradley Collins did well to push away an early shot from Christian Fassnacht that was heading for the bottom corner before Sargent steered the ball wide from a good position under pressure from a visiting defender.

The sides tended to cancel each other out as the half progressed, with both keepers largely untested.

But Coventry also posed a threat, with the lively Haji Wright bringing out a decent save from Angus Gunn at the near post after trying his luck from a tight angle.

The Sky Blues made their first opportunity of the second period count, however, with O’Hare’s fine individual goal making it 1-0 in the 48th minute.

Norwich put themselves under pressure with a poor throw and Victor Torp slipped the ball through to O’Hare, who skipped past a couple of defenders before slipping the ball past Gunn.

The Norwich keeper then did well to foil a fast-breaking Wright as the Sky Blues sought to press home their advantage but the hosts hit back on the hour mark to level the scores.

Recently-introduced substitute Ashley Barnes saw his shot from a Gabriel Sara cross blocked but the ball fell nicely for Sargent to volley home his sixth goal of an injury-hit campaign.

Norwich were now on the front foot and received a further boost on 71 minutes when Kitching was shown a straight red card for bringing down Sargent on the edge of the box when he was the final defender.

Sara clipped the crossbar from the ensuing free-kick.

Coventry substitute Kasey Palmer was then denied by an excellent reaction save from Gunn but Norwich kept pressing and got their noses in front for the first time on 84 minutes.

The goal came after a break down the left, with Sainz exchanging passes with Barnes on the edge of the box before curling a delightful shot past Collins and into the far corner of the net.

Virgil van Dijk admits Liverpool’s hierarchy have a big job to replace Jurgen Klopp and is “curious” to see the direction they go in.

The Reds captain does not believe uncertainty over the future will affect their ambitions this season, having continued their challenge on four fronts with a comfortable FA Cup victory over Norwich.

But with the likes of himself, Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold all in the final 18 months of their contracts, there are a lot of significant decisions to be made before the summer.

 

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“The club will have a big job on their hands, that is well known,” he said.

 “To replace not only the manager but the whole staff and there are so many things that will change.

“I’m very curious which direction that will go in but when that will be announced we will see our situation.

“It will be the end of Jurgen Klopp’s era – I am still part of it that’s why I don’t like to talk about it – and that is my main focus.

“Hopefully we will have the success we all dream of and by then probably there will be more clarification about what the club wants for the future and then we will see.”

Asked whether he saw himself being part of the next era, Van Dijk added: “That’s a big question. I don’t know.”

However, any questions about how the players would respond to learning the news of Klopp’s departure at the end of the season were emphatically answered with a 5-2 victory over the Canaries at an emotional Anfield.

Bigger tests await this week with Chelsea visiting on Wednesday before they head to Arsenal next weekend but Van Dijk insists nothing will – or should – be different.

“Nothing has really changed. Obviously things will change at the end of the season and in the new season but at the moment it doesn’t and we have to keep doing the same things,” he added.

“It’s easier said than done but I sense the rest of the boys think like that as well and it is the job for me to ensure we keep it that way.

“We are all human beings and we have emotions – some players feel different about the manager’s announcement than others.

“That’s absolutely normal because everyone thinks in different ways but I didn’t notice the professionalism being dropped or the level of standard. The training sessions I have seen in the last couple of days were not different than before.

“For the boss it (the Norwich game) was a bit different but for us it was to make sure we got to the next round with some players coming back from injury and now we focus on Wednesday.

“We can speak about the situation, about what will happen next year, every week but it doesn’t change, it’s noise we don’t need and that’s why we focus on getting the job done and that’s why I feel nothing has changed.

“It is still the same but at the end of the season there will be different things happening of course, but that is for the club to sort out.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp insists he had to “pull himself together” for the FA Cup victory over Norwich after an outpouring of emotion from friends and fans after he announced he would leave the club at the end of the season.

His players followed through on his insistence that nothing should change with a 5-2 win over Norwich to set up a fifth-round tie at home to either Watford or Southampton.

It came amid a celebration of Klopp at Anfield, who sat in contemplative mood as the Kop belted out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before kick-off and followed it up with a first-minute rendition of ‘I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red’.

“It’s emotional but I have to pull myself together. I received all the messages. I’m not made of wood,” said Klopp.

“It was a top performance from everybody involved, really good.

“We could have passed a little but with more purpose, direction and being quicker in the way we scored two goals but conceded a set-piece goal.

