Norwich City secures promotion to Premier League, tops Middlesbrough
LONDON (AP) — Norwich secured an immediate return to the Premier League and an estimated promotion windfall of up to $235 million by beating Middlesbrough 2-0 in the second-tier playoff final on Monday.
Norwich seized control of world football's most lucrative club match thanks to goals by Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond by the 15th minute at Wembley Stadium.
Middlesbrough, managed by former Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka, had beaten Norwich in both of their meetings in the League Championship's regular season, but barely threatened in the match that really mattered.
"We've put in probably our most accomplished performance of the season," Norwich captain Russell Martin said.
Norwich joins already-promoted Watford and Bournemouth in next season's Premier League.
The playoff final is the world's richest football game due to the money clubs earn from the Premier League's huge domestic and global broadcasting deals, as well as prize money and potential income from future relegation payments.
It is an impressive achievement for 33-year-old Norwich manager Alex Neil, who was largely unknown in England when he was plucked from Scottish side Hamilton in January with Norwich's promotion hopes looking unlikely. Neil has only lost three of his 25 games in charge, a record which lifted Norwich to a third-place finish in the regular season, and will be the latest in a long line of Scottish coaches to manage in England's top division.
Norwich was able to keep the majority of its squad together after relegation — eight of the starting players on Monday played in the final game of the Premier League last season — and the side has retained its neat, easy-on-the-eye passing style that proved too much for Middlesbrough.
The opening goal in the 12th minute owed much to the perseverance of Jerome and the slow reactions of Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala, who was robbed of possession by the striker on the edge of the penalty box. Jerome cut inside, bore down on the goalkeeper and slipped a low finish in at the near post.
Norwich's second was a team goal that ended with Redmond — an England under-21 winger — collecting a pass with first touch and scoring from an angled shot with his second.
Norwich looked relaxed on the big stage, whereas Middlesbrough, seeking a return to the Premier League after a six-year absence, never really got going.
"I said, 'Don't be scared, go and play,'" Neil said. "If you play the way you can, it will be enough."
Norwich's joint majority shareholder is Delia Smith, a British cookbook writer and television host.