Aston Villa 3-2 Norwich

By Becky AshtonBBC Sport
Darren Bent scores his first goal in the win over Norwich City
Bent has scored 14 goals since his £18m move from Sunderland in January

A double from Darren Bent either side of a Gabby Agbonlahor strike helped Aston Villa to all three points against Norwich City.

The home side had to come from behind after Anthony Pilkington's superb free-kick but they were level when Bent side-footed home.

Agbonlahor then took advantage of Leon Barnett's poor back pass to give Villa the lead before setting up Bent again.

Steve Morison set up a nervy finish when he headed home from close range.

The win was Villa's third of the season and ended a three-game winless streak - but it was nothing more than the home side deserved.

Bent and Agbonlahor were in sparkling form, giving England manager Fabio Capello a timely reminder of what they are capable of ahead of the announcement of his squad for the friendlies with Spain and Sweden.

For the second week in a row Villa started slowly with Pilkington forcing Shay Given into a good early save.

Alex McLeish praises 'phenomenal' Aston Villa forwards

Moments later Morison should have done better when he was given space in the box but his shot, on the turn, was straight at the Villa keeper.

The home side created a good chance five minutes later when Bent was through one on one with John Ruddy but the Norwich keeper raced off his line and deflected the shot clear.

The deadlock was broken on 25 minutes when Pilkington made the Canaries' domination pay and struck a sublime free-kick into the top right-hand corner.

The goal was the 300th Premier League goal of the season and one worthy to hold such a title.

But the lead lasted just five minutes when Bent scored for the third home game in a row.

All the hard work was done by his strike partner Agbonlahor, who played in a superb low cross from the left to present Bent with a chance he could not really miss from four yards out.

Bent and Agbonlahor were looking threatening every time the home side went forward and the latter was on the scoresheet himself two minutes after the restart.

A weak back pass by Barnett gave Ruddy no chance and he could only watch on in horror as Agbonlahor nipped in first and fired into an empty net.

The all-important third goal for the home side came on 62 minutes after some excellent attacking football.

A run from Charles N'Zogbia was cut out by the Norwich defence but Agbonlahor picked up the loose ball and swung in another superb cross, which found Bent six yards out and he side-footed home.

Poor defending cost Canaries - Lambert

There was more cheer for the home fans on 67 minutes when Jermaine Jenas, who signed on a season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur in August, finally made his long-awaited debut after recovering from injury.

With Villa looking comfortable Norwich set up a nervy finish when Morison headed home on 77 minutes.

An excellent ball in by Grant Holt on the left deceived everyone except Morison, who arrived at the far post to head home.

Norwich threw everything at the Villa defence in the closing stages but Alex McLeish's men held on.

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish:

"We looked like a team that could score goals today. There was some terrific forward play but Norwich gave us one hell of a game.

"It was a very open game. We showed great character and resilience to bounce back from going behind."

Norwich City manager Paul Lambert:

"The good thing about us is we don't stop, we keep going, but we can't give goals away like that.

"We get a foothold in the game at 1-1 and lose a silly goal just after half-time.

"We came to try and win and the first goal was a world-class goal. But Villa are a very good side especially here with the crowd they've got."

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