Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich City - Canaries survival bid precarious after Boxing Day defeat
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich City’s Premier League survival mission is looking precarious after the Canaries were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Conor Hourihane's strike in the second half was enough to see the Canaries slump to their second consecutive defeat, with results elsewhere seeing them fall to the foot of the league table.
Daniel Farke named an unchanged XI from the side who were beaten by Wolves last Saturday, with City's head coach hoping the Canaries could marry up a positive performance with a result after the frustrating nature of Saturday's defeat.
City had won four points from their last three away fixtures prior to this encounter, with the last visit to Villa Park being draped in positivity, given City were crowned Championship title-winners on the pitch in May.
Villa's fortunes have drastically altered since their 5-1 rout at Carrow Road in October, with boss Dean Smith coming under increasing pressure after they slipped into the relegation zone following a dispiriting defeat to Southampton.
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Smith made four changes to that side, with influential midfielder John McGinn sidelined for three months after fracturing his ankle. England international Tyrone Mings was also missing for the hosts with a hamstring injury.
Villa displayed plenty of brawn in the opening tussles, with Wesley a physical presence that structured their attacking output. The hosts first effort of note arrived through Douglas Luiz, but the Brazilian could only drag his shot from distance well-wide.
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The opening 14 minutes were scrappy, with both sides struggling to hold possession. Villa were the team making the inroads however, with Luiz going close again through a volley after a Jack Grealish cross.
Emi Buendia was City's creator in chief against Wolves on Saturday, and it was his through pass that split the hosts defence for Teemu Pukki to run onto. Uncharacteristically, the Finn failed to get his shot away and the ball was cleared.
City went close moments later with Buendia once again the architect. His corner was met by Sam Byram but his header bounced into the ground and onto the bar.
Villa began to assert themselves onto the fixture thereafter, with Anwar El Ghazi shooting wide from Matt Targett's low cross. El Ghazi pulled off his marker before meeting the cross in a central position, only to volley it wide.
The second half contained the franticness evident within the first and moments after the restart, City came inches away from taking the lead. Buendia's corner was flicked away at the near post, only for it to fall to the Norwegian inside the box.
He rifled an effort goalward only for Luiz to produce a sensational goal-saving clearance off the line.
Tom Trybull forced another save from Tom Heaton minutes later, with the English shot stopper diving low to his left to deny the German.
City looked threatening on the break, with Buendia and Cantwell progressing the ball up the pitch. With the support of the full-backs, City sought to overload in crucial areas.
On the 60th minute, Aarons and Byram combined with the latter heading Aarons' cross agonisingly wide of the post.
The hosts made City rue their squandered opportunities however, with substitute Hourihane netting for Villa. Grealish was the orchestrator, with his mazy run into the box working the space for the Irishman to smash into the top right-hand corner of the net.
City displayed endeavour as they sought to find an equalising goal, but they were unable to capitalise on the turnovers gifted to them at regular intervals.
Onel Hernandez was the next City operator to see an effort stopped by Tom Heaton, as the Cuban was denied by a superb reflex save.
On the same ground City lifted the Championship title on in May, the Canaries could look back on this fixture as the one which confirmed their direction of travel.
- Aston Villa (4-3-3): Heaton; El Mohamedy, Konsa, Hause, Targett; Luiz, Nakamba (Hourihane, 56), Grealish (C); El Ghazi (Lansbury, 90+2), Wesley, Trezeguet (Jota, 84). Subs not used: Nyland, Engels, Guilbert, Jota, Kodjia.
- Bookings: Wesley, Douglas Luiz
- Goals: Hourihane 64
- Norwich City (4-2-3-1): Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Zimmermann, Byram; Tettey (Vrancic, 76), Trybull (Stiepermann, 76); Cantwell, McLean, Buendia (Hernandez, 76); Pukki. Subs not used: Fahrmann, Lewis, Amadou, Srbeny.
- Bookings: Tettey, Pukki
- Goals: None
- Added on time: 3 mins/ 5 mins
- Attendance: 41, 289
- Referee: Chris Kavanagh
- VAR: Peter Bankes