Paul Lambert had another happy return to Carrow Road with a tight 1-0 victory where they worked up until the 95th minute. It was a first clean sheet for the Midlands club after 26 league games with conceding at least one goal even though their full backs were constantly beaten in the first half.
For Chris Hughton it was a frustrating game where they could have got a point and were unlucky that the ball didn’t quite fall to the players they wanted it to. Their best player by far was Robert Snodgrass who, despite his penalty miss, was inventive down the right but also defended with pride. It was certainly a game of two halves for Hughton.
It was an expected open start with both teams offensively looking dangerous and the first chance came to the visitors. A typical break from Villa which involved pace with Agbonlahor racing down the left who pulled it back for Weimann, the shot curled and smacked the post. Benteke was the first to react but his shot wouldn’t have counted anyway due to being in an offside position.
There was also a bit of controversy inside the first ten minutes with handball given against Ciaran Clark which appeared to be a bit harsh, and justice was done when Snodgrass’ penalty was saved by Brad Guzan who threw himself to his left.
The majority of the chances went in Norwich’s favour in the early stages and that was backed by the possession stats after 15 minutes with the home side having 69%. This wasn’t to say that Aston Villa didn’t have their fair share of opportunities who grew into the game and looked more lethal on the counter.
The main man for Paul Lambert’s side, Christian Benteke, limped off the pitch after 25 minutes which appeared to be a groin injury. However, his replacement Kozak immediately scored even if it was from a yard out. The Czech forward’s first attempt was saved by Ruddy, unfortunately for him it fell to Agbonlahor who dragged it back to put the ball on a plate for his team mate.
Gabi’s unselfish play resumed which helped Villa no end with him with his cross having to be palmed away from Ruddy despite the ball in eluding all of the men in claret and blue.
Another player had to leave the game in the first half due to a groin problem with Sebastian Bassong, who had a game to forget, making way for Ryan Bennett. His team mates started to run out of ideas in the closing stages of the first half which forced the crowd to become a little quiet and at the same time restless.
The fan’s frustration continued after the interval because they weren’t crafting as many chances and the ones they did have were either cleared or not taken. They were crying out for the natural goalscorer in the face of Gary Hooper who came on with half an hour to spare to lift the the supporters.
The away side started to sit deep which forced Norwich to have a bit more invention which they found through Snodgrass but not enough therefore Hughton brought on Pilkington for the quiet Redmond. The fans showed what they thought to the change by the booing and chanting around the ground.
Lambert looked to have set his team to defend even more than usual in the last 20-25 minutes with the occasional impact break. Norwich surprisingly lacked the penetration and invention, the natural instinct to stick the ball in the net.
Norwich debutant Gary Hooper came close to an equaliser inside the last couple of minutes after getting on the end of Garrido’s cross which somehow Guzan clawed over the bar who was man of the match.