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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
27 October 2012
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: P. Dowd
• Attendance: 33184
C. Benteke 27'
M. Turner 79'
Well that brings a close to our live play-by-play for the Aston Villa-Norwich game, I've been James McManus and thank you for joining us.
After picking up a point this afternoon, this is officially Aston Villa's worst start to a league season since 1969. Viva La Lambert Revolution!
On reflection, a draw is just about the fairest result. Norwich were decent for long periods but Aston Villa more than held their own in terms of threat.
The game has finished 1-1 at Villa Park and Paul Lambert's side have held on to a point on home turf despite going down to ten men early in the second half. Christian Benteke and Michael Turner with the goals.
CHANCE! One last throw of the dice as Morison wins the ball in the air yet again but Snodgrass can only turn his volley on the stretch over the bar. That should be about it.
CHANCE! Morison strips Lowton for pace to an embarrassing degree and flings a cross in from the left, and Ryan Bennett latches onto it unmarked just inside the box, but balloons his effort well over the bar.
Guzan running the clock down as he set himself to launch one forward but Bassong wins the header and Villa have the ball.
Norwich struggling to get out of their own half now and they look very tired after spending the whole half chasing the game. Four minutes of injury-time remaining.
Morison flicks on a long ball from Tettey beating Vlaar in the air but Guzan rushes out to get to the ball. Hints of hand ball about that from the Villa defender there.
Needless foul by El Ahmadi on Hoolahan but the free-kick from Snodgrass is terrible and floats out of play high and wide past Guzan's post. What a waste.
Panic in the Norwich box and only a few nervy clearances stop Albrighton and Bent getting a clear shot away.
Norwich's delivery from wide areas in recent minutes has been very poor just at a time when they need it most, as another Pilkington corner sails over everybody in the box.
Poor cross from Snodgrass down the right and Guzan holds onto it with Holt waiting.
Norwich aren't even trying to pass it around anymore and every first touch is a punt forward. It might not be pretty but it's working.
Turner lauches a hopeful punt forward and the ball is worked to Holt after a flick-on from Morison but Delph makes a crucial interception and hacks it clear.
Norwich look as if they've stepped off a bit already since the goal. I'm not sure whether Darren Bent has even touched the ball yet either.
GOAL!!!!!! The pressure has finally told and Michael Turner has grabbed the equaliser for Norwich after he flicks on Hoolahan's cross after a quickly taken short corner. Game on.
Snodgrass and Hoolahan combine brilliantly down the left but Lichaj gets across to cut the ball out. Norwich all over Villa here.
CHANCE! Grant Holt has missed after being put through one-on-one and all credit must go to Guzan there for making himself big. Fantastic save.
Hoolahan is finding pockets of space in and around the midfield and his ball to Garrido sees the left-back punt in a looped cross and while Morison wins the initial header, Vlaar beats Holt to the second ball and Guzan collects.
El Ahmadi pulls down Hoolahan in the middle of the park and Norwich spread it out to the right to Snodgrass.
Villa finally get hold of the ball and Lowton wins a throw-in, but it's not long before Norwich have it back.
A real stern test for the Villa back four here and Ron Vlaar in particular, trying to combat this aerial bombardement from the visitors. They're doing a great job so far.
Guzan elects to punch away another Norwich corner and Villa are defending so deep at the moment.
Norwich ramping up the pressure and Snodgrass sees a well-struck half-volley from a corner blocked by Vlaar.
Darren Bent has come on in place for Christian Benteke. Chris Hughton has rather oddly taken off the increasingly influential Bradley Johnson for Steve Morison and Norwich have gone with two up front now.
Johnson swings in another decent-looking ball but Vlaar does just enough to put off Holt and the striker's header goes over the bar.
Bassong and Turner stepping up with the ball from the back now and Villa are firmly camped in their own half. Hoolahan's dinked cross from the right sees Vlaar throw himself at a Holt knockdown. Great defending.
Snodgrass already involved, fouling Delph in the middle of the park. The ball just keeps coming straight back, though. Norwich on top.
