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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee