Aston Villa 4 Norwich City 1 match report: Christian Benteke's moment of brilliance puts Chris Hughton back under pressure

All five goals in the match were scored in a thrilling first half

Villa Park

With the rain teeming down, Norwich leading and the Holte End breaking out into groans, it felt like another of those afternoons was unfolding for Aston Villa.

What followed was a reminder of the importance of Christian Benteke to Paul Lambert’s side as a moment of brilliance from the big Belgian – equalising with an overhead kick – changed the mood entirely, sending confidence flooding through the home ranks and sparking a rush of four goals in 16 minutes that flattened Chris Hughton’s visitors.

Benteke may have struggled to reproduce last term’s scoring form, when he hit 23 goals in his debut campaign in England, yet his quickfire double after 25 and 27 minutes set Villa on their way to a first victory in five matches as Leandro Bacuna and Sébastien Bassong’s own goal settled the outcome before half-time.

It was Benteke’s equaliser that provided the defining moment. Ron Vlaar played a high, angled ball into the box, and the Belgian collected it on his chest before hooking a superb overhead volley past John Ruddy. When he then climbed above Bassong to head in Ashley Westwood’s corner, Villa – who had begun the day with the division’s second worst home record – were on their way to their biggest win of the campaign.

A delighted Lambert said of Benteke: “There is no doubt when he is at it, he is an absolute handful. He has got the ability to be a top player. He has a long way to go until he hits the heights but his two goals were fantastic.”

These teams had begun the day level on 28 points but Villa are now in 11th place, with 15th-placed Norwich the ones left peering nervously over their shoulder – they sit four points above third-bottom Sunderland, who have two games in hand.

 

It looked initially like the afternoon might be all about Wes Hoolahan, a player Villa tried to buy in the January transfer window. Norwich refused to sell to Lambert, their old manager, despite Hoolahan’s transfer request and it seemed Sod’s law that on his first start since New Year’s Day, he should take less than three minutes to put the visitors in front, playing his part in freeing Gary Hooper down the right and getting into the box to convert the ensuing cross.

Hoolahan’s muted reaction was something of a first – we have seen players not celebrating goals against their old clubs but not against teams they did not quite join.

He might have had a second goal after 35 minutes but was foiled first by a Brad Guzan save and then Fabian Delph on the rebound. Instead, Villa were soon out of sight. “For an away performance I don’t think we could have started any better but in a 15-minute period we couldn’t handle the power and pace that they had,” said Hughton.

This Villa team are at their best on the counter-attack and this was how their third goal arrived, Gabriel Agbonlahor surged forward before passing infield to Andreas Weimann who fed the overlapping Bacuna to curl a shot beyond Ruddy. It was four when Delph burst into the box and Bassong, under pressure from Agbonlahor, turned the resulting cross into his own goal.

“For me the third goal, the counter-attack, was fantastic but Christian’s first goal set the tone of what was going to happen, his goal was brilliant,” said Lambert, describing Villa’s football during that flurry of goals as being “as good as we have had”.

For Norwich it was quite the opposite. While their home form has been solid, this was their fifth successive away defeat. Hughton lost Robert Snodgrass with a wrist injury at half-time but the game was up by then. The fact a fire alarm later delayed his post-match press conference seemed a fitting ending to an afternoon which, for Norwich, leaves the warning lights flashing.

Aston Villa (4-3-1-2): Guzan 6: Bacuna 7, Vlaar 6, Baker 6, Bertrand 6; El Ahmadi 6, Westwood 6, Delph 7; Weimann 6 (Albrighton 82); Agbonlahor 8, Benteke 9 (Holt 82).

Substitutes not used: Steer (gk), Bennett, Clark, Sylla, Robinson.

Norwich (4-2-3-1): Ruddy 6; Martin 5, Yobo 6, Bassong 5, Olsson 6; Tettey 5 (Howson 80), Johnson 5; Snodgrass 5 (Pilkington 46, 5), Hoolahan 7, Redmond 5 (Elmander 63, 5); Hooper 6.

Substitutes not used: Bunn (gk), Whittaker, Becchio, Bennett.

Match rating: 7/10

Man of the match: Benteke

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?