Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich: Report, Ratings & Reaction as Villans Edge Festive Six-Pointer

​Aston Villa narrowly beat relegation rivals Norwich City 1-0 in a crucial clash at the foot of the Premier League table at Villa Park on Boxing Day.

Both teams started with plenty of verve, creating half-chances and looking threatening going forward, yet incredibly vulnerable at the back. 

Norwich had the best moment of the early stages, Sam Byram's header coming back off the crossbar - much to the relief of Tom Heaton. The Canaries continued to dominate as the half went on, but a lack of conviction in the final third proved costly for both sides as the first half ended goalless.

Five minutes after the restart Norwich should have had the lead, perhaps twice. 

A miraculous goal-line clearance from Douglas Luiz and a strong save by Heaton from the subsequent corner somehow kept the scores level. But they weren't level for a great deal longer. 

Substitute Conor Hourihane beautifully swept home Jack Grealish's incisive run and pass to send Villa Park in to a frenzy, with the visitors left ruing missed chances.

Both sides were guilty of wasting good attacking opportunities from then on, including a stunning late stop from the Villa keeper, but Dean Smith's side held on for a vital three points in their bid to beat the drop. Meanwhile, Norwich find themselves with an incredible mountain to climb after another decent performance, but no result.

Aston Villa

Key Talking Point

If ​Aston Villa have real ambitions of being a top-flight side next season, then these are the games they need to win. Having blitzed Norwich 5-1 in their trip to Carrow Road earlier in the season, all eyes were on them as they look to put their disappointing home defeat to Southampton behind them.

Both sides started at a decent tempo, but Villa's defensive frailties were all too apparent, allowing Norwich far too many chances when the Canaries broke forward. Meanwhile, it was clear to see that Villa missed the ferocity and grace of John McGinn in the middle of the park - something they are going to have to get use to.

Dean Smith

The second-half began far brighter for the hosts, despite continuing to concede sloppy chances. The intensity of Villa's play went up a notch, and Grealish began to run the game with ease - as was evident in Villa's goal. The crowd began to make their voices heard, with the hosts pressing high and giving Norwich no time or space on the ball.

Norwich were persistent, but Villa remained resilient. In the end, it was enough and that is well and truly all Smith will care about. A vital victory at the foot of the table against a relegation rival - Merry Christmas Villa fans!

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Heaton (8); El-Mohamady (7), Hause (6), Konsa (6), Targett (5); Luiz (6), Nakamba (5), Grealish (9*); El Ghazi (5), Wesley (5), Trezeguet (5)

Substitutes: Hourihane (7), Jota (5), Lansbury (N/A)

Star Player

Jack Grealish,Teemu Pukki

As we have come to expect, all good things seem to come through Grealish. The one player who consistently caused countless issues for Norwich's midfield and defence, you have to feel a little sorry for the Villa man as he seems to have the weight of the whole club on his shoulders.

He performed well with little creative support from his teammates and once again showed just how good he can be in the top-flight. His assist for Hourihane's goal was sublime and the Englishman controlled the game, especially in the second half.


Key Talking Point

​Norwich have been written off by many, but it's difficult to see why when you watch the Canaries in possession. With the ball, Norwich once again looked confident, shifting it from side to side and trying to play intricate football through the Villa backline. Despite lacking a little quality in the final third, their build-up play is enviable by many of those in and around them in the drop zone.

If Teemu Pukki could have recaptured his early-season form, then Norwich could have found themselves one or two up within 20 minutes. The threat was clear going forward but, like their opponents, Norwich looked shaky in defence, something that went unpunished. But the Canaries shaded a well-fought first-half, with a little more conviction at key moments necessary after the break.

Tom Trybull,Anwar El Ghazi

The Canaries continued their wastefulness in front of goal, while also finding themselves under the cosh at the other end. Eventually their resistance broke, and Villa began to dominate proceedings. From that moment onward, the visitors struggled to get a foothold in the match and the home crowd created an inhospitable atmosphere for the travelling side.

Eventually the Canaries ran out of time and, despite a decent performance, Daniel Farke's side come away with nothing. A potentially fatal result for Norwich who will be left kicking themselves for not being more clinical during pivotal moments in the match, and may just be beginning to lose faith in their survival chances - especially given the points picked up by those around about them this Boxing Day.

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Krul (6); Aarons (6), Zimmerman (5), Hanley (5), Byram (6); Tettey (5), Trybull (6), Buendia (7*), McLean (5), Cantwell (6); Pukki (6)

Substitutes: Vrancic (5), Stiepermann (6), Hernandez (5)

Star Player

Emi Buendia

It wasn't Emiliano Buendia's best performance in a Norwich shirt, but he looked like the visitor's most creative outlet. With some tidy touches and competent dribbling, the midfielder looked like a consistent threat in the final third, despite being somewhat wasteful at times.

Looking Ahead

Aston Villa's next two games come in the space of five days starting on Saturday, where they take on struggling Watford before visiting Burnley. 

The same applies for Norwich, who host ​Tottenham next, before clashing with Crystal Palace on New Year's Day.​

Source : 90min