Written by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)
Bournemouth edged into the Carabao Cup quarter-finals after a nervy 2-1 victory against high-flying Championship side Norwich City.
Despite equalling their best-ever finish in the competition, Cherries were forced to battle valiantly for their spot in the last eight.
Junior Stanislas had fired the Dorset side into the lead shortly before the break with a sumptuous drive, before the visitors responded through Onel Hernandez’s tidy finish after Norwich ramped up the pressure at Vitality Stadium.
But Steve Cook was on hand to steer home Marc Pugh’s deflected strike late on, to prolong Cherries’ dream of silverware for at least another round.
Cherries manager Eddie Howe made eight changes to the side that brushed aside Fulham 3-0 at the weekend.
Captain Simon Francis, Steve Cook and Charlie Daniels were the only players to retain their place, with Marc Pugh and Diego Rico fielded out wide in a midfield four. Jordon Ibe and Junior Stanislas returned to the side to support lone striker Jermain Defoe.
The visitors also boasted eight changes, with Christoph Zimmerman, Jamal Lewis and Alex Tettey starting once again after the Canaries’ recent 1-0 victory against Brentford.
A resurgent Norwich outfit carved out their first opening after just two minutes. Hernandez led the visitors’ surge forward, and teed up Felix Passlack. The German, on loan at Carrow Road from German side Borussia Dortmund, arrowed a drive narrowly wide of the far post.
Cherries almost provided the perfect response on four minutes. A floated pass over the top of the visitors’ defence was latched onto by Ibe, who in turn found Pugh. The veteran winger swung a delivery into a crowded penalty area, where the waiting Defoe could only inadvertently stab wide of the target from a few yards out.
Norwich striker Dennis Srbeny then fizzed a strike comfortably wide of Boruc’s left upright, before Ibe cut inside before lashing over the crossbar at the other end.
The visitors continued to press for the opener, and created another half-chance on 17 minutes. Vrancic’s superb cross-field pass picked out the run of the marauding Passlack inside Cherries’ penalty area, but the German dragged his effort narrowly off target.
Cherries’ frustrations continued a shade after the half-hour mark, after Pugh and Ibe combined superbly along the visitors’ right flank. The former whipped a delivery towards the front post, but miscommunication between Stanislas and Defoe saw both attack the ball, instead resulting in a Norwich goal kick.
The cup tie seemingly demanded a moment of magic to spark into life, and Stanislas’ brilliance provided just that seven minutes before the break. Defoe picked out the run of Rico on the far touchline, who laid off to Stanislas. The winger then breezed past the attentions of Tettey, before striding into the box following some clever footwork and smashing beyond the clutches of McGovern.
But just a minute later, the visitors spurned a guilt-edged chance to peg the hosts back. Srbeny was fed through into Cherries’ penalty area, but Boruc raced quickly off his line to smother the effort.
Shortly after firing narrowly wide, Vrancic was afforded time and space to drift towards goal on the stroke of half time, but the Bosnian could only watch on as his strike cannoned back off the woodwork. After Cherries scrambled to clear their lines, a towering header from the visitors had to be hooked off the line in the half’s final piece of drama.
Following the restart, Stanislas bent a free-kick straight into the Norwich wall after the winger’s electric break forward was prematurely halted by Zimmerman on the outskirts of the box.
The clash once again settled into a lull, before Hernandez looked to drag his side back level single-handedly on 59 minutes. The striker danced towards goal and looked set to pull the trigger, only to be denied by a superb challenge from the sliding Francis.
Passlack then fired an effort clear of the crossbar on the hour mark after the hosts failed to clear following a corner.
Cherries boss Howe made his first substitution on 63 minutes, replacing Ibe with the in-form wideman Ryan Fraser. The Scot’s first involvement in proceedings was to pick out Pugh on the right side of Norwich’s box, but the latter’s cross was marginally too heavy for Defoe.
The livewire Vrancic was instrumental in the visitors’ forays forward, and twice went close in quick succession. On 64 minutes, the Bosnian chanced his arm from 20 yards, but the effort was comfortably collected by Boruc. The former Celtic gloveman then had to be alert a minute later after collecting Vrancic’s strike from the angle.
The visitors’ pressure continued as Hernandez’s fierce effort stung the palms of Boruc, before the Pole collected at the second attempt.
But Norwich’s hard graft finally paid off on 70 minutes, as Tom Trybull’s chipped pass over Cherries’ defence landed kindly at the feet of Hernandez. The winger held off Cook’s challenge, before sliding a tidy finish beneath Boruc and into the far corner for the leveller.
Callum Wilson was immediately introduced into the fray by Howe, and the attacking intention saw Cherries edge back into the lead in a lightning-quick response.
Stanislas’ in-swinging corner on 72 minutes was worked to Pugh, whose weak strike was blocked from close range by Vrancic. But the deflection broke clear to Cook on the edge of the box, before the centre-half flashed a powerful strike beyond the helpless McGovern.
Vrancic curled a free-kick into Boruc’s chest, before substitute Jordon Rhodes nodded wide of the target from six-yards in stoppage time, to secure Cherries’ nervy passage to the competition’s quarter-finals.
CHERRIES: Boruc, Francis (Simpson, 86), Cook, Daniels, Pugh, Surman, Gosling, Rico, Ibe (Fraser, 62), Stanislas, Defoe (Wilson, 71)
Unused substitutes: Travers, Mousset, Taylor, Ofoborh
Norwich: McGovern, Pinto (Buendia, 68), Godfrey, Zimmerman, Lewis, Trybull (Pukki, 83), Tettey, Passlack (Rhodes, 87), Vrancic, Hernandez, Srbany
Unused substitutes: Krul, Leitner, Klose, Aarons