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    Norwich City 2-0 Aston Villa: Norwich Have the Right Garde for Remi's Villa

    Norwich City hosted Aston Villa at Carrow Road in a crucial crunch match between two teams desperate for three points. Villa went into the game bottom of the table and without a win since their opening match of the season, whilst the Canaries found themselves above the relegation zone on goal difference, with just one clean sheet to their name.

    Both teams made four changes from their Boxing Day fixtures. Norwich brought in Wes Hoolahan, Dieumerci Mbokani, Jonny Howson and Graham Dorrans, whilst Aston Villa made changes in defence and on the wings with Micah Richards, Ciaran Clark, Scott Sinclair and Kieran Richardson all returning. 

    The tension for both teams was clearly visible in the opening stages, as neither side could stamp their authority on the game. Leandro Bacuna tested Declan Rudd early on, who nervously parried his 25 yard strike away. The visitors went close on 15 minutes as Jordan Ayew climbed highest to meet a Kieran Richardson free-kick but headed just wide. Norwich were guilty of not taking their chances in the opening stages against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, but soon made Aston Villa pay for the same mistake. A Nathan Redmond cross flicked off Bacuna's head, before Jonny Howson fired a volley past Brad Guzan to give Norwich a priceless lead on 24 minutes.

    The visitors continued to press, particularly through Kieran Richardson, but it was Norwich creating more chances. A quick Robbie Brady corner found Graham Dorrans who fired just wide as the Villa defence was caught napping. Remi Garde's men almost had an even more difficult task when Jordan Veretout lunged in with two feet on Alex Tettey. The midfielder was lucky to walk away with a yellow card as frustrations began to show for Aston Villa just before half-time. 

    The second half started with a similar trend. Aston Villa were enjoying plenty of the ball but lacked quality to unlock the Norwich defence. It was the hosts who went closest again just before the hour mark, when Brad Guzan made a mess of dealing with an ambitious Nathan Redmond shot, before Jonny Howson guided the rebound just wide. Remi Garde replaced Scott Sinclair and Leandro Bacuna with Adama Traore and Rudy Gestede, as Aston Villa desperately sought a breakthrough. 

    Around half an hour went by without a shot on target as Norwich's game plan continued to work efficiently. It was the hosts who had the next effort on goal, when Nathan Redmond hit a 25 yard free-kick straight at Brad Guzan as the match entered it's final ten minutes. Norwich had continued to look the most likely to score the next goal and that they did with a few minutes left to play. Wes Hoolahan had been quiet for the previous 87 minutes, but he delivered a delightful chip onto the head of Dieumerci Mbokani who dispatched a firm header past Brad Guzan. The Canaries continued to stand strong in defence as time ran out and they recorded their second win in three matches and just their second clean sheet of the season.

    Aston Villa remain rooted to the bottom of the table and will have to take a second opportunity to kick-start their season when they host Sunderland next weekend. No doubt Remi Garde will also be in the market for a creative midfielder and goalscoring striker as the transfer window reopens. Norwich pull themselves three points clear of the relegation zone before hosting an inconsistent Southampton on Saturday.

    Chris Lincoln's Man of the Match: Jonny Howson
    The midfielder scored the crucial winning goal for his club and also helped to strengthen his team when they were not in possession of the ball.
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    Item Reviewed: Norwich City 2-0 Aston Villa: Norwich Have the Right Garde for Remi's Villa Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Chris Lincoln
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