Bent brace silences Norwich boo boys
Aston Villa 3 Norwich 2
Saturday 05 November 2011
Aston Villa striker Darren Bent silenced the Norwich boo boys and warmed up for England's forthcoming internationals with a two-goal blast to seal victory over the Canaries.
But his strike partner Gabriel Agbonlahor also did his international hopes no harm by setting up both of Bent's goals and scoring one himself.
Norwich had taken the lead through an Anthony Pilkington free-kick but crumbled once Bent had levelled before half-time although Steve Morison's late goal gave the home side a nervy finale.
Bent missed an early chance but then showed the predatory instincts which have made a regular member of Fabio Capello's side since his club-record move to Villa.
He was given constant stick by the Norwich fans after his spell at Ipswich but had the last laugh in taking his goal tally to five for the campaign.
Agbonlahor has been transformed under Alex McLeish and tormented Norwich full-back Kyle Naughton with his pace.
He was in Capello's initial squad for last month's international with Montenegro and has been in some of the best form of his career.
Norwich made a positive start and created the first opening. Pilkington made a good break down the left flank before picking out Morison with a low cross.
He was able to get in his shot but Richard Dunne was alert to the situation and made an important block.
Villa retaliated and Charles N'Zogbia ran onto a pass from Bent but saw his shot strike Marc Tierney at the expense of a corner.
The game was flowing from end to end and Shay Given was twice called into action in quick succession.
He denied Pilkington after the midfielder had found himself in space and then turned away an effort from Elliott Bennett after he had cut inside.
Given blocked a shot on the turn from Morison after James Collins misjudged a floated Tierney free-kick.
Villa came more into the game and Canaries goalkeeper John Ruddy was alert to block an effort from Bent at point-blank range after he had seized onto a back header from Agbonlahor.
A superb strike from Pilkington put Norwich ahead after 26 minutes.
Villa defender Alan Hutton brought down Holt just outside the Villa box. Up stepped Pilkington and his powerful free-kick curled past the dive of Given and into the roof of the net.
After half an hour Bent brought Villa level. Agbonlahor outpaced Naughton and this time Bent bundled the ball over the line.
N'Zogbia was yellow carded after Tierney was brought down before Johnson was replaced by Andrew Crofts who was also quickly cautioned.
After 48 minutes a mix-up between Naughton and Ruddy saw Agbonlahor put Villa in front.
Naughton's back pass was slightly short but Ruddy still looked favourite to win the ball only for Agbonlahor to win the challenge and then have time to slip the ball into an empty net.
It was his fifth goal of the season.
Villa were now in command and Emile Heskey's near-post effort was deflected wide from N'Zogbia's cross.
But they were relieved when Leon Barnett headed wide when unmarked from a Bennett corner. Given then got his body behind a low drive from Morison.
After 62 minutes Bent increased Villa's lead - with Agbonlahor again the creator.
N'Zogbia's initial ball was cleared but Agbonlahor had the presence of mind to pick out Bent with his low cross and he made no mistake at close range.
The Canaries refused to give up and reduced the arrears after 78 minutes.
Holt had time on the left to deliver a far-post centre and Morison ghosted in to head past Given.
Hutton could have sealed victory for Villa but his cross shot flashed inches wide of the far post.
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