Premier League
Aston VillaAston Villa4NorwichNorwich City1
By Aimee LewisBBC Sport
Leandro Bacuna

Aston Villa came from behind and eased their relegation worries with four goals in 15 minutes in a ruthless first-half display against Norwich.

Wes Hoolahan side-footed Norwich ahead but Christian Benteke struck twice in two minutes - a superb volley and a header - to put his side in front.

A clinical counter-attack ended with Leandro Bacuna's curling effort.

Sebastien Bassong's own goal added to Norwich's woes and the Canaries remain close to the drop-zone.

Norwich, who would have hoped to capitalise on last week's 1-0 victory over Tottenham, are four points ahead of 18th placed Sunderland, but the League Cup finalists have played two fewer games.

The Canaries' final four league matches of the season are against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.

But ahead of this clash, City manager Chris Hughton said his team should accept the game's "ups and downs", though he would not have expected to experience such a range of emotions in a mesmerising opening 45 minutes.

His team made the perfect start - Gary Hooper picking out recalled team-mate Hoolahan who calmly side-footed into the corner from 12 yards - but dramatically unravelled thereafter.

Such a handsome victory over his former employers will no doubt please Villa manager Paul Lambert, but he will mainly take delight in his side having opened a seven-point gap between themselves and the Black Cats.

It was a result few would have predicted when Norwich were breaking forward with ease in the first 10 minutes and murmurs of unrest could be heard rippling around the stadium.

Hughton rues Norwich's 'mad 15 minutes'

But momentum swung Villa's way in an astonishing 15-minute period and the boos were soon replaced by roars of approval.

Benteke inspired the revival and his first goal was breathtaking. With his back to goal the Belgian beautifully controlled Ron Vlaar's hopeful ball into the box with his chest and, with a shuffle of the hips, volleyed beyond a helpless John Ruddy.

The striker's second was a simple close-range header from an Ashley Westwood corner but equally as effective.

Norwich were shell-shocked and Villa took advantage as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann and Bacuna counter-attacked with pace, with the latter curling his strike into the far post.

The visitors then struck a nail into their own coffin when Bassong, under pressure from Agbonlahor, directed Fabian Delph's cross into his own net.

Benteke goal world class - Lambert

It was only the second time Aston Villa had scored four goals in the first half of a Premier League match. The last time they did so was in their 7-1 win against Wimbledon in February, 1995.

Villa had not scored in three league matches prior to this match so it was perhaps optimistic to expect them to repeat their free-scoring first-half exploits after the break.

Agbonlahor should have extended his team's advantage but instead headed Delph's cross straight at Ruddy. The former England forward was denied once more by Ruddy in the dying minutes as the onrushing goalkeeper saved with his legs.

But they were misses which had little impact on a game which ended Villa's four-match winless run in the league and secured them just their third win in 15 matches.

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Line-ups

Aston Villa

  • 1Guzan
  • 7Bacuna
  • 23Bertrand
  • 15Westwood
  • 4Vlaar
  • 2Baker
  • 8El Ahmadi
  • 16Delph
  • 20BentekeSubstituted forHoltat 82'minutes
  • 10WeimannSubstituted forAlbrightonat 81'minutes
  • 11Agbonlahor

Substitutes

  • 3Bennett
  • 6Clark
  • 12Albrighton
  • 13Steer
  • 18Sylla
  • 29Holt
  • 37Robinson

Norwich

  • 1Ruddy
  • 2Martin
  • 23Olsson
  • 27TetteyBooked at 30minsSubstituted forHowsonat 80'minutes
  • 26Yobo
  • 5Bassong
  • 7SnodgrassBooked at 45minsSubstituted forPilkingtonat 45'minutes
  • 4Johnson
  • 11Hooper
  • 14Hoolahan
  • 22RedmondSubstituted forElmanderat 63'minutesBooked at 88mins

Substitutes

  • 3Whittaker
  • 8Howson
  • 12Pilkington
  • 13Bunn
  • 16Elmander
  • 19Becchio
  • 24Bennett
Referee:
Anthony Taylor
Attendance:
30,303

Match Stats

Home TeamAston VillaAway TeamNorwich
Possession
Home55%
Away45%
Shots
Home10
Away7
Shots on Target
Home4
Away4
Corners
Home6
Away2
Fouls
Home12
Away10

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Aston Villa 4, Norwich City 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Aston Villa 4, Norwich City 1.

  3. Post update

    Foul by Karim El Ahmadi (Aston Villa).

  4. Post update

    Johan Elmander (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  5. Post update

    Grant Holt (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Russell Martin (Norwich City).

  7. Booking

    Johan Elmander (Norwich City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  8. Post update

    Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  9. Post update

    Foul by Johan Elmander (Norwich City).

  10. Post update

    Attempt saved. Gary Hooper (Norwich City) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jonny Howson with a through ball.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa).

  12. Post update

    Johan Elmander (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Grant Holt replaces Christian Benteke.

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Marc Albrighton replaces Andreas Weimann.

  15. Post update

    Offside, Aston Villa. Ashley Westwood tries a through ball, but Gabriel Agbonlahor is caught offside.

  16. Substitution

    Substitution, Norwich City. Jonny Howson replaces Alexander Tettey.

  17. Post update

    Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Martin Olsson (Norwich City).

  19. Post update

    Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Russell Martin.

  20. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Fabian Delph.