CLOSING THE GAP: ASTON VILLA 2 – NORWICH CITY 0

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Having lost Ayew for his moment of madness at the Boleyn Ground on Tuesday night and with his other obvious forwards missing through injury, Garde chose to recall Westwood to the starting XI.

The relegation rivals took to the rain-soaked Villa Park pitch and the hosts had their first sight of goal after ten minutes, when Bacuna, finding space on the right, fired in a low cross for Agbonlahor, who shot wide.

Nine minutes later, Mbokani tested Bunn with a fierce shot from twenty yards out. Bunn parried and the danger was averted.

With the Canaries becoming increasingly dominant and Naismith and Mbokani linking up well, Naismith then dragged a shot wide.

When Gueye lost possession in midfield, Bassong was presented with a great opportunity to give his side the lead but he could only head Martin’s cross over the bar.

The game wasn’t a great advert for Premier League football, with both sides struggling to create real chances.

Brady tried his luck with a left-footed shot from twenty yards out after thirty-four minutes but Bunn was able to make a comfortable save.

Just as it seemed a dull first half would end goal-less, the opening goal came from a Gil free-kick: Lescott shrugged off Mbokani at the back post and headed home, via not one but two deflections, on the stroke on half time. It was a scruffy goal but a welcome one nonetheless. In fact, it was the Villans’ first goal in a first half for ten games. The last one was also scored by Lescott against Southampton in December.

As the second half got under way, Agbonlahor worked hard and looked lively. After fifty minutes, he shot straight at Rudd but found a way past the Norwich goalkeeper, who misjudged Veretout’s through-ball, a minute later to double the hosts’ advantage and score his first Premier League goal of the 2015-16 season.

Five minutes later, Bamford made his debut for the visitors, replacing Hoolahan, while Mulumbu made way for Redmond. It was clear that Neil was planning to attack but the claret and blue defence remained resolute and Bacuna was very soon spurning a good opportunity to put the game to bed, meeting a deep cross from Cissokho on the volley and flashing the ball wide.

The Canaries had a chance to get back into the game after sixty-three minutes and it was Naismith pulling the strings once again as he found O’Neil, whose effort drifted wide.

After seventy minutes, Bacuna managed to beat Brady and set up a shooting opportunity, only to blaze the ball over the bar.

With ten minutes left to play, terrible goalkeeping by Bunn allowed Martin to head past him. Luckily, Bacuna was able to make a crucial clearance off the line.

Another goal-line clearance came courtesy of Lescott eight minutes later as the hosts battled on.

There were four added minutes, in which the visitors refused to give up, but the hosts soaked up the late pressure to secure their third Premier League win of the season, cutting the gap between themselves and safety to eight points.

Speaking post-match, Garde said:

“Football is strange. Today we didn’t play as well as in some games that we lost. Our football is improving, not only today but for a while now, but we haven’t been getting what we deserve.

We are still a way away from where we would like to be but we still believe. The way the players fought on the field today means a lot to me. Everyone was very committed, and behaving in that way we still have a chance.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Garde’s summing up was very true, luckily the mistakes were not punished. The effort and spirit was very apparent though and we played well at times.

    Lets hope Gabby can keep this scoring going.

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