Norwich City 1-4 Atalanta: Canaries beaten by rampant Italians
Todd Cantwell scored to give Norwich the lead against Atalanta but the Canaries ultimately lost 4-1 (Getty Images)

Norwich City's promising but mixed pre-season took another turn against Atalanta as a very encouraging first half in which Todd Cantwell gave them a lead within 20 minutes, only to giftwrap an equalising goal to their Italian opponents just prior to the referee's whistle, ultimately ended in a 4-1 loss 

In the penultimate match of Norwich's pre-season campaign, Cantwell got the team dressed in their trademark yellow kit off to a very good start, the fourth game in succession that the Canaries have got the opening goal.

The midfielder, who was heavily involved in two of Norwich's five goals in their 5-1 demolition of Luton Town last time out, broke the deadlock after 16 minutes, picking his spot after great play from Moritz Leitner and putting another mark in the goals scored column, the 15th time they had netted in six pre-season games to date.

Norwich held onto the lead for most of a half that they dominated, but Atalanta gradually grew into the game and capitalised on an error in the Norwich defence just before the interval, Luis Muriel the man on hand to seize the opportunity and level up proceedings.

The second half continued in a similar competitive vein, albeit with Atalanta - last season's Serie A surprise package with their third place finish - taking confidence from their equaliser and growing into the contest.

And Atalanta, under the tutelage of Gian Piero Gasperini, showed their goalscoring prowess that had fired them to Champions League qualification behind Juventus and Napoli in the 2018-19 campaign and saw them finish as the division's highest scorers with 77 goals.

Muriel got his second of the game after 62 minutes to put Atalanta in front but only after a VAR check for offside, the first time the technology had been called into action at Carrow Road. Further goals were added by on-loan Chelsea midfielder Mario Pasalic and Gambian youngster Musa Barrow with the final kick of the game.

Story so far

Atalanta's pre-season journey kicked off with successive victories, 9-0 in an exhibition match against Calcio Brusaporto on 18th July and three days later dispatching Serie C outfit A.C. Renate by a 6-0 scoreline.

They were playing the second game of their three match pre-season tour of Britain, having lost 2-1 to Swansea City on Saturday despite taking a 5th minute lead. They are due to face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium on Friday.

Norwich included Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia in the side, both players returning from brief injury layoffs, while summer signings Sam Byram and Josip Drmic got further minutes to stake their claim ahead of the new season, the latter settling for a place on the bench despite his hat-trick against Luton.

Early advantage

Both sides had marginal sniffs of the goal early on, with Muriel putting pressure on Norwich goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann in the early exchanges but the ball bounced wide, while Pukki could not apply the finishing touch to a 7th minute opportunity.

However it was local boy Cantwell who made the first impact on the game with the opening goal coming after 16 minutes, just as Norwich's pressure was starting to show. Leitner seized on a loose ball after Onel Hernandez's initial build up and expertly found Cantwell in space. The assist king fancied a goal of his own and he found the net.

Cantwell had another chance within minutes of his deadlock-breaker but his deflected strike did not have the same result. And in the 30th minute, another neat move involving Pukki and Cantwell presented Leitner with the opportunity to double their lead  but his effort found the sparsely populated stand.

Atalanta, nonetheless, were beginning to find their feet in the game, at times making their presence felt a bit too heavily with a few flying challenges resulting in bookings. To his credit the referee calmed things down with a calm word.

Canaries switch off

Norwich's level dropped off slightly as half-time approached and they were caught with a sucker-punch that was almost entirely self-inflicted. The Canaries' free-flowing style can sometimes come at a price, and despite continuing to pose an attacking threat, they were undone at the back.

The usually reliable Timm Klose committed the cardinal sin of playing across his area, passing Fahrmann's goalkick back into the danger zone and Muriel didn't need a second opportunity, his finish was simple but assured and the game was all square.

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All change

In the second half, the game was a far more balanced affair, but Norwich did have their chances - Cantwell and Pukki were involved again on several occasions, with the Finnish gem's effort being saved by Pierluigi Collini guarding the Atalanta net.

Muriel and Buendia had a confrontation and heads almost connected,  but Muriel kept his to seize the lead in the 64th minute.

Last season's 23-goal top-scorer Duvan Zapata, who had just come onto the pitch as a replacement for Papu Gomez, exchanged passes with Dutch playmaker Marten De Roon, and set up Muriel to net, with a suspicion of offside delaying the awarding of the goal.

This was the first time that VAR was used in a match at Carrow Road, ahead of its implementation in the Premier League, and it got the decision correct to let the goal stand. Atalanta were in the lead.

Both sides continued to create openings, and Norwich manager Farke shuffled his pack to bring on Drmic, Patrick Roberts, Kenny McLean and Dennis Srbeny, with Pukki and Cantwell among those given a breather for the final half hour.

Italian Job

However the Italian side were the ones who got a fresh burst of energy and were clinical as they extended the lead to 3-1. They came close in the 80th minute but Zapata's "goal" clearly went in off his hand - VAR was called to confirm the inevitable. 

But just four minutes later, Atalanta legitimately got a third goal, initiated by Barrow, who burst forward and laid the ball off to Timothy Castagne. He cut the ball back to Pasalic and he applied the finish.

Atalanta were now firmly in control and their pressure told with a fourth and final goal as the referee was preparing to check his watch. This goal was all Barrow's own work, having had a curling shot saved minutes earlier, he made no mistake this time, racing from the centre-circle, through the Norwich back-line and slotted the ball home.

What's next?

The Canaries will take a lot of heart from this game, with their attacking capabilities not in any doubt but with a bit of work to do defensively. Farke will stay true to his attacking principles but it can leave Norwich exposed at the back - Atalanta are a very good side and provided a test of what is to come in the Premier League.

Norwich have so far recorded pre-season victories against Luton, Schalke and the behind-closed-doors match with  Bonner SC, a draw with Arminia Bielefeld and the only  other defeat was against Brentford last week. Their last test before the big kick-off is at home to French Ligue 1 side Toulouse on Friday 3rd August, the final chance to get match fitness and practice prior to their season opener against Liverpool the following week. 

Atalanta's Serie A season does not begin for a few weeks, when they travel to Ferrara to face S.P.A.L. Before this, they will play Leicester City on Friday before returning home to test themselves against Spanish club Getafe on 10th August.