Wayne Rooney rolled back the years with a brilliant free-kick as Derby struck late to earn a 1-0 win at Norwich to record their first points of the season at the fourth attempt. The 33-year-old skipper curled home from just outside the box in the 87th minute to secure his side a priceless victory after they had spent most of the afternoon defending.
It was rough justice on Norwich, who dominated for long periods and wasted a guilt-edged chance to go ahead early in the second half when Teemu Pukki missed from the penalty spot after slipping on the sodden turf. The Canaries have now lost twice on the trot after taking four points from their opening two games while Derby now have something to build on after losing their first three.
With Ben Godfrey on his way to Everton in a £25m deal, on-loan Burnley defender Ben Gibson made his debut for the Canaries while there was a first start of the season for Argentinian playmaker Emi Buendía.
On a miserable, wet afternoon which required the floodlights to be on, Norwich brightened the gloom by making a lively start and former City keeper David Marshall had to be alert to grab a 20-yard snapshot from Marco Stiepermann.
A couple of minutes later it needed a desperate last-ditch tackle from Nathan Byrne to take the ball away from Onel Hernández at the back post as the Cuban attempted to latch onto Pukki’s low cross. It was all Norwich in the early stages, with Derby sitting deep and seemingly content to soak up the pressure. But the hosts’ slick passing tended to peter out on the edge of the box and the Rams had more of the ball themselves as the half progressed.
They were unable to create any clear opportunities, however, although there was a brief moment of concern for City after 21 minutes when a quick break saw Duane Holmes swing over a deep cross to Rooney on the edge of the area. The former England star caught the ball on the volley but his effort squirted harmlessly wide.
Norwich wasted a golden chance to get their noses in front seven minutes into the second half when Pukki fluffed his lines from the spot. The penalty was awarded when George Evans blocked Hernández’s shot with his arm after good work from Lukas Rupp. It was just the boost Norwich needed after a scrappy spell but Pukki slipped on the wet turf as he prepared to make contact and his effort spooned up in the air and clipped the top of the crossbar as it sailed to safety.
City keeper Tim Krul was called into serious action for the first time after 73 minutes when he produced an excellent save at full stretch after a fine run and shot from young Derby substitute Morgan Whittaker. But Norwich were very much on the front foot and Marshall pulled off a smart stop a few minutes later to foil the unmarked Max Aarons at the back post.
However, it was Derby who finally opened the scoring in the 87th minute thanks to a moment of magic from Rooney. The Rams won a free-kick on the edge of the box after a desperate challenge on Jason Knight from Rupp and the skipper made him pay by curling a beautiful free-kick into top right-hand corner of the net.
Norwich almost salvaged a point a couple of minutes later when substitute Jordan Hugill sent a header from a deep cross goalwards but Marshall made a superb reflex stop to deny him.