Goals from Xavi Quintilla, Max Aarons and Emiliano Buendia secured Norwich City a 3-1 win at QPR on Saturday afternoon, as the Yellows took a huge step towards the Championship title.
It was a largely controlled performance from the Canaries who maintained their five-point lead over Watford with just two games now left to play this season, with the Hornets beating Millwall at Vicarage Road.
It was actually QPR who started the brighter with an early chance 30 seconds into the game as Osman Kakay robbed Todd Cantwell and flashed his strike just wide of Tim Krul’s far-post.
Indeed, the Dutchman was made to work later on in the half by both George Thomas and the in-form Lyndon Dykes, tipping over the former’s long-range effort before coming out smartly to smother the latter’s poked first-time effort.
It was, though, Norwich in the ascendancy for the majority of the half with them having a number of good chances – though the one they scored from was a half-opening at best.
Whilst Teemu Pukki scuffed an early attempt into the arms of Seny Dieng and Kieran Dowell saw a deflected effort also well fielded by the QPR stopper after a surging Kenny McLean run, it was Xavi Quintilla who broke the deadlock thanks to some help from the Hoops’ number one.
A swirling effort from the left-back deceived Dieng from about 25 yards, squirming under him and over the line before he could scramble back to clear.
Certainly, the lead was perhaps deserved for Norwich based on the first half but it was a cruel way to get it from QPR and Dieng’s perspective, especially given how well he has played for the Hoops between the sticks this season.
The second half, and indeed the game, meanwhile, was effectively decided within a matter of minutes just before the hour mark.
Whilst Emi Buendia had seen an early strike parried by Dieng and Ilias Chair had curled one wide for QPR, the first golden chance of the second 45 came, and went, from the QPR penalty spot.
After a slide-rule pass from Stefan Johansen, Chris Willock was clumsily fouled by Grant Hanley on the right-hand side of the box. Lyndon Dykes, though, despite being in great recent form, struck his penalty straight at Tim Krul, with the Dutchman quickest to the rebound too.
Indeed, moments later Norwich ensured the Hoops paid the price with a fine goal from Max Aarons. Kenny McLean played in a looping cross from the left and, closing in at the far post, Aarons guided home a composed volley – a goal certainly worthy of their Premier League-elect status.
QPR, though, have found a new resilience in 2021 and, after this, finally began to really show why fans are hoping of their own promotion – or at least play-off – challenge next season.
Charlie Austin came on and immediately fired up his team-mates, with an early effort of his ruled out for offside.
Lyndon Dykes made up for his earlier miss soon after, meanwhile, as he found himself in acres of space at the far post to sweep home a cross from the right and halve the deficit.
Indeed, Rangers were getting decent joy from that right-hand side and should have been level soon after, with Austin nodding over at the near-post with bags of space at his disposal.
That surge, though, could not get the R’s level and they then shot themselves in the foot late on to kill the game.
A loose Rob Dickie pass out from the back was seized upon by the Norwich attack who quickly worked the ball to Emi Buendia and he had the simplest of tasks to tap in for 3-1.
In fairness, a Norwich win was probably a fair result on the balance of play and, whilst the title celebrations have been kept on hold for a few more days, it surely won’t be long until the Canaries are crowned Championship champions once more.
QPR 1-3 Norwich it finished.