Vital Villa Match Report - LC Norwich Away
Attendance: 26 142
In freezing conditions touched by winter fog Paul Lambert returned with his young lions to face former club Norwich city in a quarter final League Cup show down. With Norwich flying high in the Premier League, having just notched up a thrilling away win over the smooth passing Swans, Aston Villa were going to have to prove their worth to progress. A world class save from deputising Given, two late strikes from Andreas Weimann and a stunning injury time finish from Christian Benteke ensured that they did, as a shuffled Villa registered a thumping 4-1 win that sucked the wind out from Canary wings.
Judging by the first fifteen minutes the game looked like the teams would trade blows in a high scoring affair. Morrison's shot come cross struck the post and Darren Bent, making his first start since being left out in the cold, fluffed his lines in a one-on-one with Norwich Keeper Bunn. However, it was Morrison who would open the nights scoring when Nathan Baker's careless header was intercepted by Morrison who went on to coolly lob Given.
Villa, however, are made of sterner stuff these days and took just under a minute to draw level. Chris Herd sent a direct ball up to the colossal Benteke, who duly placed the ball for wizard of Oz, Holman. The Australian player of the year duly obliged by blasting the ball into the Norwich net from a full twenty yards. It was a super blockbusting strike worthy of any quarter final.
Shay Given struggled through parts of this game, misjudging and misreading balls which seemed to inject a nervousness into the defence, though he would later redeem himself with world class saves to keep Villa level. Indeed, both keepers played exceptionally well, Norwich shot stopper Bunn denying Villa a host of chances in what was a thriller of a game. Holman, Lowton and Benteke all had good chances but would be denied by some outstanding work by Bunn.
Steve Morrison could have easily bagged a hat full of second-half goals had his finishing been better and Given been poorer though it was not to be. Eventually he did score though the strike was rightly judge offside much to the relief of the Villa defence, who seemed to be experiencing some uncharacteristic communication problems. In a game where both sides mirrored each other Benteke then scored for Villa in a sweeping move that was again ruled correctly offside.
It was Aston Villa though who finally showed the cutting edge needed to take this game though that cutting edge began between the sticks. A Norwich corner was met by Canary beast Holte who sent a bullet header goal bound. Shay Given demonstrated that his cat like reflexes are still in the blood with a heart stopping world class parry, to the disbelief of the players and the crowd. This seem to drive Villa forward. A goal duly followed.
A low ball from Erich Lichaj was met expertly by hitman Weimann, who supplied the corner bound placement that sent Villa's incredible support into rapture. The Austrian, who'd come on for the injured Bent, wasted no time in bagging his second and Villa's third when Benteke turned provider once again. Having laid off the ball for Weimann, the Villa striker sent the ball home with another corner placed finish, wheeling away in delight toward the Villa faithful.
That was not the end of the scoring though. If one man on the pitch deserved a goal it was Villa hero Benteke., The immense Belgian put in a tireless workaholic performance, the type of which Lambert has come to expect. He finally got his reward when he smashed the ball home from just outside the box, leaving Bunn sprawling in vain to his left. It was a thunderous strike that put the icing on the cake for victorious Villa.
Paul Lambert will see this result as further evidence of the direction in which Villa are going; of the quality of the players he has brought in and his work with our young academy stars. However, on a night when Villa remained outside of the relegation places on goal difference, having conceded ground to Sunderland, he will be all too aware that more Herculean efforts will be needed as Liverpool and Chelsea prepare to welcome Lambert's Limes.
For the Villa supporters it will bring some well earned Christmas cheer as they look forward now to their second League Cup semi-final in four years. Nights like this, given the pain of last season, will go along way in healing some of the hurt and renewing belief in the Claret and Blue's of B6. This was a great attacking display and one sure to be remembered. Next up- Liverpool.
Room for improvement: El Ahmadi