Robert Snodgrass, the most one-footed player in the Premier League, has come on for Elliott Bennett. He does have a wand of a left foot, mind you.
Villa are looking very nervy here and the crowd are growing increasingly anxious. A Norwich goal doesn't feel too far away at the moment.
Yellow CardChris Herd
CHANCE! Hoolahan really should score here as he plays latches on to Pilkington's cross but with Guzan rushing out, he sees his strike lack power and go behind for a corner.
Clever turn from Benteke sees him release Albrighton, but the winger's first touch is poor and he can't get any power on the cut-back and Ruddy collects.
Johnson spots a run from Bennett down the right and despite playing a magnificent pass, Lichaj gets across to usher it out for a goal-kick.
Norwich working the ball side to side now and you sense that they're trying to get Garrido in a crossing position on the left.
Lichaj goes on a driving run down the left but Bennett tracks his run well and knocks it out for a throw-in. Villa are going to need more of that this half.
Darren Bent looks as if he's warming up and being readied to come on. Benteke seems ideal for the lone striker role, mind you, given his physique.
The two Bennett's combine well down Norwich's right flank after some good work by Tettey in the middle, but Villa clear a couple of dangerous crosses.
Norwich applying good pressure off the ball pushing Villa back up the pitch. Benteke looking isolated already.
Turner with a vital sliding tackle on Benteke to stop him going through one-on-one. There's goals left in this game yet.
Paul Lambert has responded by going down to ten men by taking off Gabriel Agbonlahor and bringing on defender Eric Lichaj. Huge task now with 35 minutes left in this half to hold on to their slim lead.
Nothing comes from the ball into the box with Guzan holding on but he does well moments later to claw a vicious cross in from the right by Bennett out from underneath his bar.
RED CARD! That's one of the most obvious fouls you're ever likely to see and Joe Bennett is off for Aston Villa with his second red yellow of the afternoon, for holding namesake Elliott after a neat one-two.
Unlucky from Villa as they try to patiently work the ball out to Bennett on the left and Norwich hoof it clear.
Delph spreads the play well out to Lowton on the right, but from the cross into the box, Benteke fouls Johnson.
Holt goes down and wins a free-kick in the top right-hand corner of the pitch near the corner flag after a clumsy foul by Vlaar but nothing comes of the resulting ball into the box.
Good start to this second half by the hosts and some early pressure with a series of set-pieces.
CHANCE! Benteke goes close to adding a second with a towering header at the back post, getting the better of Bassong in the air to nod down Albrighton's cross straight at Guzan.
Norwich have made one change at the break with Ryan Bennett coming on for Russell Martin who has gone off with a back strain. Aston Villa get the second half underway.
The players are out on the pitch and we're just moments away from the second half now.
So far Paul Lambert's decision to start Christian Benteke over Darren Bent has been entirely justified, but it will be interesting to see if the England man features at any point this afternoon. Is he seen simply as an impact sub these days?
While Aston Villa may have the lead, they simply haven't controlled the midfield well enough and Delph and El Ahmadi need to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the second period as Benteke is causing all sorts of problems up top.
So what do Norwich have to do in the second half? They've had plenty of joy whenever they've worked it out wide and the service to Grant Holt needs to drastically improve.
The first half was hardly high on quality but it's been played at a good tempo and you sense that if the final product were only a little bit better, we could have a real goal-fest on our hands here.
Referee Phil Dowd brings an end to the first half and Aston Villa go in at the break one goal to the good courtesy of a slick piece of finishing from Christian Benteke.
From the resulting free-kick, Benteke wins a looping header but it just fails to find Agbonlahor's run and Ruddy collects. The marking there was awful.
Good driving run through the middle of the park from Delph and he's brought down by a clumsy challenge from Johnson.
Villa look to go long again and Bassong gets the better of Benteke in the air but Norwich just can't get hold of it on the floor, with the hosts picking up all the second balls.
Risky from Villa there, trying to play the ball out from the back and only a good ball around the corner from Delph stops Hoolahan stepping in and breaking away.
Seeing that opening goal from Benteke back again and it's Turner who just fails to stay with his man.
