Barclays Premier League: Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0
PUBLISHED: 17:54 13 May 2012 | UPDATED: 17:36 14 May 2012
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First-half goals by top scorer and player of the season Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson gave Norwich City a winning end to the season – and 12th place in the final Premier League table.
Skipper Holt took just nine minutes to open the scoring, knocking in his 17th of the season - with his chest - from a free-kick.
And striking partner Jackson scored the second after 22 minutes after an error by Villa defender Carlos Cuellar, making his farewell appearance for the club.
The Canaries produced some scintillating football at times and could have had more goals but for a fine display by Villa goalkeeper Shay Given, whose performance was head and shoulders above his jaded looking team-mates.
It was City’s first Premier League win on a Sunday, and the first time since 2004 they have finished the season with a win.
There was more good news for Holt after the game when he collected the Barry Butler Memorial Trophy for the third year in a row as player of the year, the first man to win the award three times.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy was runner-up with midfielder David Fox third.
For Villa and troubled boss Alex McLeish, the defeat left them in 16th place, staying in the top flight but managing just seven league wins all season.
City boss Lambert named an unchanged eleven after the 3-3 draw at Arsenal, with just two changes on the bench. Adam Drury, recovered from a groin injury, and Andrew Crofts replaced Elliott Ward and Anthony Pilkington.
Villa showed two changes after the 1-1 draw against Tottenham that guaranteed their Premier League place, with James Collins back for the injured Alan Hutton and Gabriel Agbonlahor replacing Charles N’Zogbia, who was among the substitutes.
Former City boss Peter Grant, Villa’s assistant boss, was back on the touchline at Carrow Road for the first time since his spell as manager ended in 2007.
Before kick-off, Elliott Bennett received the player of the month award for April.
City, sporting their new kit for the first time, kicked off, but it was Villa who forced the first corner in the third minute. Warnock’s kick was headed away at the near post by Lappin, and cleared as far as Ireland, who struck a swerving effort well off target.
Jackson got the better of Dunne on the edge of the Villa area but stumbled as he went past the defender. City’s first corner by Elliott Bennett was a poor one, headed clear by Dunne.
Holt was shown the yellow card in the eighth minute in odd circumstances when Collins appeared to aim a free-kick straight at him from a few yards away, and he was cautioned for not retreating.
Jackson pounced on the rebound and put the ball in the net, but the whistle had long gone.
Holt, however, had the last laugh by giving City the lead a minute later. Collins fouled Jackson and from Lappin’s free-kick, Holt arrived at the far post to knock the ball home off his chest. It was his 17th goal of the season and his 70th goal for the club in just three seasons.
It was almost 2-0 after 12 minutes when Howson sent in a curling shot from 20 yards that Given saved acrobatically, leaping to his left.
With 18 minutes gone, Lappin was close to his first goal since 2007, sending in a free-kick from a similar distance that Given again saved to his left.
Given had little chance midway through the half, however, when Jackson scored his fifth goal of the season.
Cuellar tried to head the ball back towards his ’keeper from Ryan Bennett’s long ball forward, but it went straight to Jackson, and though his initial touch was parried by Given, the Canadian made no mistake from the rebound.
By this stage, Villa fans were calling for their manager to be sacked and joining in their own chorus of “There’s only one Paul Lambert” – an indication of their preferred replacement.
There were appeals for a penalty when Jackson’s attempted cross appeared to hit Cuellar’s left hand, but referee Atkinson waved City’s protests away.
Ruddy punched away a corner by Warnock as Villa made a rare incursion into Norwich territory, but City were soon pressing again and Elliott Bennett shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Bennett tested Given again when he moved on to Howson’s pass and the keeper dived to his left again to save at the expense of a corner.
Left-back Lichaj showed more enterprise for Villa and set off on a forward run before forcing Ruddy to make a fine save, diving to his right.
Howson was blatantly blocked off by Cuellar on the corner of the penalty area, with the Villa man lucky to escape a yellow card, and when the free-kick was cleared, Hoolahan produced another on-target effort that Given had to get down low to save.
• Half-time: Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0
Villa made a change at the interval when Bannan replaced Herd.
Ruddy made two excellent saves in a matter of seconds. First, a mistake by Johnson let in Heskey, who was held up but did enough to tee up Ireland for a shot that the keeper saved superbly, then as Villa continued to attack, he denied Heskey at the expense of a corner.
From the flag-kick, Ireland produced another shot that Ruddy tipped over the top.
A storming run by Johnson set up another City attack and as Elliott Bennett crossed from the right, Hoolahan attempted a volley that sailed past the angle of post and bar.
Clark became the first Villa player booked for a trip on Jackson, but Johnson thundered the free-kick into the wall.
A splendid Norwich move ended with Hoolahan’s pass being met by a first-time shot from Naughton that Given again saved.
The defenders were joining in now with Russell Martin just off target from a corner, and Ryan Bennett’s header saved by Given from a Holt cross.
In another great move, Hoolahan set up Jackson for a stinging shot that Given saved superbly, diving to his right.
Johnson was keen to get on the scoresheet and was not too far off target with a long-range effort.
Villa made another change after 66 minutes when Cuellar departed in his final game, making way for Gardner.
With just over 20 minutes to go, City changed both strikers with Morison and Wilbraham replacing Holt and Jackson.
Villa almost snatched a goal back when Ruddy did brilliantly to turn Agbonlahor’s shot on to the inside of the post, Russell Martin sliding in to clear the rebound.
Wilbraham fired just over as he went in search of his first Carrow Road goal for the Canaries.
Ireland headed over at the other end when he might have done better, but Villa were showing a little more urgency as the minutes ticked away.
Elliott Bennett fired over from Howson’s pass when he should at least have got his shot on target.
It was Howson’s last contribution as, with 13 minutes to go, he made way for Crofts.
Heskey glanced a header wide from Warnock’s cross, and Warnock was next to make way when Baker replaced him with nine minutes to go, the day’s final substitution.
In stoppage time, Bannan almost reduced the arrears with a swerving shot that flashed past the post – the last meaningful action of the season.
• Result: Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Naughton, Ryan Bennett, Russell Martin, Lappin; Howson (Crofts, 77); Elliott Bennett, Johnson; Hoolahan; Holt (Morison, 69), Jackson (Wilbraham, 69). Subs (not used): Steer, Drury, Fox, Surman.
• Aston Villa: Given; Cuellar (Gardner, 66), Collins, Dunne, Lichaj; Clark; Herd (Bannan, 45), Warnock (Baker, 81 in); Ireland; Heskey, Agbonlahor. Subs (not used): Guzan, Carruthers, N’Zogbia, Delfouneso.
• Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)
• Attendance: 26,803
• Goals: City: Holt (9), Jackson (22)
• Bookings: City: Holt (8). Villa: Clark (54)