As a whole city prepares to wave farewell to a legendary - nay, mythical - presence, the ACN squad rattles the memory bag to pick out their favourite Pukki goal.
It’s probably his least-best goal. Scrappy, toe-punty, squeezed between a flat-footed John Stones and flailing Ederson, but it meant so much. Manchester City had scored just before half-time leaving us 2-1 up at the break and we knew the onslaught was coming. This dream wasn’t going to last much longer, surely? Ah well, what a fun first half! Let’s just enjoy that.
And then… Otamendi dallies with the ball on the edge of his area, his back to Emi Buendia. Emi steals in behind him, pinches the ball, looks up, crosses to Pukki in space on the penalty spot. It’s a terrible ball, behind Pukki who has to control it with his back foot and turn awkwardly to at least face the right way for a shot. Fortunately he has a spare split second with John Stones and Ederson out of position but the ball has bobbled up horribly in front of him and the shot looks impossible.
At this point watching from the stands, I remember time completely slowing down. I seemed to have ages to think to myself, “surely he can’t score there… can he?”. And then Teemu rights his body, and just puts his toe through the ball. It arcs upwards in an ugly but balletic sequence that sees Ederson and John Stones diving towards it like dolphins, one from the left, one from the right, as the ball disappears through the arch created by their motion. And then the bulge of the net. The delirium. The pandemonium. The knowledge that three goals might just be enough for us to take some points off one of the world’s most gifted and expensive sides. And it was, because Teemu Pukki was in the right place at the right time, again. Kiitos paljon, Teemu.
An away game a few days before Christmas is one of my favourite things in football. On the trains and in the pubs it’s all dodgy jumpers and demob happiness, with the anticipation that we might get that rare joy of singing “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see Norwich win away” at ten to five.
As we headed to Blackburn on December 22, 2018 we were on a ten-match unbeaten run, with only Leeds ahead of us and five points clear of third, and yet it still felt like most of us were only just starting to believe that this might actually be a promotion-winning team.
Sporting the lime green kit in which Pukki had previously chested us to a 1-0 win at QPR, it was for the most part an afternoon of frustration. Buendia and Leitner were both off injured in the first half, kicked off the park by a combative Blackburn. Pukki fired wide on the two occasions he was put through on goal, while there were saves from a Stiepermann drive and a superb header from Godfrey, who also had the ball in the net twice, both disallowed. As the Ewood Park afternoon got darker and colder it was looking like one of those days.
Then in the 86th minute Vrancic picked up a dropping ball on the edge of the box, shuffled his feet and squeezed a perfectly weighted ball through a tiny gap in the Blackburn defenders into the path of Hernandez with his afterburners on. He squared it first time to the back post, and Pukki was there to slam it into the back of the net. Probably one of the easiest chances he’s ever scored for us, but as with so many of his goals it was the intelligence of his movement and timing of his run that confounded the defenders and put him in exactly the right place to score.
The away end went mad, of course, but as the celebrations began to die down I turned around to look at the crowd. Just behind me were two men I’d never seen before holding a giant Finnish flag between them, dancing in the aisle with the biggest smiles on their faces. I hope they kept singing “Jingle Bells” all the way back to Finland.
This year, to save me from tears, I’LL GIVE IT TO TEEMU PUKKI! pic.twitter.com/cKmSD3nuzC
— Ffion Thomas (@ffion_) December 22, 2018
The highlight of an away day to Preston is usually the local delicacy, a butter pie. But this game was also David Wagner’s first game as Head Coach. The highlight was seeing the start of a new era. The chance to put behind the trudging misery of the Deany era and take our first steps in what would be an epic push for the playoffs or better.
The game was a belter. Great build up, great atmosphere, and three goals up inside the opening half-an-hour. The team was playing with the fluency and speed of it’s former 18/19 self. Preston didn’t know what to do. We thought we were seeing the return of something new, but it was an echo of something that had passed.