Excellent spell from Norwich and it takes a fabulous bit of defending from Herd at his near post to keep out a dangerous-looking low ball in from Bennett down the right.
Albrighton's ball in is far too close to Ruddy, though and the England goalkeeper collects in a crowd of players.
Neat play from the hosts with El Ahmadi playing a great ball to Benteke who is all alone on the right of the box, but his deflected cross wins a corner.
The tempo has dropped just a tad after a frantic few minutes, but Benteke is proving a real handful whenever Villa get the ball forward early.
That's not really offside as Vlaar flicks on a long ball from Ruddy with Hoolahan in the clear. Harsh decision, that.
Norwich getting some joy down Villa's left but Garrido's low ball into the box doesn't find anyone and El Ahmadi hacks it clear.
Holt tries to ping a cross-field pass to Garrido but it's well intercepted by Albrighton and Villa are on the front foot once again.
Pilkington's free-kick around 40 yards from goal into the box sails harmessly out for a goal-kick. Massive waste.
Yellow CardJoseph Bennett
Norwich getting some pressure up the pitch with a series of free-kicks and Villa look as if they're battling for their lives at the minute.
Villa barely deserve the lead but it was a goal of real quality in a game bereft of any until now. Very calm finish by Benteke.
GOAL!!!! Christian Benteke has handed Aston Villa the lead. It's a flowing move with Agbonlahor and Holman involved, with the striker taking the Australian's cross in his stride before slotting past low to Ruddy's right.
CHANCE! Norwich opening Villa up here now and Hoolahan latches on to a neat pass from Bennett, who in turn floats a good ball into the far post for Holt, but his header is well saved by Guzan.
It's all a little bit untidy at the moment but Benteke just can't quite latch on to an Albrighton through ball. Game opening up a tad more.
The more you see that Hoolahan chance, the more you think he should score. That's a bad miss but a beautiful pass from Holt on second viewing.
CHANCE! Ruddy knocks a hoof forward and Holt makes a nuisance of himself with Vlaar failing to deal with him and the striker knocks the rebound through to Hoolahan, but Guzan is quick off his line and knocks his flicked effort behind for a corner. Huge chance, that.
Villa look as if they may find some joy knocking it down the flanks for the strikers to run on to but Benteke is caught offside on this occasion latching on to a Lowton ball.
Nothing comes of it, though, but with Norwich failing to get it clear, Delph plays another excellent ball up to Agbonlahor who takes it on his chest before trying to flick it over Bassong, but the defender clears. A minute's applause for Stiliyan Petrov has just rang around the ground, classy touch.
Benteke wins a free-kick from a poor challenge by Tettey. Albrighton has it in a promising position 30 yards from goal to the right.
Slight penalty shout there as Vlaar muscles out Bennett running across him. As they say, I've seen them given but referee Phil Dowd is having none of it.
Villa are trying to be patient on the ball but every now and again the temptation to hit it long seems to prove too much and they gift the ball away yet again.
El Ahmadi moving the ball around the back four nicely as Villa look to settle after a ropey few minutes.
This game looks very low on quality already and as Albrighton finds space on the right, his ball forward is neither to Agbonlahor or Benteke and is easily cut out. Norwich on top at the minute.
Very poor pass out from the box from Herd heaps pressure on the hosts box and Villa are struggling to work it clear here as Tettey sees a strike from distance blocked.
Bennett does well to prevent a goal-kick down the right after a poor pass from Tettey.
Looks as if Villa won't be afraid to go long today if they need to, as Lowton pumps another ball forward to Benteke, who chests it off brilliantly to Holman before the move breaks down.
Agbonlahor's pace almost causes a problem for Bassong, but under pressure the defender hacks it clear. A battle to keep an eye on as the game wears on, that.
The camera pans over to the bench during a brief break in play and Darren Bent and Stephen Ireland are sat side by side. Odd that neither are involved today from the start.
CHANCE! Villa break away well at pace with Albrighton after El Ahmadi intercepts well on the edge of the box, before Holman tries to play the ball into Benteke's feet, but it pings straight back out to him and he tries his luck from range, but his low effort is easily held by Ruddy as he dives to his right.
