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Premier League

  • 5 November 2011
  • • 15:00
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: K. Friend
  • • Attendance: 35290

Aston Villa 3-2 Norwich City: Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor star to give Alex McLeish first win in four matches

Aston Villa 3-2 Norwich City: Darren Bent & Gabriel Agbonlahor star to give Alex McLeish first win in four matches

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The visitors had taken the lead through a great Anthony Pilkington free-kick but the hosts held out against a spirited Canaries's side who always looked dangerous

Aston Villa secured their first victory in four attempts after a pulsating 3-2 victory over Norwich City at Villa Park on Saturday.

Two goals from Darren Bent and a Gabriel Agbonlahor effort following a poor back-pass by Leon Barnett were enough to seal all three points, but the hosts were made to work hard by a spirited Norwich side.

A superb Anthony Pilkington free-kick had given the visitors the lead before the hosts' scored three unanswered goals, and whilst Steve Morison gave Paul Lambert's side hope, they were unable to overturn a 3-1 deficit for the second game in a row.

Alex McLeish named the same side who drew at Sunderland last week, with Jermaine Jenas making the substitute’s bench for the first time since his move from Tottenham. Barry Bannan wasn’t recalled to the squad despite club suspension expiring following an alleged drink-driving incident a fortnight ago.

Canaries boss Paul Lambert made his first change to the starting XI in seven matches, recalling captain Grant Holt after his goalscoring heroics in the last two games. He partnered Morison up-front after replacing David Fox in the side.

Norwich started the game quickly, delivering the ball into the Villa area and causing their defenders problems. Pilkington managed to get down the left and feed Morison in the area but his shot was blocked by a stretching Richard Dunne.

Villa were soon on the attack though, with Darren Bent feeding Charles N’Zogbia, who’s shot after a mazy run was blocked by Marc Tierney for a corner. The set-piece was delivered by Stiliyan Petrov and Chris Herd almost managed to bundle the ball in.

In a frantic opening five minutes the visitors again came close to taking the lead. First, Shay Given had to parry Pilkington’s shot after he was slipped in down the left-hand side of the area then moments later he was called upon to block Elliot Bennett’s long-distance shot.

Morison then saw his shot saved by Given from a tight angle after James Collins failed to clear a free-kick delivered by Bradley Johnson into the area.

Bent then missed a great chance to score his fourth Premier League goal this season. Emile Heskey's flick-on was helped on by Agbonlahor but by the time the ball had sat down for the former Sunderland man to hit, goalkeeper John Ruddy was on top of him and managed to smother the shot.

                    Darren doubles up | Bent celebrates his brace against Norwich City

The visitors secured the lead just before the half-an-hour mark with a wonderful strike from Pilkington, who this time managed to find a way past Given.

Holt was tripped by Alan Hutton 20 yards out on the left and Pilkington’s strike to the far post beat Given, who could not get a hand to it as it flew past him into the top corner of the net.

Villa responded well, attacking the Norwich defence in numbers, with Agbonlahor skinning Kyle Naughton down the left and sending in a great cross which Bent was unfortunate not to get on the end of.

Minutes later and a repeat performance from the striker saw Bent equalise for the home side as he nipped in ahead of Tierney to bundle the ball home and prevent Norwich from registering their first clean sheet this season and in their last 20 away matches.

Villa Park was awoken and another ball from the left, this time by N’Zogbia, again nearly saw Bent give his team the lead, but the sides went in level at half-time

However after the restart, it was Bent's striking partner that would give the home side the advantage as he latched onto a Barnett back-pass which failed to reach Ruddy, as Agbonlahor beat him to the ball and after rounded the keeper to bag his fifth goal of the season.

Villa were in the ascendency and continued to trouble the Canaries’ back-line. Heskey was almost next on the score sheet but Barnett got across to block his near-post flick after a whipped cross from N’Zogbia.

Norwich were still attacking and always looked dangerous. Barnett headed wide from a corner and Morison saw another shot saved comfortably by Given from the right.

However, their defending left a lot to be desired and they were punished again as Agbonlahor, this time from the right, was able to zip in a cross which an unmarked Bent tapped in from five yards out.

Lambert responded by bringing on Fox for Bennett whilst Jenas was given 30 minutes on the pitch after replacing Heskey to make his debut.

With the game looking like it was drifting towards an easy victory for Villa, the match was turned on its head once again as Norwich looked to resurrect their chances.

The architect for the goal was Holt, who turned past substitute Stephen Ireland, before delivering a great cross to the back-post where Morison headed home to give his side hope of an unlikely draw once again.

Norwich had renewed vigour and continued to push forward but it was the home side who looked the most likely to score again with Hutton and N’Zogbia coming close.

With time running out the visitors stuck numerous crosses into the area, but the Villa defence held strong to secure a morale boosting victory.

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