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Libor Kozak's first Aston Villa goal gave his side their second Barclays Premier League away win of the season at Norwich City.
A first-half substitute for the injured Christian Benteke, Kozak scored the only goal of the game within minutes of coming on to seal three points for Paul Lambert’s side. Villa’s goal came against the run of play and after an early missed penalty from Robert Snodgrass, given when Ciaran Clark handled inside the area. The introduction of Gary Hooper for his Barclays Premier League debut could not lift Norwich, who slipped to their third top-flight defeat of the season.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton made two changes to the side who were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, with Russell Martin and Jonny Howson replacing Steven Whittaker and Bradley Johnson. There were three alterations for the visitors, two of which were forced on Lambert. With Jores Okore and Ashley Westwood both injured, Leandro Bacuna and Aleksandar Tonev replaced them, while Clark came in for Matthew Lowton.
Villa started the game well and could have opened the scoring in the first five minutes as Andreas Weimann saw one effort well saved by John Ruddy and a second strike the foot of a post. Having survived that scare, Norwich were gifted an opportunity to break the deadlock when referee Chris Foy awarded them a penalty after Clark handled in the sixth minute. Brad Guzan came to Clark’s rescue with a fine save diving to his left to parry Snodgrass' spot-kick.
Villa's injury problems continued midway through the half as top-scorer Benteke was substituted with a groin problem. The Belgium forward slipped when trying to control a long ball out of defence and, despite trying to play on, had to be replaced by Kozak.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel might have tested Guzan while Villa were readying Kozak, but the Dutchman fired wide from a low cross by Martin, and the hosts were punished moments later as the Czech Republic forward grabbed his first goal for the club on the half-hour. Kozak missed his initial effort on goal, but fired into the back of the net from six yards when Gabriel Agbonlahor rolled the loose ball back to him.
Norwich began the second half at a high tempo and spent large parts camped in the Villa half, but still struggled to test Guzan. Good crosses from Snodgrass and Leroy Fer failed to find team-mates inside the penalty area and Villa were able to clear with ease. The visitors threatened on the counter-attack but could not take their opportunities when they had sight of goal, with Tonev guilty of missing chances.
Hooper then saw a late chance brilliantly tipped over by Guzan as the American secured Villa's first clean sheet in 27 Barclays Premier League matches.
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: "It's difficult to take because we created chances and got in as many crosses as we have for some time. Add to that the penalty as well.
"When you have that amount of ball in the final third, you want to get more out of it. We're bitterly disappointed to have lost. Our strikers are reliant on service. Ricky had some opportunities today, but it wasn't his day".
Aston Villa Paul Lambert: "We have come here three times and won three times. It's a great record. I know how hard it is. The crowd make it pretty intimidating. But we're an absolute threat. The first few minutes we could have been two-up.
"Then Brad made a great save from the penalty. Libor came on and to be fair it was at a difficult time. He's come here, with how fast it is, and made himself an instant hero with the crowd which is great.
"Guzan was commanding. And the save from the header, where he tipped over the bar, that was world-class. We had a lot of niggles in there and I asked a lot of lads to go out and play who weren't fully fit. It was a fantastic performance."
"Christian [Benteke] slipped and the medical team are telling me it's his hip flexor. Hopefully it's not too bad."
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|01 Feb 2014||v Cardiff (A)|
|30 Nov 2013||v Crystal Palace (H)|
|23 Nov 2013||v Newcastle (A)|