Paul Lambert’s all-out, all-attack, all-the-time strategy was evident right from the start. Andreas Weimann forced Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy into a save before the first minute was up. The Austrian was back just two minutes later, but this time, it was the post that kept Villa from taking an early lead.
In the sixth minute, it looked as though Norwich were set to take the lead. Ciaran Clark, freshly back in the Villa defense after an injury layoff, stuck out an arm to block a Canary shot. It was Robert Snodgrass who stepped up to the spot, sending his shot low and to the right. Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan chose correctly, however, diving to his left and pushing the ball away. His defense cleared away the threat and left Norwich searching.
Villa got another scare when, once again, a player in a claret and blue shirt went down clutching an important body part. This time was even more concerning, however, as the player in question was Christian Benteke. The Belgian made an attempt to return to the pitch but promptly fell over. New Villan Libor Kozak came on in his place — the fourth time in five matches Lambert was forced into a substitution before the halftime whistle.
But the visitors went from dejected to ecstatic in just under two minutes. Kozak, just in front of goal, sent it right to Ruddy’s hands. But the Norwich keeper pushed the ball into the path of Gabby Agbonlahor, who promptly knocked it back to Kozak, still lurking in front of goal. The Czech sent his shot into the right hand corner to give his new side the lead.
The Canaries did well to keep themselves in the match, but in the end, they simply couldn’t find an equalizer. At times it seemed as though every Villa player was in their final third, trying their best to protect the goal. Norwich continued to apply pressure down the right, knowing Antonio Luna to be the weakest link in a frail Villa defense. Snodgrass kept his shooting boots on, but saw his shots blocked by a fortunate Villa defense. Gary Hooper, on for Johan Elmander, had a terrific chance with minutes left, but a flying Guzan made a spectacular save.
Villa’s win is their second of the season, but perhaps more significantly, it is their first clean sheet in 22 games. They’ve got Brad Guzan to thank for that one — and he’s hoping Jurgen Klinsmann was paying attention.
Norwich City Starting XI: Ruddy; Martin, Bassong (c) (Bennett 38), Turner, Garrido; Snodgrass, Howson, Fer, Redmond (Pilkington 63); Elmander (Hooper 63); van Wolfswinkel
Subs not used: Tettey, Bunn, Whittaker, Hoolahan
Aston Villa Starting XI: Guzan; Bacuna, Clark, Vlaar (c), Luna; Delph, El Ahmadi, Tonev (Sylla 77); Weimann, Agbonlahor (Helenius 61), Benteke (Kozak 28)
Subs not used: Steer, Bennett, Albrighton, Baker