“But it is clear when you are as dominant as we are, if we improve in some departments we create more chances.”

Curtis Jones and Darwin Nunez scored either side of Ben Gibson’s headed equaliser but in the second half it was virtual one-way traffic and further goals came from Diogo Jota, Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Gravenberch, with Borja Sainz’s screamer briefly making it 4-2.

However, other major plus points were the returns from injury off the bench from Andy Robertson – out since October with a dislocated shoulder – fellow full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold and midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.

With Premier League matches against Chelsea and Arsenal in the next week, having them all back is a real boost.

“It was very important that we could give them minutes. Trent and Dom were not that long out but Robbo was out for a long time and each minute they could get is really important and here it helped to share intensity,” added Klopp.

“We played pretty good without them, so it is about how we are playing. We have to make sure we are the one team Chelsea does not want to play against and Arsenal doesn’t want to play against.”

Norwich boss David Wagner, Klopp’s long-time friend, admitted his side were up against it.

“A deserved win for Liverpool, the better side won. My team put a shift in and tried to play out from the back. We scored two wonderful goals and were competitive,” he said.

“I said before, ‘let’s attack this competition with freedom’. We were able to get some players closer to the squad and it was a step for us. Now we have to make sure we recover in the Championship.”

Anfield’s long goodbye to Jurgen Klopp began with a comfortable 5-2 FA Cup fourth round victory over Norwich.

The Liverpool boss, who on Friday announced his departure at the end of the season, sat in contemplative mood as the Kop belted out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before kick-off.

It was followed up in the first minute by a rendition of ‘I’m so glad that Jurgen is a Red’ but the German will have been pleased the focus swung to on the pitch action immediately afterwards as, with the battle continuing on four fronts, there is plenty of football still to play.

Klopp does not want his final four months to be an indulgent love-in and his players got the message as they saw off their spirited Championship opponents – managed by Klopp’s good friend David Wagner – with clinical professionalism after a minor blip.

Curtis Jones’ fifth goal in as many home games – marking the best goalscoring season of his career – and Darwin Nunez’s third in his last three were eclipsed by the quality of Diogo Jota’s volley for the third.

Headers from Virgil van Dijk and Ryan Gravenberch kick-started the first of what is likely to be many parties at Anfield.

The visitors were under pressure from the off with Joe Gomez having a shot deflected wide and Nunez curling a shot against the post after Jack Stacey lost possession.

Jones broke the deadlock when he headed home a deep cross to the far post by 19-year-old James McConnell, making his full debut in central midfield.

The teenager celebrated by simply raising both arms in the air but the biggest compliment you could pay him was that he did not look out of place in a much-changed team whose bench included Van Dijk, Luis Diaz, Dominik Szoboszlai, Andy Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Harvey Elliott.

Klopp cited one of the reasons for not quitting after last season’s widespread struggles was his desire to put things right and leave the club in a good place for his successor.

In McConnell and 20-year-old defenders Conor Bradley and Jarell Quansah the future looks secure.

However, a defence missing the authority of Van Dijk switched off at a 22nd-minute corner and Ben Gibson flicked a near-post header from Gabriel Sara’s inswinger past Alisson Becker.

But Nunez quickly restored their lead when Bradley won possession just inside Norwich’s half, exchanged passes with Jota and squared for the Uruguay international to slot home.

The visitors’ hopes were virtually extinguished early in the second half by Jota’s brilliant volley after Grant Hanley had headed Jones’ long pass straight up in the air.

A triple substitution followed immediately with the reception for Van Dijk and Szoboszlai drowned out by the cheer for Robertson as he made his first appearance since October after a dislocated shoulder.

Van Dijk’s header from a corner put Liverpool out of sight and even Borja Sainz’s superb strike from distance was scant consolation as the siege continued at the other end, with goalkeeper George Long overworked.

Alexander-Arnold came off the bench after a knee problem to play the final 24 minutes in midfield as they continued to tune up a number of their recent absentees before the midweek Premier League visit of Chelsea and Gravenberch’s close-range header completed the rout.

The last two occasions Liverpool beat Norwich in the FA Cup at Anfield they went on to win the trophy.

With a home draw against more Championship opponents in either Watford or Southampton the fates seem to be aligning for a potentially epic Klopp farewell and, even without the manager’s traditional post-match fist pumps, the Kop need no encouragement to celebrate every moment.

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