Norwich 0-2 Aston Villa: Visitors climb up to ninth in the Premier League table thanks to a stunning solo strike from Jacob Ramsey and an Ollie Watkins tap-in to heap more woe on Canaries
- Jacob Ramsey fired Aston Villa into a 34th-minute lead with a brilliant solo strike
- Ollie Watkins doubled Villa’s lead with a close-range finish on 87 minutes
- It was Norwich manager Dean Smith’s first against Aston Villa since his sacking
Steven Gerrard piled on the pain for the man he replaced as Aston Villa manager by masterminding victory over a Norwich side thrown into chaos by more Covid problems.
Jacob Ramsey’s first-half strike and Ollie Watkins’ late tap-in were enough to give Gerrard his fourth win since succeeding current Norwich boss Dean Smith last month, as Villa moved ninth in the table. Yet gaining revenge on his former club was only one consideration for Smith during a build-up full of uncertainty.
Smith, whose side were booed off, revealed Norwich had asked the Premier League for ‘guidance’ ahead of the clash amid suggestions they had raised the possibility of the fixture being postponed.
Jacob Ramsey lit up Carrow Road with a sublime individual goal to steer Aston Villa to victory
Running at pace with the ball, he beat several Norwich players before this left-footed strike
Ramsey watches on as his breathtaking strike was too good for Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul
The 20-year-old midfielder was quickly mobbed by his team-mates in celebration of the goal
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Krul 6.5; Aarons 5.5, Kabak 6 (Byram 45, 6), Gibson 6, Williams 6; Gilmour 6.5, Sorensen 6; Placheta 6.5 (Dowell 76, 6), McLean 5, Cantwell 5.5 (Idah 61, 6); Pukki 6.
Subs not used: Gunn, Mumba, Giannoulis, Tomkinson, Dickson-Peters, Rowe.
Booked: McLean, Williams
Manager: Dean Smith 6
Aston Villa (4-3-2-1): Martinez 7; Cash 7, Konsa 6.5, Mings 6.5, Targett 6.5; McGinn 7.5 (Tuanzebe 89), Luiz 7, Ramsey 7; Buendia 6.5 (Chukwuemeka 83), Watkins 7, Young 7 (Ings 60, 6).
Subs not used: Marschall, Trezeguet, Hause, Philogene-Bidace, Archer, Iroegbunam.
Goals: Ramsey 34, Watkins 87
Manager: Steven Gerrard 7
Referee: David Coote 6
Star man: McGinn 7.5
‘We’ve had a few Covid-related drop outs and had to name the team quite late,’ said Smith. ‘We asked for a bit of Premier League guidance. It’s been a tough few days.’
Smith revealed his club’s issues with Covid before the 1-0 home defeat by Manchester United last weekend, and made four changes to the starting XI here, with Grant Hanley, Lukas Rupp, Dimitris Giannoulis and Josh Sargent left out. Hanley has a shoulder injury while Giannoulis was on the bench. Earlier in the week, Gerrard confirmed there had been ‘a couple’ of Covid cases at his club.
Smith departed Villa on November 7, two days after his team lost at Southampton to record a fifth successive defeat, but Norwich have looked a better side under his leadership. Roared on by a raucous home crowd, they competed well in the early stages with Villa, who have won three of their opening five games under Gerrard.
Though there were few clear chances in the early stages, the game was played at a ferocious pace. John McGinn gave Norwich a scare with a dipping effort from 35 yards that forced Tim Krul to back-pedal and tip the ball over the bar.
At the other end, Matty Cash made a vital block to stop Kenny McLean’s fierce volley reaching Emiliano Martinez.
Martinez nearly played his team into trouble midway through the first half when he dawdled and played a risky pass to Tyrone Mings, who was baited throughout by the home crowd for his spell at Ipswich from 2012-15.
With McLean closing in, Mings managed neatly to evade him and set Villa on the attack. Then, on his first return to Carrow Road since joining Villa for a possible £40million last summer, Emiliano Buendia nutmegged Todd Cantwell – to the delight of the travelling fans – and released Cash down the right. When Cash crossed, Ozak Kabak defended brilliantly to stop Ollie Watkins converting from close range.
Yet Watkins was the provider when Villa struck, as his delicate lay-off sent Ramsey charging into Norwich territory. The homegrown midfielder was allowed to carry the ball into the Canaries box and unleash a shot which was deflected past Krul after Max Aarons and Ben Gibson tried to block it.
It was a miserable reunion for Norwich boss Dean Smith (left) against his former club Villa
The same couldn’t be said for Emiliano Buendia (left) on his first return to Norfolk since leaving
Ramsey went close with another deflected strike, this time off Cantwell, which looked to be heading goalwards until Brandon Williams diverted it for a corner. McGinn’s inswinging delivery forced Krul into a hasty push behind.
A dreadful back-pass from Ashley Young presented Norwich with a glorious chance to equalise early in the second half only for McLean, all alone in the box, to prod a weak effort wide.
Moments later, Krul was alert at his near post to keep out Watkins’ header after more good work from McGinn. With Norwich pushing forward, Villa had space to exploit and the Scotland midfielder made yet another burst to create chances for Watkins and Buendia, neither of which were taken.
As was he was substituted with boos ringing out, Buendia deliberately acknowledged all four sides of the ground. Though there was some applause, he received mainly abuse in response – but the Argentine and his new team had enjoyed the last laugh when his replacement Carney Chukwuemeka crossed for Watkins to seal victory from close range.
Ollie Watkins completed the scoreline with this close-range finish on 87 minutes on Tuesday
Watkins celebrates his strike with his Villa team-mates to seal their win at the lowly Canaries
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