Villa plunge Norwich into relegation trouble

Aston Villa 3 - Norwich 0
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The Independent Online

Aston Villa registered only their second win in nine games to plunge Nigel Worthington's side Norwich into relegation trouble. Villa controlled the game, with goals from Liam Ridgewell, Lee Hendrie and Nolberto Solano confirming their superiority.

Aston Villa registered only their second win in nine games to plunge Nigel Worthington's side Norwich into relegation trouble. Villa controlled the game, with goals from Liam Ridgewell, Lee Hendrie and Nolberto Solano confirming their superiority.

David O'Leary admitted this week that he is now looking to sign players on loan or short-term contracts after chairman Doug Ellis claimed the club now had little spending power.

But his current charges showed they could still be capable of challenging for at least a top 10 spot despite the loss of key midfielder Gavin McCann for the remainder of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

As is so often the case with Villa, much of their attacking threat came down the right flank with Solano and Hendrie impressive and a threat to the Canaries defence.

Striker Juan Pablo Angel also gave an impressive display and his first-time touches and link-up play would have justified a goal, but his barren run extended to 12 games instead.

Berson also departed to a standing ovation when substituted late on after adequately filling the McCann role in the centre of the park.

Norwich's £3million signing Dean Ashton had a quiet debut after his move from Crewe and he will need time to adjust which his side can ill afford in their battle to avoid the drop. But it will hardly matter if the rest of his team-mates produce any more performances as inept as this and they are still without a win on their travels.

Villa started brightly and Carlton Cole came close to ending his five-month search for a goal. Hendrie dummied a low cross from Gareth Barry and then Juan Pablo Angel teed up Cole who was only just off target with his 18-yard drive.

After nine minutes, Villa went in front with Ridgewell's first goal for the club although he was given a helping hand by Norwich defender Craig Fleming. Solano sent over a free-kick from the right flank and Ridgewell sent in a powerful header from 12 yards which took a slight deflection off Fleming before flying past Robert Green.

Norwich tried to retaliate and Mattias Jonson skated past Jlloyd Samuel before squaring the ball to Ashton whose left-footed shot went past the post. Villa were looking lively and a right-wing cross from Solano picked out Angel whose downward header was collected by Green who also got his body behind a low curling drive from Hendrie. Norwich seldom threatened, but one 70-yard run from Darren Huckerby ended with a shot which was only inches too high.

Then, after 27 minutes, the Norwich defence was breached again via Hendrie's fifth goal of the campaign. Solano played the ball into the on-song Angel whose neat touch sent in Hendrie with a clear run at the visitors' goal. The midfielder normally scores spectacular goals but this time he showed a clinical side to his finishing as he drilled a low shot past the exposed Green from 12 yards.

Villa midfielder Berson was grateful to goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen for getting him out of trouble after he had lost possession on the edge of his own box to Ashton. The first-time shot from the former Crewe player took a wicked deflection off Ridgewell and it needed Sorensen to change direction and fingertip over the bar at full stretch.

Canaries boss Nigel Worthington made a half-time substitution, bringing on Leon McKenzie for the out-of-sorts Phil Mulryne. But it needed Green to make a fine save to prevent his side falling further behind, tipping a Hendrie curler around the post after he had played a one-two with Solano.

The momentum was definitely with Villa and Cole sent a glancing header across the face of goal from a Barry corner. Hendrie then held his head in his hands after a typically powerful shot from outside the box shaved the post, before Villa wrapped up the victory with 14 minutes remaining. Barry's cross was only half cleared and the rebound fell to Hendrie whose cross-cum-shot was headed in by Solano for his seventh goal of the season.

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