The rain came down at Villa Park, but for Christian Benteke, it served more to cleanse a rough season away for the Belgian.
A brace just two minutes apart gave Benteke his eighth and ninth goals of the season – his fifth in Villa’s last eight matches – as the hosts put Chris Hughton’s Norwich City in their place.
After dealing with injuries and struggling through much of the season trying to recreate the form that made him so dangerous last year, the 23-year-old Benteke seems to be finding his footing, and it’s propelled the Claret and Blue into 11th place.
Aston Villa were left shaking their heads after just four minutes, as a brilliant touch from Hoolahan sprung Gary Hooper with a brilliant pass redirect, and he got the ball back in the box and didn’t miss past Brad Guzan.
Oddly, Hoolahan didn’t celebrate the goal against the club that nearly purchased his services in the winter transfer window.
The game slowed down mightily as both teams feeled out their opponents after the goal, but the next chance would level things up as Benteke wowed the Villa Park faithful, and the home side would begin to take full control before unleashing their attack.
The towering striker chested down a long ball from Ron Vlaar in the box on 25 minutes. He was blanketed by Sebastian Bassong but no matter, and with his back to the goal, he volleyed the ball before it hit the ground in a half-bicycle kick and left John Ruddy no chance.
As spectacular as it was, the goal was just an appetizer for the Belgian, who seems to score in bunches. He’d pick up a second just minutes later, as Vlaar continued to cause havoc on the right touch, earning a corner with another dangerous long ball.
It was a more straightforward score for Benteke, who again beat Bassong in the box and outjumped the defender for a header to the near post and a 2-1 lead.
The blitz would continue, as 10 minutes later Villa would find themselves with yet another, this time on the counter. Norwich looked to build in the attacking third, but the quality of service was poor, and Villa made them pay.
Gabriel Agbonlahor broke through the middle of the pitch and stuck the visiting defense on their heels chasing, and the striker laid off to Andreas Weimann. The midfielder pushed the ball over to the full-back Bacuna, who cut back and fired past Ruddy in off the post, a quality shot from a defender.
Bassong’s nightmarish performance continued, as he handed Villa yet another to really put the game out of sight with halftime still five minutes away. Norwich, sloppy in possession, handed Villa the ball, and Fabian Delph sent in a cross to a streaking Agbonlahor and Bassong marking him struck the ball past Ruddy.
At this point the second half was merely a formality, and Villa saw out the last 45 without much excitement.
The win gives Villa enough to speed past Swansea, Stoke, and Hull City in the table, while Norwich are unable to build on their win over Spurs last week and stay in 15th place, four points above the relegation zone.
Aston Villa – Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand; Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi, Weimann (Albrighton 81′); Benteke (Holt 82′), Agbonlahor.
Goals – Benteke 25′, 27′, Bacuna 37′
Norwich City – Ruddy; Martin, Yobo, Bassong, Olsson; Tettey (Howson 80′), Johnson; Snodgrass (Pilkington 45′), Hoolahan, Redmond (Elmander 63′); Hooper.
Goals – Hoolahan 3′, Bassong (og) 41′