Premier League: Norwich 1 Aston Villa 2
By Football News
Aston Villa moved one step closer towards Premier League survival as a Gabriel Agbonlahor double secured a dramatic 2-1 win at Norwich.
The striker pounced twice in the second half to win a tense game, and give Villa's hopes of staying up a huge boost.
Norwich made three changes to the side that lost to Stoke, Javier Garrido, Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan coming in for Steven Whittaker, Alexander Tettey and Kei Kamara.
Villa, by contrast, made no changes to the team that romped to a 6-1 victory over Sunderland last Monday.
It took a while for either team to exert any superiority in what was a scrappy opening to the contest, the highlight of which was a tame header from Norwich defender Ryan Bennett from a Robert Snodgrass free-kick, which was easily saved by Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
The visitors suffered a blow midway through the first half, with ever-present full-back Matthew Lowton replaced by Eric Lichaj 27 minutes into the half due to an ankle injury.
However, in spite of that, Paul Lambert's side remained resolute at the back, although Chris Hughton's men continued to create the better opportunities and their best chance fell to striker Grant Holt, whose diving header flew just over the crossbar following an excellent ball in from Garrido three minutes before the interval.
Villa showed very little as an attacking threat but almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances on the stroke of half-time as Yacouba Sylla's cross deflected off Garrido and on to the top of the crossbar.
The stalemate continued until the break, but it did not take long for the visitors to take the lead in the second half, Gabriel Agbonlahor netting his eighth goal of the season on 53 minutes with a spectacular solo effort as he ran from the halfway line before firing a powerful effort past Mark Bunn and into the bottom corner.
Norwich almost responded six minutes later, Wes Hoolahan heading wide from another Garrido cross with Russell Martin better positioned to latch on to the delivery.
Villa continued to attack with confidence despite that scare and twice went close to adding a second, Andreas Weimann prodding over from an Agbonlahor cross on 62 minutes before Fabian Delph curled over soon after.
Agbonlahor was at the centre of everything for the visitors and went close again, hitting a close-range effort just wide of the far post after connecting to a flick-on from Christian Benteke.
Yet for all the effort Lambert's charges demonstrated going forward, they were undone as Holt levelled from the penalty spot on 74 minutes after Joe Bennett was adjudged to have hauled down Snodgrass just inside the area.
Norwich continued in the ascendancy following that goal and their best chance to take the points fell to Holt after 86 minutes, as he volleyed wide after controlling a flicked header from substitute Kamara.
It was Villa who would have the final say, though, when Agbonlahor raced on to an Ashley Westwood throughball in the last minute of normal time and slotted a cool finish under Bunn and into the bottom corner.
Holt headed wide in the final seconds of injury time as Norwich pressed for an equaliser, but Villa stood strong to earn a win that puts Lambert's side on the brink of safety.