‘Paul Lambert, how green is your grass?’ the Norwich City supporters sang in a bid to taunt their former manager – the lush turf of Wembley might just suffice for the Villa boss.
The claret and blues still have the matter of a two-legged semi to reach the Capital One Cup final, of course, but, after this thrilling victory, it is hard to not talk up their prospects.
Villa have played with a certain panache and freedom in the competition this season reflected by the ease with which they have scored; 14 times in four League Cup ties in comparison to 12 in 16 league matches.
And the shackles were off again at Carrow Road which resulted in a breathless quarter-final in what was probably Villa’s best performance since Lambert took over.
The Scot still has an ongoing legal dispute with his former employers which will be settled by a Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Panel next month.
But in a battle against his old side on the pitch it ended up being an open game, undoubtedly influenced by the fact both sides had Lambert’s imprint upon them.
He made four changes to the Villa side which drew 0-0 with Stoke at the weekend including a recall for striker Darren Bent in place of Gabby Agbonlahor in attack.
Shay Given replaced Brad Guzan in goal while Fabian Delph and Karim El Ahmadi came in for Barry Bannan and the cup-tied Ashley Westwood in midfield.
The frantic pace of the first half was set in the opening minute when Norwich forward Steve Morison struck the upright with a cross-shot. Bent then had a golden chance at the other end when he was put through by Brett Holman only to see his low effort saved at the near post by Mark Bunn in the Norwich goal.
Delph’s sweetly-struck 25-yard shot then brought a fingertip save from Bunn in the 12th minute.
There were chances aplenty at either end and it was Norwich who took the lead in the 19th minute when Grant Holt flicked on a long ball to Morison who lifted the ball over Given.
Villa equalised two minutes later, though, when Lowton lifted a high ball into Christian Benteke on the edge of the Norwich box and the Belgium powerhouse knocked it down into the path of Holman who blasted home from 20 yards.
There was no let up in the pace of the game and Bunn denied Lowton, Benteke and Bent in quick succession while Nathan Baker cut out a dangerous cross in the six-yard box with Morison ready to pounce.
Villa were dealt a blow in the 35th minute when Bent limped out of the action clutching his hamstring and was replaced by Andreas Weimann.
The second half began in a similar fashion with Morison missing a chance and then having a goal disallowed. Benteke then did the same at the other end when he was picked out by Weimann only for the linesman to signal for offside.
Lambert threw on Charles N’Zogbia for the tiring Holman in the 73rd minute, although Villa were indebted to Given four minutes later when he made a world-class save to deny a Holt header from point-blank range.
Villa made Norwich pay for their profligacy in the 79th minute when Eric Lichaj delivered a low cross into the six yard-box which missed Benteke but Weimann was hand to slam past Bunn from close range.
The claret and blues struck again, six minutes later, when Weimann pounced again after he was teed up by Benteke. And the Belgium powerhouse also got his name on the scoresheet in injury time when he smashed a low effort into the bottom corner of the net after he was set up by El Ahmadi as the ‘oles’ from the travelling Villa fans rang around the ground.
Roll on the draw for the semi-finals.
Villa (5-3-2): Given 7/10; Lowton 6, Herd 6, Clark 7, Baker 7, Lichaj 7; Holman 8 (N’Zogbia 73, 7), El Ahmadi 6, Delph 8; Benteke 8, Bent 7 (Weimann 35, 8). Subs not used: Williams, Bannan, Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Guzan (gk)
Norwich (4-4-2): Bunn; Martin, Barnett, Bassong, Tierney; Snodgrass, Howson (E Bennett 87), Johnson, Pilkington; Holt, Morison (Jackson 80). Subs not used: Turner, Fox, Garrido, Francomb, Rudd (gk)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland);
Attendance: 26,142.Subscribe to our Newsletter