Pukki was right in the thick of it, hustling and bustling, making runs, getting back. It was vintage. And so was the goal. A long ball from Aarons – the sort of punt that would seem at home in a hoofball team, but aiming for Pukki on a run is never a long shot. He was stronger than the Preston defender to win the ball, then cleverly turned him – showing again that he is a striker with a sharp footballing mind – and closed in on goal. Watching from near the back of the away end, it looked like a heavy touch had given the ball away, but quick feet allowed Teemu to knock it under the keeper.
Pukki wheeled away to the travelling supporters. Chris Goreham called it “dreamland for David Wagner” as the celebrations continued.
The five years we have had have been such good times. There are so many, many memories to choose from. This one was a good goal, but, in what turned out to be a forgettable season, it is mainly memorable because it was the last time I will ever see Pukki get one in a Norwich shirt.
During the 2018/19 season, I was at university in Lincoln. During what could be a lonely existence in a white box room, Norwich City became a vital outlet and link to home. This season also featured possibly my favourite ever Norwich match, away to Leeds United.
This game was probably the point the league title swung in our favour. However, it wasn’t just the on-pitch action that made this game memorable for me. Every aspect of it was everything an away day should be. My other half and I took the bus to Leeds from her parents’ house in Sheffield. On arrival, we met up with my brother, his friend, my Leeds supporting mate and his girlfriend before making our way to the ground together.
Elland Road is a fantastic ground. Old fashioned and vociferously vocal. Today, though, it was well and truly silenced by a massively dominant Norwich performance. By contrast, the away end was rocking.
Of the three goals Norwich scored that day, Teeku’s goal was perhaps the most intriguing. From our corner at the opposite end of the ground you couldn’t actually see the strike, or the ball enter the net. It was therefore not quite clear what the Leed’s fans on the Kop were gesticulating so passionately about. A penalty perhaps?
It was only after looking at the scoreboard to our right that I realised we were now two goals to the good. With the home fan’s protests due to their erroneous belief Pukki was offside. The realisation rumbled through the travelling faithful until it reached a crescendo.
Norwich ran out convincing 3-1 winners. Given the consensus amongst both sets of fans prior to the match was that a draw would be a good result for all involved, this was an impressive outcome.
This game is very special to me, and Teemu Pukki a central character within it. The thing is, when it comes to 2018-19, that statement could apply for any number of matches – for any number of people. Of course, he was by no means the only iconic player in such an excellent campaign, but he was integral to the stories we remember from that magical season.
On a cold Wednesday evening at Depdale, Norwich had wobbled. Well beaten by their hosts, there was talk around their run-in, whether City had enough to get them over the line and what happened next. The result was unexpected but left several question marks. It was time for senior players to step up. Enter Teemu Pukki.
In typically unselfish Teemu fashion, he was helping his side defend their own box early in the match. Twelve seconds later, he was 10 yards from goal, about to stroke the ball and, although he didn’t know it at that point, was propelling Norwich City to the Championship title. City’s quiet leader was out front, showing his colleagues the way.
It isn’t a much lauded Pukki goal, it didn’t set hearts racing the way his strikes against Millwall or Ipswich did, but it was peak Pukki and it was peak Farkeball. The very embodiment of 2018-19.
Very much like a classic song from your youth where you notice different acoustic elements after each listen, the way in which the goal is crafted is pure artistic brilliance. It’s hard to pick your favourite element; Stiepi linking the play, Onel’s one touch pass, Jamal just being Jamal or the exquisite through ball that is perfectly weighted. Everything that precedes Teemu being played in perfectly demonstrates an excellently coached side that is about to achieve something very special. And yet Pukki is left with plenty to do when he receives the ball, 35 yards from goal.
What happens next occurs in the blink of an eye, a master predator at the peak of his powers with a fluidity and confidence rarely seen in City strikers. Four touches to take himself into the box, bamboozle two defenders and leave Remi Matthews haplessly wishing for life back at Norwich City.
Ultimately, Norwich went on to win with some ease, but Pukki and his team’s magnificence in creating the goal settled the nerves. It also set up an eight game winning streak and 14 match unbeaten run, culminating at Villa Park with the Championship trophy held aloft by Farke’s loveable rag-tag nomads who had by now all found their spiritual home. Kiitos Teemu, this goal meant more than you knew at the time.
