Middlesbrough 0-2 Norwich: Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond strike as Canaries seal immediate return to Premier League
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 26/05/15 10:00am
Norwich City sealed an immediate return to the Premier League as a blistering first-half display saw them beat Middlesbrough 2-0 in a pulsating Sky Bet Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Two goals in three first-half minutes shifted the final in favour of Alex Neil’s side as goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond saw the Canaries return to the top flight at the first time of asking in a match deemed to be worth up to £130m to the victors.
Both sides rattled each other’s crossbars in a frenetic start to the match, before a well organised Norwich took the game away from a Boro side who rarely threatened to drag themselves back into proceedings.
The result marks a dramatic turnaround for Norwich who, having turned to former Hamilton boss Neil to ignite their floundering season in January, produced an accomplished display to beat Middlesbrough for the first time this season, following defeats both home and away in the regular season.
The news before kick-off concerned traffic around the National Stadium as Middlesbrough were held up en-route to the ground. Patrick Bamford returned from injury to lead to Boro attack, while Neil named the same line-up which defeated East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town in the semi-finals.
And the continuity among the Norwich ranks was evident from the off as the Championship’s third-placed side grabbed the initiative.
Jerome was the early out-ball and he missed a glorious chance to open the scoring on nine minutes when he failed to convert Steven Whittaker’s cross from the right.
What followed summed up the end-to-end nature of the game, and indeed this season, as Bradley Johnson sent a left-footed volley crashing against the crossbar of Dimitrios Konstantopoulos’ goal seconds before Boro repeated the feat with Jelle Vossen rattling John Ruddy’s goal with an exquisite effort.
The game then swung in Norwich’s favour as Jerome picked Daniel Ayala’s pocket on 12 minutes, bore down on the Middlesbrough goal and slotted the ball past the on-rushing Konstantopoulos to become the first player in the club's history to score outright at Wembley.
It was two shortly after as Redmond gathered Whittaker's through ball with one touch before rifling home with his second from inside the right-hand channel to give the Canaries a deserved two-goal advantage.
Shell-shocked, Middlesbrough struggled to find a way through Norwich’s solid midfield set-up, with Alexander Tettey and Wes Hoolahan, along with Jerome, penning Boro deep inside their half for large parts with an aggressive defensive press.
However, trailing by just two goals, the half-time interval presented Aitor Karanka's side with the chance to regroup, and they did as Albert Adomah used his pace to get in behind the Norwich rearguard consistently for the first time after the break.
Bamford drew a fine save from Ruddy on 60 minutes, after Lee Tomlin had found the England U21 striker with a disguised pass, and Ruddy was on hand again to smother substitute Kike’s drilled cut-back as Boro failed to create a clear opening on the Norwich goal.
Ayala had a couple of half chances to atone for his part in Jerome’s opener, before his third header from a corner was blocked en-route to goal by Norwich substitute Lewis Grabban.
Middlesbrough could not find a way through in the closing stages and it was left to Canaries captain Russell Martin to lift the Championship play-off trophy aloft as the Canaries became the 18th side to seal an immediate promotion to the top flight the season after they were relegated.
Man of the Match: Cameron Jerome