ASTON VILLA 1-0 Norwich

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Aston Villa won their fifth game of the season by completing the double over Norwich City.

Conor Hourihane’s strike on the hour mark was enough to win the all-important three points on a day Villa would count themselves lucky to get one over their fellow relegation strugglers.

Daniel Farke’s Norwich was unchanged from a home defeat to Wolves, whilst Dean Smith made a host of alterations from Villa’s defeat to Southampton.

Frederic Guilbert, Bjorn Engels and Hourihane were all dropped whilst John McGinn missed his first game in what will prove to be a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

After losing to the Saints last time out, Villa found themselves three points adrift from safety on Boxing Day.

Bright start

A bright start from the hosts pegged back the Canaries early on, but the young, energetic away side replied with a flurry of opportunities themselves as the first half drew to a close.

Sam Byram came the closest to scoring for either side. The former West Ham full-back connected with Emiliano Buendia’s corner which was diverted firstly into the ground before hitting Tom Heaton’s crossbar.

Too close to comfort for some, though Villa would be tested further in the second period.

As Wesley found his feet after that interval, Villa looked more threatening as Smith’s men went in search of their 25th goal of the campaign.

Intelligent Grealish

Grealish was the difference between Villa and NorwichOn the hour mark, thanks to both the control and intelligence by none other than Jack Grealish, Villa got their much-needed goal as substitute Hourihane made his mark.

Like so often before, only ten minutes after coming on from the substitutes bench, the Irish international combined with Grealish before finding Tim Krul’s top corner with precision.

Villa Park was in a buoyant mood until Norwich quashed the atmosphere by coming so close to equalising throughout the final 20 minutes in B6.

Byram’s heading accuracy once more let him down as he crept around back post, but it was Alex Tettey that was denied a goal from a cross coming from the right flank once more – all before Villa took the lead.

The Norwich midfielder steadied himself before striking a goal-bound effort only to be halted by the bravery and reactions that Douglas Luiz used to prevent the visitors from storming into an early second-half advantage.

Heaton the hero

It was then Tom Heaton’s turn to play the hero, denying Norwich a leveller twice at the death.

Firstly, the England goalkeeper stretched across his goal to foil Marco Stiepermann’s header five minutes from time before coming up with an even better stop moments later.

Fellow substitute Onal Hernández latched onto Byram’s lay off, but the Cuban winger was denied by the superb positioning of Heaton, as he volleyed from yards out.

Villa travels to Vicarage Road on Saturday before rounding up the festive fixtures at Burnley on New Year’s Day.

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