Norwich City vs Aston Villa match report: Remi Garde vows to fight on as Villa stare into Premier League abyss

Norich City 2 Aston Villa 0

Jon Culley
Carrow Road
Monday 28 December 2015 18:34
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Jonny Howson celebrates putting Norwich 1-0 up
Jonny Howson celebrates putting Norwich 1-0 up

Norwich City celebrated the appointment of former Labour MP Ed Balls as chairman with only a second win in seven matches but one which puts clear daylight between themselves and the bottom three in the Premier League, thanks to Newcastle’s defeat at West Bromwich Albion. By contrast, Aston Villa’s plight looks increasingly desperate and one of the top flight’s traditional safe seats is now under severe threat, although Balls is unlikely to sympathise, despite his personal experience.

Only Everton’s 113 seasons in the old First Division or the Premier League exceeds Villa’s 105. Yet the Birmingham side, without a win in 18 league matches, are 11 points adrift of the safety of 17th place.

Rémi Garde’s team worked hard enough in their efforts to build on the draws against Newcastle and West Ham, in which they won praise for showing some fighting spirit but rarely threatened to score goals and were punished twice for their shortcomings in defence as Norwich ran out comfortable winners without needing to play particularly well. The clean sheet was only their second of the season.

Garde, after eight matches in charge, is a realist and admitted that the odds against survival are lengthening with every negative result, but refused to concede that his cause is already lost.

“I am not a dreamer,” Garde said. “I am not going to tell you that I know we will be safe and with every defeat it becomes more difficult, but as long as it is mathematically possible for us to survive I will still believe we can stay up and I will not run away from my responsibility.

“The quality of the players is there for me but confidence is a key part and as you could see today there were situations where the confidence is not there. We had ball possession a lot but we did not create enough opportunities to put Norwich under pressure.”

When they came under pressure themselves, Villa were found wanting. Garde made changes to his defence, bringing in Micah Richards for Joleon Lescott following his recovery from injury and replacing Jores Okore, who has a knee problem, with Ciaran Clark. Yet both Norwich goals took advantage of lapses at the back.

In the first instance, as left-back Leandro Bacuna tried to defend a clever chipped cross from Nathan Redmond aimed at Dieumerci Mbokani, Jonny Howson was left unmarked behind him to volley home left-footed from 10 yards.

Late in the game, with Garde’s second-half changes leaving Villa stretched, Mbokani found himself unmarked to head home Wes Hoolahan’s cross. At that point, Villa looked like a team resigned to their fate.

They had made chances early in the piece. Kieran Richardson, deployed on the left of midfield, drew an early save from Declan Rudd and there was a real opportunity for Jordan Ayew after 15 minutes when a free-kick delivered by Jordan Veretout offered him a free header.

The pained expression as he turned away after Rudd stretched himself to palm the ball away told what an opportunity it was and, perhaps, that there would be few more, as it proved. By the end, Garde had sent on Adama Traore, Rudy Gestede and Jack Grealish in his efforts to find a goal but all to no avail.

Norwich, meanwhile, had missed other opportunities to add to their tally. Graham Dorrans drove the ball wide in the first half after a short corner from the impressive Redmond found him unmarked and Howson missed the chance of a second in the second half when Brad Guzan fumbled a Redmond shot.

Alex Neil, the Norwich manager, can entertain realistic prospects of staying up. “This gives us 20 points at the halfway stage and there is better to come from us,” he said.

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