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Aston Villa 4 Norwich City 2 - Report

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

Conor Hourihane scored a hat-trick to steer Villa to their first league win of the season and lift the pressure on boss Steve Bruce.

Steve Bruce

The Republic of Ireland international netted the opener before Andre Green doubled the home side’s advantage before the break.

Josh Murphy pulled one back for the Canaries on the hour mark, before Hourihane’s deflected shot restored Villa’s two-goal cushion.

Substitute Nelson Oliveira the reignited the nerves when he bagged Norwich’s second but Hourihane sealed the three points by completing his treble five minutes from time.

Analysis

The 25-year-old became the first Villa player to score a hat-trick since Christian Benteke in April 2015.

While the result was all important for boss Bruce, after a return of just one point from the opening three games, the most pleasing aspect will have been the performance.

After back-to-back defeats against Cardiff and Reading had ramped up the pressure, Villa were a team transformed against the Canaries.

This was the first time Villa had netted four in a game since they beat Sunderland 4-0 in March 2015, as they rediscovered their shooting boots in spectacular fashion.

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And brilliant as Conor Hourihane’s individual showing was, the win owed much to the energetic performance of teenage striker Keinan Davis on his full debut.

Bruce sprang a big surprise with his selection of the 19-year-old, yet it proved a masterstroke.

Davis, who joined Villa’s academy from non-league Biggleswade Town in December 2015, had only made eight previous appearances off the bench for the club but his bustling performance had the visitors on the back foot from the opening minute.

Missed early chances have been a theme of Villa’s early season struggles and Davis could have made it a dream start when he went through on goal with barely a minute on the clock.

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The youngster created the opportunity himself when he pounced on indecision by Norwich skipper Russell Martin but was unable to lift his finish over keeper Angus Gunn, who was quickly out of goal to smother.

Within seconds Steven Naismith had drilled a shot just wide of goal at the other end, setting the scene for a lively opening quarter.

The best chances came Villa’s way. Elmohamady saw a close range effort blocked at the near post, while Gunn brilliantly kept out a Davis header after a smart move down the left wing.

Eventually Villa’s pressure was rewarded, as Hourihane netted his second in as many games to break the deadlock.

Davis was the creator, collecting a through ball from Onomah and firing it across goal for Hourihane to finish at the far post.

Two minutes later Davis almost made it two when he barged Russell Martin off the ball and sent a lob over Gunn which bounced off the top of the bar.

It wasn’t all good news for Villa, who lost the influential Onomah with half-hour on the clock through injury.

Norwich carried a threat of their own and Villa keeper Sam Johnstone had a let-off when, having raced out of goal to cut out a through ball, he found himself in no man’s land some 25 yards from goal.

His presence did enough to prevent Cameron Jerome from feeding Murphy for what would have been a simple finish.

It proved a pivotal moment as Villa doubled their advantage three minutes from the break, with Green netting his first senior goal.

Henri Lansbury, who had replaced Onomah, won the ball in midfield and fed the winger, who proceeded to curl an unstoppable right-footed shot into the top corner.

It was the first time the hosts had scored more than one goal in a league game at Villa Park since Norwich last visited on April 1 and the first time they had netted two in the first-half since the 2-2 draw with Preston back in January.

Naismith struck the side-netting in the early in the second half as Norwich looked for a route back into the game.

They found it on the hour mark. Murphy had been Norwich’s liveliest attacker and no-one tracked the winger’s run as he ghosted in behind the defence to collect Reed’s lobbed pass and finished past Johnstone.

Suddenly Villa Park was alive with nerves and the hosts were on the back foot. A late block from Taylor was needed to prevent Naismith levelling the scores but just when it looked as though their day was turning for the worse, Villa caught a huge break to get back into control.

Hourihane’s shot from 25 yards out was no more than speculative but took a big deflection off Reed to loop over Gunn and in.

Still they could not put the game to bed. Jerome headed wide at a corner before, with 11 minutes to go, substitute Oliveira reduced the deficit once more when he tapped home Murphy’s flighted cross.

Instead it was left to Hourihane to finally seal the deal and complete his hat-trick with five minutes left on the clock, firing into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Elmohamady almost made it five in stoppage time with a shot which clattered the bar but Villa’s work was already done.

Key Moments

2 - Big chance for Keinan Davis as the youngster robs Russell Martin and bears down on goal. Norwich keeper Angus Gunn is out to save.

22 - GOAL Villa lead. Josh Onomah’s through pass finds Davis and the teenage striker crosses for Hourihane to fire home at the far post.

24 OFF THE BAR - Davis goes close again, out-muscling Martin before sending a lob over Gunn and off the top of the bar.

42 - GOAL Villa double their lead, with Andre Green grabbing his first senior goal in spectacular fashion. The winger collects Henri Lansbury’s cross before curling a shot into the top corner.

60 - GOAL Norwich are back in it as Josh Murphy ghosts in behind the defence to collect Harrison Reed’s lobbed pass and finish past Johnstone.

68 - GOAL Villa’s two-goal cushion is restored in fortuitous circumstances as Hourihane’s long-range effort deflected over Gunn and in.

79 - GOAL Norwich reduce the deficit. Murphy floats in a cross which substitute Oliveira taps home.

85 - GOAL Hourihane bags his hat-trick to seal the win, firing home from the edge of the box after a neat passing move.

Teams

Villa (4-4-1-1): Johnstone, Hutton (Bree 64), Chester, Terry (c), Elmohamady, Whelan, Onomah (Lansbury 64), Hourihane, Green, Davis Subs not used: Samba, Hogan, Bjarnason, Adomah, Steer (gk).

Norwich: Gunn, Martin ©, Zimmermann, Franke, Husband, Reed, Murphy, Naismith (Hoolahan 74), Vrancic, Stiepermann, Jerome (Oliveira 74) Subs not used: Watkins, Wildschut, Maddison, Tettey, McGovern (gk).

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher
Football MMPJ - @mjmarr_star

Sports journalist for the Express & Star

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