Despite having a number of good chances to score, Norwich City were defeated 1-0 by Aston Villa in the Premier League on Boxing Day.
The hosts took the lead when Conor Hourihane smashed in from Jack Grealish's pass in the 65th minute, as City failed to take any of their chances.
Alexander Tettey saw a powerful strike cleared off the line, Sam Byram hit the crossbar and headed narrowly wide and Onel Hernandez had an effort saved from close range by Tom Heaton. The statistics would suggest City deserved a goal, but it was to no avail.
After a narrow defeat to Wolves prior to Christmas Day, Daniel Farke named the exact same starting XI and substitutes for the trip west to the Midlands.
Skipper Grant Hanley was once again paired in central defence alongside Christoph Zimmermann, whilst Teemu Pukki was supported by Todd Cantwell, Emi Buendia and Kenny McLean.
Despite some early pressure from the hosts it was City who mustered the game’s first attempt on target.
Some neat interplay down the right flank saw Max Aarons and Buendia combine, before feeding the ball to Cantwell who shot low and straight at the goalkeeper from 18 yards.
Villa responded with a flurry of corner kicks, one of which following a ricochet resulted in Douglas Luiz lashing a volley narrowly over Tim Krul’s crossbar.
But in truth it was Farke’s side who continued to look the more threatening.
Buendia continued to grow into the game. On 16 minutes the little Argentine brought the ball under his spell before setting Pukki in the clear with a sweeping low pass only for a covering to defender to snuff out the danger at the vital moment.
Sam Byram then came even closer, heading downwards from Buendia’s corner only to see the ball bounce back up off the slick playing surface and kiss against the crossbar.
It took until 37 minutes for Villa to significantly threaten the Norwich goal.
A low left-wing delivery from Matt Targett was turn goalwards and inches wide of the far post by Anwar El Ghazi’s left boot.
Just prior to the interval Buendia sent a free kick from range straight down the throat of Tom Heaton.
Immediately after the restart only a remarkable block on the goal line from Douglas Luiz prevented Alex Tettey from slamming home a loose ball in the Villa penalty area.
From the resulting corner Heaton then flew to his left to repel a Tom Trybull header, before Sam Byram headed marginally wide at the back post following Aarons’ cross.
City were on top, but against the run of play were hit with a hammer blow.
Villa sub Hourihane arrived to convert after some clever footwork from Grealish on the edge of the Norwich penalty area.
Farke responded with a triple substitution, as Mario Vrancic, Marco Stiepermann and Onel Hernandez entered the action.
The latter almost nabbed the equaliser with minutes remaining, but his shot was saved by the chest of Heaton, as City rued a number of missed chances.
Aston Villa: Heaton, Luiz, Wesley, Grealish (C), Nakamba (Hourihane 57), Konsa, Trezeguet (Jota 84), Targett, El Ghazi (Lansbury 92), El Mohamady, Hause
Unused substitutes: Nyland, Engels, Guilbert, Kodjia
Goals: Hourihane (64)
Bookings: Wesley (88), Douglas Luiz (89)
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Byram, Hanley (C), Zimmermann, Cantwell, Buendia (Hernandez 76), Trybull (Vrancic 76), Pukki, McLean, Tettey (Stiepermann 76)
Unused substitutes: Fahrmann, Lewis, Amadou, Srbeny
Bookings: Tettey (35), Pukki (42), Trybull (74)
Half time: 0-0
Venue: Villa Park
Referee: Christopher Kavanagh