Match ends, Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0.
Norwich City 2-0 Aston Villa
Norwich lifted themselves away from the Premier League relegation zone with a nervy win that leaves rock-bottom Aston Villa further adrift of safety.
In a game devoid of quality, Jonny Howson's crisp strike at the far post separated the sides for over an hour.
Villa rarely looked like scoring, with Jordan Ayew heading their best chance straight at home keeper Declan Rudd.
Norwich ensured they moved three points clear of the bottom three when Dieumerci Mbokani powerfully headed in.
Ayew's 20-yard free-kick stretched Rudd in injury time, but Villa did not do enough to avoid falling 11 points from safety with 19 games remaining.
Relieved Canaries ease pressure
Norwich's sense of relief was palpable when Mbokani sealed victory in a match that Canaries manager Alex Neil had described as a "must win".
The Canaries had only won one of their previous six matches - the shock 2-1 success at Manchester United - and started the afternoon just a point above the relegation zone.
It was far from a fluent attacking performance by Neil's side, who only managed four shots on target throughout.
But they showed steel and patience to end Villa's resistance.
Neil will also be pleased at his side's defensive organisation, albeit against a toothless Villa team, as they kept only a second clean sheet of the season.
Any encouragement for Villa?
In short, no. The Birmingham club, who have not been out of the top flight since 1988, rarely looked like ending a club-record run of 17 matches without a league win.
Villa went into the game on the back of successive draws against Newcastle and West Ham United, but realistically needed all three points against Norwich, who occupied 17th place at kick-off, to begin bridging an already formidable gap.
Despite showing some early signs of promise, the Premier League's lowest scorers mustered only three shots on target - they have scored 15 goals in 18 top-flight matches this season, with Jordan Ayew contributing a third of that total.
And had the Ghana international directed his 16th-minute header either side of Rudd - after finding space inside the home penalty area - the game would have had a different look.
However, Villa rarely looked like rescuing even a point once Howson met Nathan Redmond's clipped cross for the opener.
Even manager Remi Garde, who has not won in eight attempts since replacing Tim Sherwood, admitted afterwards his team did not deserve to leave with a point.
Man of the match - Dieumerci Mbokani
Norwich manager Alex Neil: "I think getting the three points is the priority, but it was great to back that up with a clean sheet.
"Once we got the first goal, we settled down and it allowed us to be compact and try to catch Villa on the counter attack. Thankfully we got a second goal, which killed the game off.
"I am delighted for the players - they have worked extremely hard this year. We know we could have done better in the 19 games, so hopefully we will do better in the next 19. If we can do that, we will be fine."
Aston Villa boss Remi Garde: "I would like to say we deserved a point but at the end I think Norwich deserved the win. Nothing more to say.
"We did not play as well as we did in the last two games. We tried to do our best, of course, but did not create many chances. If you don't score in a game, you don't deserve to win.
"I will be the last man not to believe we can still win games. It is my job to make the players believe we will win the next one. I know it has been a long time for them to win, me as well, but we have the quality to win games.
"Sometimes in football you have to cope with this kind of situation. January will be important."
Stats of the day
- Norwich have won as many Premier League games in their last three as they did in their previous 14 combined - two
- Wes Hoolahan has now provided more assists for Norwich City in the Premier League than any other player (17)
- The Canaries have scored in all but two of their 28 league meetings with Aston Villa at home
- Only Sunderland (six in 2005-06) and Derby (seven in 2007-08) have had fewer points at the halfway stage than Villa this season
- Since winning away at Bournemouth on the opening day, Villa have picked up just two points in nine Premier League away games
- Villa have now gone nine games without a Premier League clean sheet away from home, keeping just one clean sheet in their last 18 Premier League games overall
Villa are back on the road - again going to one of their closest relegation rivals. Garde's team travel to second-bottom Sunderland on Saturday, 2 January.
Norwich will be aiming to move further away from the relegation zone when they host Southampton on the same day.
- 5MartinBooked at 90mins
- 24BennettBooked at 61mins
- 18DorransSubstituted forO'Neilat 85'minutes
- 14HoolahanSubstituted forOdjidja-Ofoeat 88'minutes
- 9MbokaniSubstituted forJeromeat 88'minutes
- 4RichardsBooked at 90mins
- 7BacunaSubstituted forGestedeat 69'minutes
- 8GueyeBooked at 77mins
- 15WestwoodBooked at 90mins
- 9SinclairSubstituted forTraoréat 58'minutes
- 17VeretoutBooked at 42minsSubstituted forGrealishat 81'minutes
- 19J AyewBooked at 90mins
- Graham Scott
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Declan Rudd.
Attempt saved. Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.
Rudy Gestede (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Sebastien Bassong (Norwich City).
Adama Traoré (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Cameron Jerome (Norwich City).
Foul by Adama Traoré (Aston Villa).
Robbie Brady (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Russell Martin (Norwich City) is shown the yellow card.
Micah Richards (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.
Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Ashley Westwood (Aston Villa).
Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa).
Russell Martin (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Norwich City. Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe replaces Wes Hoolahan.
Substitution, Norwich City. Cameron Jerome replaces Dieumerci Mbokani.
Goal! Norwich City 2, Aston Villa 0. Dieumerci Mbokani (Norwich City) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Wes Hoolahan.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Russell Martin.
Substitution, Norwich City. Gary O'Neil replaces Graham Dorrans.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Jack Grealish replaces Jordan Veretout.
Delay in match Dieumerci Mbokani (Norwich City) because of an injury.
Foul by Micah Richards (Aston Villa).
Dieumerci Mbokani (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Sebastien Bassong.
Attempt blocked. Adama Traoré (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Alan Hutton.
Attempt saved. Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.
Idrissa Gueye (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Idrissa Gueye (Aston Villa).
Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Adama Traoré (Aston Villa) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Nathan Redmond (Norwich City).
Offside, Norwich City. Russell Martin tries a through ball, but Dieumerci Mbokani is caught offside.
Corner, Aston Villa. Conceded by Russell Martin.
Jordan Ayew (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alexander Tettey (Norwich City).