Villa_Grizzly Match Report: Villa v Norwich City
Aston Villa v Norwich City
Button and I have decided to spoil ourselves. We are going in early to watch the League Cup final over a carvery and a few pricey pints. At least that way we'll get to watch at least one decent game. Seriously though, after last weeks befuddlement from the technical area, we really do have to start picking up a few points if we are to stay out of the dog fight at the bottom.
Fulham and Cardiff look all but on the relegation bus but there's still another seat available. Norwich, after last Sunday's much needed home win against Spurs, will be hoping they won't be on it. With a bloodbath final four fixtures of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal awaiting them, three points today will certainly go some way into giving them some preparatory padding.
If press reports are to believed there has been a 'clearing of the air' between Aston Villa players and staff, with everyone now re-focused for the run-in. Let's hope that starts today with a convincing win.
Team news comes in on Twatter as we head up to the Holte: It's Betrand, Vlaar, Baker and Bacuna at the back, Delph Weimann and El Ahmadi across the middle, with Benteke Agbonlahor and Weimann up top. Referee Anthony Taylor checks his watch - and we are under way. Game on!
Right from the off Norwich come at us. We seem unprepared and on the back foot. Norwich break, Gary Hooper collecting the ball at inside right from Hoolahan. He drives to the byline, passes across the box for Hoolahan, who places the ball into the corner. GOAL. Gentleman of varying heights and sizes start pointing, swearing and berating our defence in a very angry fashion. I laugh manically and declare that we are shit. On 3 minutes it's Aston Villa 0-1 Norwich City.
A young fresh-faced guy in front of me takes exception to my comments and spins round to tell me so. The following conversation takes place:
'What was the point of that?' he says, his face screwed up. 'Is their any point to it?'
It takes a moment for the Grizzly brain to connect with the Grizzly mouth. I've just had a carvery and a few pints and I'm a little slower than normal. 'The point is that I'm frustrated,' I say. 'We're three minutes in and we've already conceded.'
'Well, why say we're shit?'
'Because when we do things like that we are shit,' I say.
'Yeah, well you said that at the Baggies game and we won that 4-3.'
As if that's an argument. We have thee worst top flight home record in the business and have won a pathetic three league games at home all season. I refrain from telling him this as I might burst his bubble. I take a breath. I'm prepared to let it go; be the better man. I'm not confrontational by nature and the guy in question is simply frustrated too. He then calls me a, 'shit fan.'
I stick my face next to his. 'When you've spent as much money as I have, travelled as many miles as I have following the club then you can criticise my support. Until then keep your ******* opinions on the matter to yourself. Focus on what's in front of you and not what's behind you.' He gets the idea; returns to watching the game. What a sad state of affairs: one fan turning on another. A sure fire sign of a miserable season.
As the rain drifts down, boos and obscenities begin to roll of the Holte. The faithful are unsettled. If the performance gets any worse they are likely to turn. The players sense the growing disquiet and up their game. Their is now more pace and power with the team pressing higher up the pitch. We are slowly coming to life.
The ball comes to Vlaar. He sends in a speculative effort for Benteke who is being heavily marked by Bassong, in the box. He controls with his chest.... swivels..... GOOOOAAALL. A devastating acrobatic volley rockets past Ruddy in the Norwich goal. Unstoppable from the Belgian striker. On 25 minutes it's Aston Villa 1- 1 Norwich City.
We go straight at Norwich after the re-start, with some free flowing football. What a transformation. We win a corner. Ashley Westwood sends in a curling ball.... GOOOOAAALL. Christian Benteke uses his body strength, getting ahead of his marker to head home. He's now scored more headed goals (5) than any other player in the Premier League this season. Put that in your fact-pipe, Norwich. On 27 minutes it's Aston Villa 2-1 Norwich City.
Super stuff. We are all over the canaries who are struggling to cope with our pace and width. We are briefly caught out by Wes Hoolahan, who uses good feet to fox his way into the box, after some neat interplay with Hooper on the edge of the box. Guzan and Delph combine to keep the ball out at the near post.
We are really pressing hard, with power and intensity. Norwich cannot move the ball away quick enough. Bakesy goes up for a ball and is studded in the breast bone by Tettey. That looked really nasty from the Canary midfielder. Referee Taylor takes his time... and it's yellow. The home crowd disagree and let him know it. After a squeeze of the magic sponge Bakesy is back on his feet. The Worcester born defender comes from good farm country and is as tough as an old tree trunk. He knows how to take a knock too. Still, that was high and dangerous and should have been red.
We break quickly up the pitch, Agbonlahor tearing up the turf. He plays in Weimann, who finds Bacuna at wide right, He receives the ball, cuts in, taking the ball into the box. He side steps the Norwich defender and shoots.... GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL. The versatile Dutchman has curled that beautifully past Ruddy, the ball going in off the post. Bedlam on Holte Lower. On 37 minutes it's Aston Villa 3 -1 Norwich City.
Norwich look beaten; the yellow army stunned. We are mounting attack after attack, breaking at will from a high defensive line. Norwich do not seem to have an answer. We counter with another good move. Bertrand plays a killer ball for Delph whom runs for the line. He sends a gorgeous ball in..... Agbonlahor surely. …Bassong gets there first.... GOOAAALLLLLL. Deflected in by the Canaries defender.
On 41 minutes it's Aston Villa 4 - 1 Norwich City.
Four-midable stuff. In fifteen, awesome minutes we have taken Norwich apart with a lethal display of counter attacking football. This is us when they are at our unplayable best. We head down to the concourse at half-time, beaming with big Villa smiles. The relief around the place is palpable. Well done lads.
When the second-half starts we are eager to take the game to Norwich; continuing where we left off. There's a lot of running and pace still, though the second-half is struggling to replicate the explosive nature of the first Most impressive is Christian Benteke. He is taking responsibility, leading from the forward line, pointing to space, commanding both on the ball and off it, demanding more of his team mates. Agbonlahor goes close, his headed effort finding Ruddy. Anywhere else and that's a goal, but the game belongs to Christian Benteke Liolo.
Guzan saves a Gary Hooper effort late on after a Norwich break-out, but it's all too little and too later from the yellows. At full time it's Aston Villa 4 - 1 Norwich City.
We are now 11th in the table on 31 points with 11 games to go, though Man City and Chelsea are up next. It's also only our 3rd win in 15 games, so I'm not getting too excited yet, even if I have thoroughly enjoyed our game this afternoon and the team's performance with it. Hopefully this is start of a push that will see us finish in mid table.
What's most pleasing is the togetherness of this group of young players. They really seem to want to play for each other and have a strong bond. That camaraderie and heart has seen them through many a dark moment. Team mates; team spirit. If we could just have a repeat of this level of performance lads we'd be real grateful. UTV.
Room for improvement: El Ahmadi.