Premier League
Aston VillaAston Villa1NorwichNorwich City0

Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich City: Conor Hourihane grabs winner

By Ben CollinsBBC Sport
Conor Hourihane scores against Norwich
Conor Hourihane has six goals and three assists in eight league appearances against Norwich

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish said it felt as if they had "won a cup" as they beat fellow strugglers Norwich to end a four-match losing streak.

Conor Hourihane came off the bench to score the only goal, laid on by midfielder Grealish, before Tom Heaton produced a fine save to deny Norwich substitute Onel Hernandez a late equaliser.

On their return to the Premier League this season, both sides came into Christmas in the relegation zone after going five games without a win.

And although Villa remain third-bottom, they are back within a point of safety while Norwich have slipped to the bottom of the table below Watford, who drew at Sheffield United.

"It was absolutely massive today," said Grealish. "It almost feels like we've won a cup.

"It was a bit of a scrappy one but it was all about the three points. The record hasn't been good but that was one for the fans today.

"In the warm-up we had a little chat and just said 'we need to win' - even a draw wouldn't have been good enough."

Norwich were more positive during the first hour, with Sam Byram's header bouncing against the top of the crossbar, but within eight minutes of coming on, Irish midfielder Hourihane swept the ball in from one of Villa's two shots on target.

Hourihane comes off bench to deliver Christmas cheer

Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Southampton saw Villa drop into the bottom three for the first time since beating Norwich 5-1 in the reverse fixture on 5 October. They also lost John McGinn to a fractured ankle as they lost to the Saints.

Villa are set to be without the influential midfielder for up to three months and Hourihane also dropped out of the starting line-up after Saturday, with manager Dean Smith making four changes.

And although Anwar El Ghazi twice went close before the break, for the first time at home this season Villa failed to record a single shot on target in the first half. They also looked susceptible to the counter-attack.

Norwich continued to look most likely to break the deadlock after the interval until the introduction of Hourihane, who swiftly showed he could be the man to ease the creative burden of Jack Grealish during McGinn's absence.

El Ghazi came in from the left and found Hourihane, who played it first time to Grealish. Villa's top scorer dummied past Alex Tettey, sticking the Norwich midfielder on his backside, before nudging it back to Hourihane and the Republic of Ireland international fired in his third Premier League goal of the season from just inside the box.

Villa were also indebted to Heaton for his late save - and to some dominant defending by centre-half Kortney Hause - but victory brought some much-needed Christmas cheer to the Villa faithful.

Canaries need points not plaudits

Emiliano Buendia takes a free-kick against Aston Villa
Emiliano Buendia's free-kick was one of three shots on target in the first half - all from Norwich

Despite being in the bottom three since losing to Villa in October, it's not all been doom and gloom during the Canaries' return to the top flight.

A 1-1 draw at Leicester 12 days ago saw them halt the Foxes' winning run and they created more than enough chances to win during Saturday's 2-1 home defeat by Wolves.

But they are now seven points behind fourth-bottom West Ham and manager Daniel Farke must be getting concerned at their inability to take advantage in games when they are on top.

They had the only three shots on target in the first half, while Byram hit the woodwork from an Emiliano Buendia corner.

Just after the interval, Norwich nearly scored from successive corners. Tettey had a shot cleared off the line by Douglas Luiz before Heaton did well to keep out Tom Trybull's back-post header.

But then Hourihane struck and the best chance City had to equalise was Hernandez's powerful half-volley from close range, which was too close to Heaton but the Villa keeper still did well to react and push the ball away.

The Canaries probably deserved a point but that will be of scant consolation to Farke as, with his side now past the halfway point this season, they need points not plaudits.

'It was tough to accept' - what they said

Smith pleased with 'very precious' Villa win

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith: "It's very precious. The fact that we'd lost four Premier League matches on the spin, you don't come into this game with an awful lot of confidence.

"The three things I asked the players for were enthusiasm, attitude and application, and we got them. It wasn't a classic performance by any means but we showed an awful lot of character out there as well.

"We've played better in games and lost. Today we took the chance that came our way and Norwich didn't.

"You've got to be a good team-mate and a good squad member. Sometimes they play, sometimes they don't, but what I want to see is a reaction when they come on the pitch and Conor did that with a really good finish.

"Sometimes a result like that can play you into form. We'll certainly get better; this is the first look at the Premier League for a lot of our players and everything you get in this league you have to earn."

