QPR go toe-to-toe with champions-elect, but Norwich's extra class carries the day
QPR (0) 1 Dykes 71
Norwich City (1) 3 Quintilla 32, Aarons 57, Buendia 82
Rangers found Premier League-bound Norwich too hot to handle in the end, as the Canaries moved a step closer to the Championship title.
The R’s gave a decent account of themselves and played their part in a hugely entertaining contest. They also created plenty of chances themselves and Lyndon Dykes, who found the net, also squandered a second half penalty.
But the polished work the visitors did on the ball was deservedly rewarded and leaves them needing just two points from their final two games to finish above fellow promoted side Watford.
Rangers gifted Norwich their opener when Seny Dieng made a hash of a routine effort from outside the box, and moments after Dykes missed his penalty, Max Aarons doubled the lead before Emiliano Buendia added a third to seal the deal.
Rangers served notice of their intent to give the Canaries a thorough examination right from the start when Osman Kakay flashed a low shot inches wide of the far post after wrestling the ball off Todd Cantwell on the edge of the penalty area.
But very soon, Cantwell was showing all the things he is very good at – linking play, keeping Norwich’s slick passing and movement going and finding marksman Teemu Pukki with nicely-weighted and angled balls which frequently bisected discomfited defenders.
In short, this was a game where it was very easy to see why Daniel Farke’s outfit has carried all before it and is returning to the top flight after one season in the Championship.
They carved out openings almost at will but were wasteful in the extreme. Pukki, Kieren Dowell and Cantwell himself all drifted onto spaces where sharper shooting would have yielded greater profit.
Rangers held their shape reasonably well in the face of some mesmeric passing which stretched them at times, and got forward well when opportunities arose.
George Thomas, given a rare start, troubled Tim Krul, forcing he keeper to tip over a shot pinged from outside the area and Ilias Chair found Dykes with a slide-rule through ball which Krul blocked with his legs.
But by then, the Canaries were deservedly ahead, albeit with a goal from an unexpected source. A speculative effort from outside the box from Xavi Quintalla - on loan from Villareal - squirmed through the hands of Dieng and just over the line before the keeper could recover.
On 55 minutes, Dykes then missed a great chance to level but hit a spot-kick down the middle and into Krul’s trailing legs. The chance came after Stefan Johansen had carved through the middle and laid the ball off for the advancing Chris Willock, only for Grant Hanley to clatter into him clumsily.
And just a few moments later, Aarons volleyed home at the far post after a racing onto a deep cross from the left by Kenny McLean.
Rangers were not quite done and after Pukki had raced through and slipped a shot wide with only Dieng to beat, Charlie Austin came on and although unable to force home a cross from Willock to the near-post, the ball fell invitingly to Dykes at the far stick, who had the simple task of helping the ball over the line.
The goal inspired thoughts of a rally and Austin almost made it 2-2 when he got to the near post to meet a cross from another of the subs, Albert Adomah, but the ball whistled well wide.
Norwich composed themselves and closed the door eight minutes from time, with Buendia tucking home a cross from McLean from the left after more good passing had sliced Rangers open.
Hoops: Dieng – Dickie, De Wijs (Ball 75), Barbet – Kakay (Adomah 67), Johansen (Bettache 89), Thomas (Field h/t), Wallace – Willock, Chair (Austin 66) – Dykes. Subs not used: Walsh, Kane, Bonne, Hamalainen
Canaries: Krul – Aarons, Hanley, Omobamidele, Quintalla (Tettey 89)– Skipp, McLean – Buendia (Placheta 89), Dowell (Sorensen 74), Cantwell (Hernandez 85) – Pukki (Hugill 85). Subs not used: Nyland, Vrancic, Stiepermann, Mumba, Tettey