TWO Jonathan Kodjia goals condemned Norwich City to a 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa at Villa Park.
City will have felt unlucky to have been behind at half-time after more than playing their part in an intriguing opening 45 minutes.
They made the better of start of the two teams but after Cameron Jerome had missed the chance to put the visitors ahead, Villa caught the Canaries on the counter-attack.
Scott Hogan won his duel with Ryan Bennett to give him space for a pass through to Kodjia, who cut inside and fired into the top corner.
City responded well with Alex Pritchard turning a free header straight at Sam Johnstone, but Michael McGovern then had to be sharp to deny Hogan after the striker's smart turn in the box.
The second half was a tighter affair with fewer opening at either end, though Kodjia nearly added a second when he diverted Albert Adomah's cross inches wide.
The Canaries were seeing a lot more of the ball but weren't troubling Johnstone despite their best endeavours - and their task was made even harder when Ivo Pinto was given his marching orders after receiving a second yellow card.
Substitute Nelson Oliveira's poor touch stopped him from getting a shot away when free in the area - and City were punished straight away as Kodjia poked home his team's second after a misunderstanding at the back.
HOW THEY LINED UP
Interim Head Coach Alan Irvine made one enforced change from the 2-0 win over Barnsley prior to the international break.
Wes Hoolahan was missing from the squad with a thigh injury, so Graham Dorrans returned for his first start since Boxing Day as Jonny Howson moved behind Jerome.
James Maddison was included among Irvine's substitutes as he took charge of his first away match since stepping into the hotseat.
The visitors spent most of the second half trying to carve themselves an equaliser, but within a 60-second spell near to the end the match was decided.
Oliveira's glaring miss with just Johnstone to beat cost the Canaries dearly as a defensive mix-up at the other end gifted Kodjia another goal to add to his tally for the season.
Ryan Bennett and Michael McGovern left the ball for eachother to clear and the Villa frontman anticipated well to guide his effort around City's goalkeeper.
WHAT IT MEANS
Form on the road continues to cost Irvine's men as their hopes of making a late dash for the play-offs took another hit.
At the end of the day's action in the Sky Bet Championship, City had slipped seven points off the top six following Fulham's victory at basement club Rotherham United.
: Jonathan Kodjia (25, 87)
: Johnstone; Hutton, Chester (c), Baker, Taylor; Adomah, Jedinak, Lansbury (Green 87), Hourihane (Gardner 69); Hogan (Amavi 37), Kodjia
. Subs not used
: Bunn (GK), Elphick, Bree, Grealish.
: McGovern; Pinto, Bennett, Martin (c), Whittaker; Tettey (Oliveira 76), Dorrans (Naismith 45); Ja. Murphy (Wildschut 71), Howson, Pritchard; Jerome. Subs not used
: Ruddy (GK), Klose, Maddison, Jo. Murphy.
: Jeremy Simpson
City are in midweek action against Huddersfield Town at the John Smith's Stadium on Wednesday, with tickets now on on general sale. For all the details and to buy, click HERE
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