Norwich 2-0 Aston Villa: Canaries add to Villans woe
By Sam Drury
Last Updated: 28/12/15 6:15pm
Goals from Jonny Howson and Dieumerci Mbokani were enough to give Norwich victory over Aston Villa, who have now gone 18 league games without a win.
Howson volleyed in the opener from Nathan Redmond's cross midway through the first half and that was how it stayed until three minutes from time when Mbokani headed home the second.
It was a second win in three for Alex Neil's side to edge them away from the relegation zone, while Villa remain rooted to the foot of the table with their hopes of survival slimming by the week.
Villa were certainly the better side in the opening stages with Scott Sinclair looking particularly bright down the right.
He was involved in a move that eventually saw the ball come to Leandro Bacuna 25 yards out and he tested Declan Rudd with the first shot of the match.
From the resulting corner, Micah Richards was inches away from giving Remi Garde's side the lead. The ball dropped on the six-yard line but under pressure from his marker, Richards was unable to stab the ball goalwards.
The visitors continued to press and fashioned the best chance of the half, Ashley Westwood's free-kick finding Jordan Ayew whose header forced Rudd to parry the ball away, diving to his left.
Villa were well on top but it counted for little as they fell behind soon after. Redmond played a neat one-two with Graham Dorrans to get into the Villa box and clipped in a cross that skimmed off a defender's head and into the path of Howson, the midfielder making no mistake with his volley from eight yards with 24 minutes on the clock.
Despite a decent response from Villa, Norwich could have doubled their lead as a smart corner routine saw Dorrans fire just wide of the near post from a low delivery.
It was a similar story in the second half as Villa again started on the front foot but were unable to create any real openings.
Redmond tried his luck with a shot form 25 yards that bounced just in front of Guzan and when the 'keeper spilled it, the ball ran to Howson on the edge of the box, but the former Leeds midfielder was unable to find his mark and slid the ball narrowly wide.
Ayew briefly caused panic in the Norwich defence with a powerful run through the middle before choosing to pass out wide having reached the edge of the area with just one defender ahead of him.
Soon after, a Ciaran Clark slip nearly allowed Mbokani to run through on goal but the defender recovered to make a crucial slide tackle to deny the striker.
At that point the game seemed destined to end 1-0 but another defensive lapse, this time from Alan Hutton, allowed Norwich the chance to clinch the win.
Redmond found Hoolahan on the edge of the box and delivered a perfect cross to Mbokani, who had peeled away to the far post before planting a header past Guzan to wrap up all three points.
There was still time for Ayew to draw a fantastic save out of Rudd with a curling free-kick in the final minute of stoppage time before the final whistle went and Norwich were able to celebrate a crucial win.
Phil Thompson's Soccer Saturday verdict
"You've got to look at quality - and there's certainly none in this team. We know Norwich had a good result at Manchester United, but they're not a team to fear.
"Norwich, you always felt, had the cutting edge. Nathan Redmond was different class - he creates the opening goal. It was fine margins as it was fought out in the middle.
"It's not really good enough at this level. You look at Rudy Gestede - he's a trier and he might get you one or two goals. Jordan Ayew has come on leaps and bounds, and he's turned a corner for this side, but that's not going to be enough for them.
"I believe they've been let down by a lot of people, including the scouting network which has identified a lot of these players, who are not really of Premier League standard. This defeat today just resigns them to it, and I don't think they will splash out any sort of money in January."
Norwich: Rudd (7), Martin (6), Bennett (6), Bassong (6), Brady (7), Tettey (7), Howson (7), Dorrans (6), Redmond (7), Hoolahan (6), Mbokani (7).
Subs used: O'Neil (6), Jerome (6), Odjidja-Ofoe (6).
Aston Villa: Guzan (6), Hutton (5), Richards (6), Clark (5), Bacuna (5), Gueye (6), Westwood (6), Veretout (5), Sinclair (6), Richardson (5), Ayew (6).
Subs used: Traore (6), Gestede (5), Grealish (6).
Man of the match: Dieumerci Mbokani