Norwich City will be a threat for anybody - Villa boss

A relieved Alex McLeish admitted the Canaries had given his Aston Villa side a real battle before they were able to bank three Premier League points.

Villa had to come from behind after Anthony Pilkington's splendid free-kick gave City a 25th-minute lead, and after taking a 3-1 lead, the hosts endured a nervous finale after Steve Morison reduced the arrears in the closing stages.

'Norwich gave us one hell of a game,' said McLeish. 'That's all you can ask of your team every single game – that if you're away from home, you know you've given the opposition a hell of a game. They did today.

'It was a very open game in the first 15 minutes, probably too open for my liking but there were chances for both teams. It was great character and resilience to bounce back from the setback as we did so strongly and we finished the first half on top.'

McLeish, who was City boss Paul Lambert's club manager for two seasons at Motherwell, was impressed with the side put together by his former midfielder.

'The thing about Paul's building of the team, if you compared today with the one of two seasons ago, is I'm not sure how many players are still in the team or the squad. Certainly, they have got a great understanding of playing together.

'They work really hard as a team. They don't stop for the 90 minutes. They graft back up the pitch, they get forward and they will be a threat for anybody this season.'

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McLeish praised his forwards – notably on the left where Gabriel Agbonlahor tormented the Norwich defence.

'That seemed to be our point of entry in the first half in the Norwich box,' he said.

Agbonlahor made two goals for Darren Bent and scored the other when he beat goalkeeper John Ruddy to Leon Barnett's backpass.

'I know on that kind of form Gabby has got to have caught the eye,' said McLeish. 'Bent is already in the squad and has scored some goals for England. But Gabby Agbonlahor's got to take confidence from the way he has been playing and the expectation now of him is to deliver in every game.

'His performance today was exceptional. I told him before the game 'We expect you to play well, we expect something from you' and he delivered.

'He's got good feet, he can beat a man in a short space, and he scored a clever goal with the challenge. I expected him to go with his whole body into it, but he kind of read it and he finished brilliantly.'