Aston Villa 2 Norwich City 0
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Norwich slumped to a fifth consecutive Premier League defeat in a desperate 2-0 loss at rock-bottom Aston Villa on Saturday.
Joeleon Lescott escaped Dieumerci Mbokani's attentions to head past Declan Rudd from close range in the 45th minute before Gabby Agbonlahor steered a second past Rudd in the 51st minute, after the young keeper rashly raced to the edge of his area.
Villa had only won once at home in the league prior to Norwich's visit, who slipped into the relegation zone on another miserable outing for Alex Neil's men.
Neil made four changes from the line up that lost 3-0 in the Premier League to Tottenham in midweek. Russell Martin returned to captain the side in place of Ivo Pinto with Seb Bassong retaining his place alongside Timm Klose in central defence. Robbie Brady was back after recovering from a sickness bug with Martin Olsson making way.
Gary O'Neil replaced the suspended Alex Tettey after his serving his own three-match ban with Wes Hoolahan restored to the line up in favour of Matt Jarvis.
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Chelsea loan signing Patrick Bamford make his first appearance as a Norwich player on the substitutes' bench. Ryan Bennett was absent following the birth of his twin daughters and Graham Dorrans did not make the trip as the Scottish midfielder recovered from his own sickness bug.
Aston Villa included former Norwich City keeper Mark Bunn in their starting line up.
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City carved out the first moment of promise in the third minute when Mbokani released Steven Naismith but Villa had numbers back to clear.
Villa looked wiling to engage in a similarly ambitious fashion with Carles Gil slicing a cross out of play after twisting past Brady.
Gil slammed a snapshot against Klose with the hosts looking to press Norwich back before Agbonlahor's instinctive flick drifted wide from close range from Leandro Bacuna's cross.
Jonny Howson was booked in the 12th minute for coming through the back of Jordan Veretout but Villa were unhappy referee Atkinson opted not to play on with the hosts in an excellent position.
Norwich fashioned the first real chance in the 20th minute, with Hoolahan and Naismith predictably combining wide on the left, to pick out Mbokani who unleashed a 20-yard shot parried by Bunn.
The Scot then advanced in a similar position but scuffed his attempted right-footed effort as Bunn watched it roll harmlessly wide.
Martin picked out the unmarked Bassong in the 29th minute but the centre-back's diving close range header bounced down into the turf and over Bunn's bar.
Naismith was then crowded out by Aly Cissokho before Brady's dipping free kick was punched away by Bunn in a bright spell of concerted pressurre from the visitors.
O'Neil hauled down Veretout at the opposite end to offer Villa a set piece chance 25 yards out but Gil wastefully hammered into the terracing.
The early fire subsided towards the end of the opening period with both teams content to probe in central areas, but there was a late twist in the final minute of the first half when Lescott rose above Mbokani at the far post to head home Gil's deep free kick. The big striker had been penalised for a shove on Micah Richards to concede the set piece wide on the Villa right.
Neil opted to keep the same personnel fort the start of the second period. Hoolahan forced a corner inside the opening minutes after Jores Okore blocked his cross.
Agbonlahor injected some urgency for the hosts with a penetrative burst but Rudd dropped on his low long range effort. Norwich failed to heed the warning in the 51st minute when the pacy striker guided the ball past the advancing Rudd into the empty net after the keeper had raced to the edge of his penalty area to try and cut out Veretout's pass.
Neil made a double change in the 56th minute with Bamford and Nathan Redmond replacing Hoolahan and Mulumbu respectively.
Villa continued to press after doubling their lead with Bacuna slamming a volley into the side netting at the far post.
Bamford was bundled over by Idrissa Gana inside the Villa box but referee Atkinson was not interested in the striker's penalty appeals.
Naismith led a counter in the 63rd minute before picking out the late-arriving O'Neil but he guided a right-footed shot wide at full stretch from 16 yards.
Redmond then produced an inviting cross Bamford was unable to anticipate as it slithered across Bunn's six-yard line and out of play.
Bacuna should have tested Rudd in the 70th minute when he blazed over on the angle at the far post after Villa switched the play from left to right.
Brady and Naismith the linked at the opposite end but the Irishman's angled cross was a yard in front of Bamford.
Jarvis was introduced in the 80th minute and from Redmond's deep cross Martin's header was cleared off the Villa line by Okore before Mbokani's attempt from the corner was smuggled behind again by Agbonlahor, manning his right-hand post.
Mbokani then mis-kicked in the final minute of normal time 14 yards out before the DR Congo international's follow-up was smothered after Lescott's attempted clearance veered across Bunn's goal line.
• Aston Villa: Bunn, Richards (Clark 90), Okore, Bacuna, Gana, Agbonlahor, Westwood, Lescott, Veretout, Gil, Cissoko. Subs (not used): Guzan, Sinclair, Richardson, Lyden, Grealish, Davis.
• Goals: Lescott (45), Agbonlahor (51)
• Norwich City: Rudd, Martin, Klose, Bassong, Brady, Howson, Mulumbu (Redmond 56), O'Neil, Hoolahan (Bamford 56), Naismith (Jarvis 80), Mbokani. Subs (not used): Ruddy, Jerome, Olsson, Pinto.
• Bookings: Howson (foul on Veretout, 12); Klose (foul on Agbonlahor, 77)
• Added on time: 1 minute / 4 minutes
• Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorks)
• Attendance: 32,472