December 9 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Norwich City’s miserable run against their former boss Paul Lambert continued in a televised 1-0 Premier League defeat to Aston Villa at Carrow Road.
Libor Kozak pounced from close range in the first half after Robert Snodgrass had earlier seen his penalty saved by Brad Guzan, who then produced an acrobatic one-handed stop to foil Gary Hooper in the frenetic final stages.
City again looked vulnerable to the pace and potency of Villa’s attacking midfielders although the hosts enjoyed more spells in enemy territory in stark contrast to their below-par display at Tottenham. The home fans had to suffer the increasingly familiar sight of Lambert taking the applause of the away fans at the final whistle after watching his side inflict a first home defeat on the Canaries this season to secure Villa’s first clean sheet in 27 league games.
Hughton resisted any temptation to hand Hooper his Premier League debut from the start with the former Celtic man again kept in reserve as Johan Elmander was deployed as chief support to club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel. City’s starting line up showed two changes from the 2-0 Premier League defeat at Spurs with Russell Martin in for Steven Whittaker and Jonny Howson replacing Bradley Johnson who was not included in the matchday squad along with Martin Olsson.
Lambert plugged the defensive gap from Jores Okore’s long term injury absence with Ciaran Clark who had replaced the young Dane in last weekend’s home defeat to Newcastle. Andreas Weimann underlined his threat in the first minute after riding the challenge of Howson to drill at John Ruddy. Nathan Redmond then skied well wide at the opposite end from Elmander’s clever cut back. The ferocious early intent from both sides showed little sign of abating when Gabriel Agbonlahor raced in behind Sebastien Bassong to pick out Weimann who curled against the foot of Ruddy’s far post. City’s England international spread himself expertly to block Christian Benteke’s follow-up but the Belgian had been flagged offside.
City were handed a golden chance from the penalty spot in the sixth minute when Clark was adjudged to have handled Snodgrass’ knock back but the Scot’s penalty was saved by Guzan diving low to his left.
Norwich collectively remained far more aggressive that at White Hart Lane despite the early setback with van Wolfswinkel chesting over under pressure inside the Villa six-yard box from Redmond’s cutback following a superb spot from Snodgrass.
Villa’s fearsome counter-attacking threat saw City stretched in the 19th minute after Leroy Fer had been robbed in central midfield. Agbonlahor cleverly fed Benteke but his goalbound strike was deflected behind by Michael Turner. Benteke then rose unchallenged above Bassong but the off-balance Clark hammered wide.
Snodgrass’ free kick was met by van Wolfswinkel but the Dutchman’s glancing header failed to trouble Guzan. Benteke then collapsed to the turf after twisting awkwardly in an aerial challenge with Bassong. The Belgian’s attempt to re-join the action lasted barely seconds before he was forced off with what Lambert later revealed was a suspected hip injury. City were inches from taking the lead during Benteke’s injury hiatus when Fer picked out Snodgrass with a pass that bisected two Villa defenders before van Wolfswinkel volleyed the Scot’s cross wide from 12 yards.
It proved a costly miss when Benteke’s replacement, Kozak, slammed home at the second attempt in the 30th minute after Ruddy initially denied the striker from Weimann’s pass which Agbonlahor reacted quickest to retrieve.
City continued to have little answer to Villa’s pacy incursions from midfield areas with Ruddy again pressed into emergency service to palm away Kozak’s cross from the left. Norwich’s afternoon took a fresh turn for the worse when Bassong departed with a suspected hamstring injury to be replaced by Ryan Bennett. Hughton’s side pieced together a badly-needed period of possession in the closing seconds of the opening period with Redmond lining up Leandro Bacuna but drilling into the Lower Barclay. City fashioned a decent chance at the start of the second period when Bennett rose six yards out but miscued Snodgrass’ free kick with Guzan committed. Villa swarmed over City’s midfield again before Weimann curled wide after a prolonged spell of pressing on the edge of Ruddy’s penalty box before Aleksandar Tonev repeated the trick with the same wayward outcome.
Martin’s increasingly advanced position illustrated the degree of urgency with one burst and cross that was poised to arrive at Elmander’s feet before Ron Vlaar sensed the danger. Bacuna then managed to smuggle away Snodgrass’ angled cut back.
Hughton made his move with Hooper and Anthony Pilkington introduced in the 63rd minute to huge applause for Redmond and Elmander – albeit Redmond’s exit sparked a different reaction from the home fans. Nicklas Helenius’ free kick spiralled away after Turner was adjudged to have illegally trapped the striker. Van Wolfswinkel was then a couple of yards from controlling Fer’s inviting ball that flashed across the face of Guzan’s six-yard box. Hooper’s first sustained involvement saw him latch onto Fer’s threaded pass but the strike was deflected behind.
City’s commitment to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser left plenty of space for Villa to attack in the final quarter but Tonev’s wild miscue left Lambert thrusting his head skywards after Weimann had led the breakout. Snodgrass’ cute free kick picked out Pilkington, but the wild air shot on his right peg typified City’s endemic lack of precision. Bennett had to be vigilant to deflect Kozak’s angled strike into Ruddy’s side netting with Norwich again exposed on the counter.
Clark’s positioning earned the Villa centre-back a slice of good fortune in the 81st minute when he diverted Martin’s cross a yard over his own bar. Vlaar and Luna then threw themselves in front of van Wolfswinkel’s goalbound hit after Pilkington, Hooper and Fer combined to set up the striker. Guzan’s stunning 88th minute stop to deny Hooper from point blank range summed up the Canaries’ afternoon – the Villa keeper thrusting up an arm to divert Hooper’s half-volley over from Garrido’s inviting centre.
• Norwich: Ruddy, Martin, Turner, Bassong (Bennett 38), Garrido, Fer, Howson, Snodgrass, Elmander (Hooper 63), Redmond (Pilkington 63), van Wolfswinkel. Subs (not used): Bunn, Whittaker, Hoolahan, Tettey.
• Booking: Turner (foul on Luna, 83).
• Aston Villa: Guzan, Vlaar, Clark, Bacuna, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Agbonlahor (Helenius 60), Luna, Delph, Benteke (Kozak 28), Tonev (Sylla 77). Subs (not used): Steer, Baker, Bennett, Albrighton.
• Goal: Kozak (30)
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 5 minutes
• Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)
• Attendance: 26,813
Chris Hughton admitted Norwich’s soft centre again contributed to their downfall as Luis Suarez inspired Liverpool to a 5-1 Premier League win on Wednesday night at Anfield.