Canaries dominated despite defeat - Farke

Norwich manager Daniel Farke: "I can't ask my players for more. It was a top-class away performance, we dominated the game. We had more possession, more shots, we won many duels and were unbelievably solid in terms of defending.

"We're disappointed with the result but I think we can be proud of our performance. In the end we perhaps lacked a bit of individual quality to convert our dominance into a perfect result for us.

"When everything seems to be going against you, you have to keep going, and that's what we did in the second half. Goals are always important to change a game - and a bit of luck. Today was tough to accept.

"It doesn't matter so much if you lose a game against one of your direct opponents at the moment. In the end, you need 10 or 11 wins at this level to be able to stay in this league.

"We know we're an underdog and in the worst position but there's no giving up."

Man of the match - Tom Heaton (Aston Villa)

Tom Heaton celebrates against Norwich
Heaton is the first Villa goalkeeper to keep a Premier League clean sheet while also making at least six saves since Brad Friedel against Portsmouth in September 2009

Canaries' Christmas hangover - the stats

  • Aston Villa have completed a Premier League double over Norwich for only the second time, also doing so in 2013-14 under Paul Lambert.
  • Jack Grealish has been directly involved in 10 goals (five goals, five assists) in 17 league appearances this season, only two short of his tally in the Championship last season when he registered 12 in 31 games (excluding play-offs).
  • Emiliano Buendia has created 55 chances for Norwich in the Premier League this season, at least 34 more than any team-mate.
  • Norwich have played more Premier League games on Boxing Day without a victory than any other side in the competition (seven - D1 L6).

What's next?

Villa face the other side in the bottom three as they visit Watford on Saturday, 28 December (15:00 GMT), before Norwich host Tottenham (17:30 GMT).


Aston Villa

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Heaton
  • 27El Mohamady
  • 15Konsa
  • 30Hause
  • 18Targett
  • 11NakambaSubstituted forHourihaneat 56'minutes
  • 6Douglas LuizBooked at 89mins
  • 21El GhaziSubstituted forLansburyat 90+2'minutes
  • 10Grealish
  • 17TrézéguetSubstituted forJotaat 84'minutes
  • 9WesleyBooked at 88mins


  • 8Lansbury
  • 14Hourihane
  • 22Engels
  • 23Jota
  • 24Guilbert
  • 25Nyland
  • 26Kodjia


Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Krul
  • 2Aarons
  • 6Zimmermann
  • 5Hanley
  • 3Byram
  • 27TetteyBooked at 35minsSubstituted forStiepermannat 75'minutes
  • 19TrybullBooked at 74minsSubstituted forVrancicat 75'minutes
  • 17BuendíaSubstituted forHernándezat 76'minutes
  • 23McLean
  • 14Cantwell
  • 22PukkiBooked at 42mins


  • 8Vrancic
  • 11Hernández
  • 12Lewis
  • 18Stiepermann
  • 21Fährmann
  • 24Amadou
  • 32Srbeny
Chris Kavanagh

Match Stats

Home TeamAston VillaAway TeamNorwich
Shots on Target

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Aston Villa 1, Norwich City 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Aston Villa 1, Norwich City 0.

  3. Post update

    Grant Hanley (Norwich City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  4. Post update

    Foul by Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa).

  5. Post update

    Foul by Onel Hernández (Norwich City).

  6. Post update

    Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  7. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Henri Lansbury replaces Anwar El Ghazi.

  8. Booking

    Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.

  9. Post update

    Corner, Norwich City. Conceded by Kortney Hause.

  10. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Teemu Pukki (Norwich City) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Max Aarons with a cross.

  11. Booking

    Wesley (Aston Villa) is shown the yellow card.

  12. Post update

    Mario Vrancic (Norwich City) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  13. Post update

    Foul by Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa).

  14. Post update

    Attempt saved. Onel Hernández (Norwich City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Sam Byram with a headed pass.

  15. Substitution

    Substitution, Aston Villa. Jota replaces Trézéguet.

  16. Post update

    Attempt missed. Kenny McLean (Norwich City) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

  17. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Marco Stiepermann (Norwich City) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

  18. Post update

    Corner, Norwich City. Conceded by Trézéguet.

  19. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Trézéguet (Aston Villa) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Conor Hourihane.

  20. Post update

    Todd Cantwell (Norwich City) wins a free kick on the left wing.


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