Norwich 1-2 Aston Villa

Gabriel Agbonlahor

Gabriel Agbonlahor scored a last-minute winner as Aston Villa took a giant stride towards safety with a win that increases Norwich's relegation fears.

Villa took the lead when Agbonlahor drilled a 25-yard shot into the corner.

Grant Holt drew Norwich level from the penalty spot after Robert Snodgrass had been brought down by Joe Bennett.

But Agbonlahor calmly finished off Ashley Westwood's pass to move Villa five points clear of the drop zone, with Norwich two behind.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Norwich 1-2 Aston Villa: Chris Hughton frustrated with Villa defeat

The goal capped a superb performance from Agbonlahor and a fantastic week for Villa, which began with a 6-1 win over Sunderland.

Manager Paul Lambert, who celebrated passionately at the final whistle at the home of his former club, has overseen a run of five wins in eight games that has taken the team to 40 points.

Norwich are moving in the opposite direction and are now in danger of being overtaken by Wigan, who have 35 points and a game in hand following their 3-2 victory over West Brom.

The club responded to their fourth defeat in six games by cancelling Monday's end-of season dinner to enable "the players and everyone at the the club to devote all their energies" to their remaining games against West Brom and Manchester City.

The first half offered little to animate the crowd as they basked in the May sunshine.

With the teams favouring a cautious approach, goalmouth incident was scarce until the final five minutes when both sides could have taken the lead.

Norwich full-back Javier Garrido's cross from the left bounced up into the path of Holt, who could not direct his header under the bar.

At the other end, Agbonlahor's right-wing cross deflected off Garrido and looped on to the top of the goal frame.

Seconds after the break, Villa striker Christian Benteke cleverly dinked the ball over Ryan Bennett to open the route to goal but shot tamely at Bunn under pressure from Russell Martin.

Norwich responded with a spell of pressure which yielded another presentable chance for Holt. But having been teed up by Jonny Howson on the edge of the area, the striker could only fire his shot high and wide.

The Canaries were made to pay for their wastefulness as Villa snatched the lead with a goal of unerring quality.

Agbonlahor picked up a loose ball on the halfway line, drove into space and unleashed a low shot into the bottom corner.

With the game opening up, Norwich came close to an equaliser when winger Wes Hoolahan headed Garrido's cross wide of the far post.

And moments later, Agbonlahor raced down the left and crossed for Andreas Weimann, who volleyed over the bar at full stretch.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Norwich 1-2 Aston Villa: Lambert delights in performance

Brimming with confidence after scoring his fifth goal in seven games, Agbonlahor then exchanged passes with Benteke before fizzing a shot across the face of goal.

Norwich manager Chris Hughton's decision to take off Hoolahan was greeted by boos but the same fans were cheering shortly afterwards when the hosts won a penalty.

Snodgrass was the instigator as he weaved in from the right and was hauled over by Bennett just inside the box. Holt wrong-footed Brad Guzan from the spot to end a run of eight games without a goal.

Suddenly, Norwich looked the more likely team to win as Holt fired wide after a flick-on from substitute Kei Kamara, who was playing the last game of his loan spell from Sporting Kansas City.

But Villa remained dangerous on the break and snatched the points when Westwood weighted a perfect through-ball to Agbonlahor, who slotted his finish across Mark Bunn.

There was still time for Norwich to craft another opening when Holt beat Guzan to Kamara's cross, only to head wide of the target.

Norwich City manager Chris Hughton:

"I'm annoyed and frustrated because there was no way we should have lost or deserved to lose. We were the better side over 90 minutes but Villa have pace on the counter-attack and we have conceded two poor goals today.

"Joe Bennett shouldn't have been on the park - he was on a yellow card when he conceded the penalty and had two or three fouls after that. I find it incredible that he was still on the park.

"Next week's game against West Brom becomes a bigger game. We will need a better performance but we can't concede the goals we conceded today and expect to win football matches."

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert:

"Our effort after playing on Monday night was outstanding. All credit to the team. We hung on and in the second half it could have been more.

"Gabby Agbonlahor has been playing excellently for us, he has the speed to hurt teams and power as well.

"We have to keep going but it's another huge, huge win. I knew how much effort we put into that game and some of the football was excellent at times."

Top Stories