Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich: Gabriel Agbonlahor keeps Villa hopes alive
By Allan Valente
Last Updated: 06/02/16 10:54pm
Aston Villa kept their hopes of Premier League survival alive with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Norwich at Villa Park.
Remi Garde's side started Saturday's game 10 points behind their opponents, who sat just above the relegation zone, but goals from Joleon Lescott and Gabriel Agbonlahor helped them close the gap on the Canaries and nearest rivals Sunderland.
The 2-0 defeat also condemned Norwich to their fifth straight Premier League loss, and Alex Neil will be disappointed with the result after dominating for spells throughout the match.
It means his side drop into the relegation places, a point behind Newcastle.
It was Villa who enjoyed more of the ball in the opening 10 minutes and they had an early chance to go in front when Agbonlahor got on the end of Leandro Bacuna's low shot from the right, but he could not sort his feet quickly enough and sent his effort wide from 12 yards.
The away side then began to dominate proceedings, with the front pairing of Dieumerci Mbokani and Steven Naismith combining well to cause the Villa defence problems, with the former forcing Mark Bunn into a good save from 25 yards.
Naismith was up next, but he dragged his effort from distance just wide as the visitors pushed for an opener.
Indeed, they should have taken the lead on the half-hour mark when Sebastien Bassong met Robbie Brady's cross but he headed down into the ground and sent the ball over the bar.
Villa weathered that storm and managed to grab the opener on the stroke of half time. Carles Gil's free-kick to the back post was not dealt with by Norwich and Lescott shook off the attention of Mbokani to head past Declan Rudd, albeit with the help of a deflection off of Timm Klose.
The home side appeared buoyed by that goal and started the second period with plenty of purpose.
Agbonlahor threatened when Norwich seemed to switch off, driving unopposed towards the box and forcing Rudd into a decent save.
However, six minutes into the second half, the Villa forward did get his goal.
He did well to stay onside before getting on the end of Jordan Veretout's through ball on the left-hand side of the box but he was helped by Rudd, who came rushing from his goal when he did not need to, allowing Agbonlahor to just clip the ball round the goalkeeper.
Villa nearly sealed the points five minutes later but Bacuna volleyed wide from Aly Cissokho's cross to the back post.
Norwich started to search desperately for the goal that would get them back into the game, with Gary O'Neil squandering a great chance in the box before Patrick Bamford just missed out on getting on the end of Nathan Redmond's delivery.
Villa had another opportunity to make the game safe with 20 minutes remaining when Veretout picked out Bacuna in the box but he blazed over the bar after getting the better of his marker.
Norwich could have been forgiven for sensing that it was not going to be their afternoon when they had two chances cleared off the line in quick succession.
First Bunn went walkabout from his goal line, failing to deal with a lofted ball to the back post and Russell Martin's header was cleared by Jores Okore. From the corner, Mbokani's header was blocked by Gil.
The tension around the ground was obvious as Villa chased their third league win of the season and they were living dangerously as the clock ticked down.
Mbokani had another effort cleared off the line by Lescott before his follow-up was blocked by a combination of Villa defenders and Bunn, who scrambled to meet the Norwich striker.
Okore was excellent at the back for Villa and he capped a fine performance with another goal-saving block, this time denying Bamford from close range when it looked as though the on-loan striker had scored in time added on.
Aston Villa: Mark Bunn (5), Aly Cissokho (6), Jores Okore (8), Joleon Lescott (8), Micah Richards (6), Ashley Westwood (5), Leandro Bacuna (6), Idrissa Gueye (6), Jordan Veretout (7), Carles Gil (7), Gabriel Agbonlahor (7)
Substitues: Ciaran Clark (3)
Norwich: Declan Rudd (5), Russell Martin (5), Timm Klose (5), Robbie Brady (6), Sebastien Bassong (5), Steven Naismith (6), Gary O'Neil (6), Jonny Howson (6), Wes Hoolahan (5), Youssouf Mulumbu (5), Dieumerci Mbokani (7)
Substitutes: Nathan Redmond (5) Patrick Bamford (5) Matthew Jarvis (4)
Man of the match: Joleon Lescott