- Aston Villa vs Norwich

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Sunday 2 March 2014 | Villa Park | Referee: Anthony Taylor | Attendance 30,303

Aston Villa
  • Christian Benteke (25, 27)
  • Leandro Bacuna (37)
  • Sebastien Bassong (41 OG)
Aston Villa
4 - 1
  • Wes Hoolahan (3)

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Match report

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For match photos, scroll to PHOTOSTREAM above left; for stats click on the stats tab. Manager reactions below; press conferences above.

Christian Benteke's sensational first-half brace inspired Aston Villa to a 4-1 win over Norwich City at Villa Park.

A spectacular overhead kick from the Belgian midway through the first half cancelled out Wes Hoolahan's well-worked opener, before the Villa striker powered home a header two minutes later to give his side the lead.

Hoolahan spurned a great chance to level things soon afterwards, before Leandro Bacuna rounded off a wonderful sweeping counter-attack with a curled finish. And things got even worse for Norwich just before the break when Sebastien Bassong turned Fabian Delph's cross into his own net.

The victory eases the pressure on Villa boss Paul Lambert, ending a run of four matches without a win, while condemning Norwich to their fifth consecutive away defeat.

Lambert had been keen to diffuse any tensions with his former employers in the build-up to the clash, which were rekindled after a publically unsuccessful pursuit of Hoolahan back in January. And it was the 31-year old who broke the deadlock within the opening three minutes.

The onrushing Gary Hooper beat the offside trap to race away from the defence, before squaring to Hoolahan, who made no mistake from close range.

Shell-shocked Villa struggled to break down the visitors for long periods of the first half, but they were level 20 minutes before the break in spectacular fashion. Ron Vlaar's long ball found Benteke in the box and, with his back to goal, the striker took a neat touch before lashing a stunning overhead kick past John Ruddy.

Benteke was on hand again two minutes later, shaking off Bassong in the area to head home Ashley Westwood's corner.

Hoolahan nearly levelled just a few minutes later, playing a one-two with Hooper to cut open the defence before being denied by a superb double save from Brad Guzan, and Norwich were made to pay for that missed opportunity eight minutes before half time, when a lightning-quick counter-attack saw Andreas Weimann play in Bacuna, who curled a terrific effort past Ruddy.

The hosts had a fourth just before the break, when Delph's cross was turned into his own net by Bassong. They might have been celebrating again five minutes into the second half too, when a teasing Delph cross found the unmarked Gabriel Agbonlahor in the box, who somehow headed wide.

Weimann passed another presentable opportunity 15 minutes later, although Villa seemed content to ease off as the game reached its conclusion.

Norwich brought on Sweden striker Johan Elmander in an attempt to inspire a fightback, and he had a chance to reduce the deficit late on before skewing wide after good work from Martin Olsson. Hooper also went close five minutes from time, forcing a fine save from Guzan after being played clean through, but that miss summed up a frustrating game for the visitors.

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "It wasn't a great start for us by any stretch of the imagination, but for that half-an-hour period I thought we were absolutely blistering.

"For me the counter-attack [for the third goal] was absolutely fantastic, but Christian's first goal probably set the tone as to what was going to happen and his first goal was brilliant. But when you look at the third and fourth goals, team-wise it was excellent."

"Against Cardiff [a 0-0 draw] we should have won, David Marshall had one of those nights where he saved everything, he was excellent. And against Newcastle [a 1-0 defeat] there wasn't too much wrong apart from not having that finishing touch and today it all came together. So the performances were pretty decent [but] we just had to take the chances."

Norwich City manager Chris Hughton: "For 25 minutes I thought we played very well. We started the game well, got a goal and could have got a second.

"One thing you have to do here – they can get a crowd behind them and you have to quieten that crowd and we certainly did that. But in a 15-minute period we conceded the one goal and they turned up the power and pace and we couldn't handle it for that 15 minutes.

"If you can't handle it you have to make sure you don't concede and in a bad period for us we, of course, conceded the goals and at that stage there's no coming back from that."

"We should have done better. You can't allow them to play the type of balls in, particularly to somebody with the power Christian Benteke's got, but as defenders we've got to deal with that better. It's part and parcel of the game and he is no doubt on top form an exceptional player but you have to deal with those things.

"Even at 2-1, if you accepted Benteke's power allowed him to get the two goals that he got, then we have to gather as a team and make sure that at 2-1 we stay in the game. But we didn't and their pace took over from that moment and at 4-1 down there's no coming back."

Fan Rating

- rate the player performances for this match

Line-up All Fans BFR
1. Brad Guzan 5.8 6.12
7. Leandro Bacuna 5.2 5.2
4. Ron Vlaar 6.5 5.2
23. Ryan Bertrand 6.33 5.14
2. Nathan Baker 4.4 5.11
15. Ashley Westwood 6.0 5.03
16. Fabian Delph 7.0 5.64
8. Karim El Ahmadi 6.0 5.04
11. Gabriel Agbonlahor 6.67 6.26
10. Andreas Weimann 7.0 5.76
20. Christian Benteke 8.33 7.08
Substitutes All Fans BFR
12. Marc Albrighton 2.5 5.43
37. Callum Robinson 0.0 5.0
6. Ciaran Clark 0.0 4.79
29. Grant Holt 0.0 4.0
18. Yacouba Sylla 0.0 4.68
3. Joe Bennett 3.0 4.13
13. Jed Steer 6.0 3.95
Line-up All Fans BFR
1. John Ruddy 5.8 4.91
23. Martin Olsson 5.0 4.54
5. Sebastien Bassong 5.0 4.33
2. Russell Martin 4.0 4.28
26. Joseph Yobo 3.0 4.29
7. Robert Snodgrass 2.0 5.54
22. Nathan Redmond 2.0 5.02
27. Alexander Tettey 2.0 4.72
4. Bradley Johnson 3.0 4.26
11. Gary Hooper 10.0 4.81
14. Wes Hoolahan 6.33 4.19
Substitutes All Fans BFR
12. Anthony Pilkington 3.0 5.18
24. Ryan Bennett 5.0 4.06
16. Johan Elmander 2.0 4.6
8. Jonny Howson 6.0 4.85
3. Steven Whittaker 5.0 4.78
13. Mark Bunn 7.0 2.4
19. Luciano Becchio 6.0 1.95

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