From Albrighton's floated in corner, Benteke rises highest but can only nod well over with no power behind the header.
Decent move down the left sees Agbonlahor win the first corner of the afternoon.
It's been a scrappy start and the midfield looks absolutely jam-packed at the moment, as Villa pump a long ball up to Benteke with Turner just about getting the better oif him.
Villa just struggling to get hold of the ball at the minute and Norwich are looking very compact through the middle with their two banks of four.
The visitors keeping the ball well and Hoolahan finds Martin out to his right but the full-back's ball into the box is wildly over-hit.
Nervy start from Norwich here too as Bassong tries to stop the ball going out for a throw-in but ends up playing it straight to Albrighton, but the defender gets back to cut the move out early.
And we're off and Norwich have kicked off, putting pressure down the hosts right-hand flank.
Looks as if Matthew Lowton is staying at right-back and Chris Herd has slotted in at centre-back alongside Vlaar for Villa.
The players are in the tunnel now, Norwich being led out by Grant Holt who has three goals in his last three games, the home side by Dutchman Ron Vlaar.
One thing is for sure, though, both sides could certainly do with a win today to move themselves away from the relegation zone.
So the best thing surmise from all of those mind-bending stats is that both of them aren't very good at the moment and we could either be in for an end-to-end classic or a bore draw. Plenty to keep an eye on then.
Moving on to Norwich now and their goal difference of -11 is the joint worst in the league along with Southampton. They have the worst shots-to-goals conversion rate in the division with 7%. Chris Hughton's side have conceded a division-high five goals from outside the penalty area this season.
The best stat of all, though is that Aston Villa have won just three of their 27 league matches in 2012, picking up 20 points in total - the lowest tally of any Premier League club. Astounding that they haven't dropped out of the top flight then when you consider that dreadful run.
Since their victory over Norwich here last year, Villa have won just two of their last 16 home games, drawing six and losing eight. Gabriel Agbonlahor's last league goal came in that fixture too, so he'll be hoping to break his duck today.
Five points from eight games equates to Villa's worst start to a season since 1986-87, when they were last relegated from the top flight. Paul Lambert's side need to win on Saturday to avoid the club's poorest start to a campaign for 43 years, dating back to 1969.
Last season's fixture between the two sides ended 3-2 to Aston Villa, with a Darren Bent brace and Gabriel Agbonlahor just enough, despite Anthony Pilkington and Steve Morison grabbing goals back.
Both sides have only won a solitary game this season, with Norwich's coming last weekend against Arsenal in their superb 1-0 victory while Aston Villa beat Swansea 2-0.
A few factoids to bring you then folks - both Norwich and Aston Villa, along with Sunderand, are the lowest scorers in the league so far this season with just six goals each.
The Villains three changes, with Stephen Ireland, Nathan Baker and Bent making way for Marc Albrighton, Christian Benteke and Chris Herd, while Norwich remain unchanged from their 1-0 win against Arsenal.
The big news from Aston Villa's starting eleven for today is that Paul Lambert has kept faith with Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor up front with Darren Bent on the bench once again. It looks as if Matthew Lowton is going to be asked to start at centre-back today, although it's unclear who will be playing at right back yet, even if my money is on Chris Herd.
Norwich: Ruddy; R. Martin, Bassong, Turner, Garrido; Johnson, Tettey, E. Bennett, Pilkington, Hoolahan; Holt. Subs: Rudd, Snodgrass, Howson, Jackson, Morison, Barnett, R. Bennett.
Aston Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Bennett; El Ahmadi, Delph, Herd, Albrighton, Holman; Agbonlahor, Benteke. Subs: Given, Bent, Westwood, Lichaj, Bannan, Ireland, Weimann.
The teams are in and it looks as if Darren Bent is once again on the bench for the hosts.
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to our live play-by-play coverage of the first game of the day between Aston Villa and Norwich at Villa Park, in what represents a very personal affair for manager Paul Lambert. My name is James McManus and I'll be guiding you through events.
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