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21 September 2013

City made to pay for missed opportunities

CITY were left to rue a missed penalty as Libor Kozak scored his first goal for Aston Villa to earn the visitors a 1-0 win at Carrow Road.

Robert Snodgrass had his spot-kick saved by Brad Guzan after just six minutes, and Villa came out of a frenetic first-half ahead after their new Czech striker poked in on the half hour.

The game was less open after the break, and even though City looked determined to grab a leveller and almost did through substitute Gary Hooper, it wasn't to be as they slipped to their first home defeat of the season.

Chris Hughton made two changes from the defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, with Russell Martin and Jonny Howson deputising for Steven Whittaker and Bradley Johnson.

The latter missed out on a place in the squad altogether, although Hooper was named among the substitutes along with the returning Wes Hoolahan.

Andreas Weimann stabbed a shot at John Ruddy in the game’s opening minute after riding challenges from both Howson and Leroy Fer, before Nathan Redmond blazed over for the Canaries in a lively start.

Weimann was then allowed too much space again in the box, and after his curling shot rebounded off the post, City were fortunate that Christian Benteke was in an offside position.

An incredible start saw the Canaries then awarded a penalty when Ciaran Clark handled in the box when under pressure from Ricky van Wolfswinkel on six minutes.

Snodgrass stepped up, and although his penalty was firmly struck, Guzan sprawled to his left and palmed the ball away, much to the delight of the Villa supporters at that end of the ground.

City weren’t perturbed and nearly got the game’s opening goal anyway on 12 when Redmond met a cross-field pass first-time to square for van Wolfswinkel, but the ball hit the Dutch forward’s chest and bounced over the bar.

Benteke then had a shot deflected wide off Michael Turner and Ron Vlaar turned a shot wide as the game continued in that open fashion akin to the two sides’ meetings last season.

Villa’s Belgian forward, joint top scorer in the Premier League before the game, went down clutching his groin, during which time City went within a whisker of breaking the deadlock.

Snodgrass broke down the right and his reverse cross fell to van Wolfswinkel, but his clever shot went just wide of the post, and it was a miss that would be punished moments later.

Kozak, only just on for Benteke, beat Bassong to a through ball, and even though Ruddy smothered his first effort, the ball fell to Gabriel Agbonlahor, who waited for his Czech team-mate to find space before picking him out.

This time, he was able to place the ball past Ruddy and into the corner to give the visitors the advantage on the half hour.

City then an injury blow of their own seven minutes before half-time when skipper Sebastien Bassong limped off, to be replaced by Ryan Bennett.

HALF-TIME: Norwich City 0-1 Aston Villa

Neither side made changes at the break after both were forced into first half substitutions, and the pacey Weimann offered the first opportunity of the half but his speculative effort flew well over on 53 minutes.

Hooper and Anthony Pilkington were then introduced to the fray for the Canaries, but although it provided a boost for the crowd chances were hardly ten-a-penny for the home side, and Clark headed just wide up the other end.

A free-kick offered a chance after a handball just outside the box, and even though Snodgrass worked the ball cleverly to Pilkington, the City winger’s shot was scuffed and Villa eventually cleared.

Ryan Bennett then made a superb last-ditch block to deny Kozak, and win just over ten minutes left, City needed something quickly to forge a route back into the game.

Clark turned a Martin cross over his own bar, before van Wolfswinkel’s shot was blocked as Hughton’s men tried valiantly to find that crucial equaliser.

They come so close on 88 minutes when Javier Garrido’s cross was met by Hooper, but Guzan reacted brilliantly to scoop the ball over the bar.

City threw centre-back Michael Turner up front in the final moments but the goal didn't come and Villa won the points.

FULL-TIME: Norwich City 0-1 Aston Villa

GOALS: Aston Villa: Libor Kozak (30)

NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Martin, Bassong (c) (R Bennett 38), Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Fer, Howson, Redmond (Pilkington 63); Elmander (Hooper 63); van Wolfswinkel. Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Whittaker, Hoolahan, Tettey.

ASTON VILLA: Guzan; Bacuna, Clark, Vlaar (c), Luna; Tonev (Sylla 77), Delph, El Ahmadi; Weimann, Benteke (Kozak 28), Agbonlahor (Helenius 61). Subs not used: Steer (GK), Baker, Albrighton, J Bennett.



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