A moment of pure Wayne Rooney magic fired Derby County to victory for the first time in the 2020/21 Sky Bet Championship season on Saturday afternoon.
The 34-year-old Derby skipper scored the only goal of the game with just a matter of minutes remaining as Phillip Cocu’s side claimed a 1-0 victory at Norwich City.
Rooney curled a sublime free-kick from around 20 yards out into the top corner of Tim Krul’s goal to secure all three points for the Rams.
The former England international, known for his lethal ability from set-pieces throughout his career, was delighted to be the matchwinner and help kick-start Derby’s campaign.
While the former Manchester United star was thrilled to find the net for the first time so far this season, he knew the main priority was to see the team pick up a positive result on the road.
“I knew where I wanted it to go,” Rooney told RamsTV when discussing his late strike. “When I put the ball down, I always assess where the goalkeeper is, assess where the wall is and make my decision from there for where I am going to go.
“Looking where Tim Krul was, I felt if I could get it up and over the wall and back down then I had a chance.
“Thankfully, I caught it right.”
He added: “It is three points and we needed it after the first three games. We needed to get some points on the board.”
Derby’s performance was one full of character throughout.
The side kept their shape when out of possession, dug in and displayed plenty of endeavour and desire.
Derby were also indebted to goalkeeper David Marshall for two fine saves late on, while Norwich’s Teemu Pukki missed a second half penalty for the hosts.
After the disappointing 4-0 defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers last weekend, plus the early-season losses at the hands of Reading and Luton Town, Rooney admitted the players knew they needed to show a reaction.
“We knew we had to tighten up and limit the chances of our opponents,” he said. “I thought we did that well and were lucky with the penalty.
“We were really disciplined, defended well and created a few chances which we always knew we’d get.
“Ultimately it comes down to the players and how they work and take instructions in. You can set up how you set up, but the players have to take them instructions on and play to them. We did that brilliantly today.”
He added: “We defended, we were compact, we let Norwich have the ball until the halfway line and then we put pressure on them and limited their opportunities on goal. We did that very well. We knew we would have chances on the break, we had a couple in the first half and the second half.”