Like the crack of a gun firing, this was the goal that introduced Teemu to the rest of the world. A nut-sweet volley after the sort of looping-out-to-the-edge-of-the-box-from-a-cross that we all, as fans, hope that someone will strike but also know the ball will likely go flying into the upper-tier of the River End upon this happening.
The goal is great for many reasons, both physically and metaphysically. After inarguably Norwich’s most exciting ever promotion campaign we were in a bit of a frenzied state come the start of the new season, and couldn’t wait to see what Farkeball would serve up in the league. After a meh away defeat at Anfield that saw the balloon deflate rapidly, a proper Farkeball win was needed – and this game delivered it and then some.
Finally, of course, this was the first goal of three Teemu scored in that match. More men have walked on the moon than scored top-flight hat-tricks for Norwich City, and while I will never get over the fact I was unable to witness our once-in-a-generation FA Cup home quarter final (at least, until it happens again), I am forever grateful that I did get to see this event in club history for myself.
The list of Norwich players who have scored top-flight hat-tricks up to that point was Ted MacDougall (who scored two), Viv Busby, Justin Fashanu, John Deehan Efan Ekoku, Mark Robins, Chris Sutton and Darren Beckford. A list of names with a real “echoes of the past resonance”, that Teemu now fittingly belongs to.
In the head canon of Norwich City supporters, it’s easy to think that this match was the one played immediately before the Man City triumph. Of course, the reality is that we subsequently had a frustrating loss at home against Chelsea and a silly away defeat to West Ham to demonstrate early on the lack of ability to get the odd draw and saw us cut adrift long before the SARS-CoV-2 virus took its plane journey to the UK. But, as we watched Teemu walking towards the tunnel with the ball clutched under his arm (a rare example, by the way, of an unwritten tradition of football continuing into the modern era), we all believed anything might be possible.
My favourite Teemu Pukki goal was the third in a 3-1 win that took us back to the top of the Championship as the season moved into its tense final months.
It’s perhaps not the most iconic of Pukki’s Norwich goals, he’s scored so many it can be hard to remember them all, but for me it’s a goal that sums up both Pukki and Daniel Farke’s sides at their peak.
In the 79th minute of a hard-fought game, Onel Hernández finds Emi Buendía in the centre circle and the following move is just an absolute joy to watch. As soon as Teemu sees Emi with the ball, he’s on his bike, making his run on goal. As soon as Emi receives the ball, he gets his head up and is looking for Temmu – instinctively knowing he’ll be making that run.
That split-second moment is perfect footballing symbiosis, an understanding between the two that we had already seen plenty of times that season and would gloriously see many, many more times.
Emi’s pass is measured perfection (of course) taking two Millwall players out of the game and arriving straight into Teemu’s feet despite him having a defender on both sides. His first touch is then total heaven – leaving both of his markers trailing and himself in on goal. There’s still work to do however, but reminiscent of Michael Owen against Argentina in 1998, Teemu pings it effortlessly into the far corner. From centre circle to the back of the net, 2 players, 5 seconds, 5 touches.
We were fortunate that there are so many types of goal associated with Farkeball – but the quick-thinking and understanding between Buendia and Pukki will be the formula that I always think of first. It also happened in the neon green away kit which, despite being a divisive assault on one’s vision, is now associated with Teemu doing some of his best NCFC work, getting a number of important goals in it whilst glowing like Mr Burns.
I will miss Teemu immensely. He’s one of a handful of players in my time that I always looked forward to seeing play, regardless of the team’s form or league position. There’s obvious names on this list – Huckerby, Hoolahan, Buendía. Then there’s players like Grant Holt and Pukki who you knew were going to entertain you even if they didn’t get a goal.
I’m not much of an analyst of the game, I still watch games like I did when I was 10-years-old, with a focus on the immediacy of who’s got the ball. But I have loved seeing Teemu make his early runs, playing off the shoulder of defenders, intelligently looking for pockets of space, dropping deep or wide if he had to. And he diligently did this hard work every time he was on the pitch, without ego or complaint because by all accounts he’s a bloody nice bloke. So farewell to our Teemu, I don’t think we’ll see another like you.
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