Paul Lambert had the last laugh against his old club once again as Aston Villa kept their first clean sheet in 27 Premier League matches, and first of 2013, at Carrow Road.
Norwich winger Robert Snodgrass saw an early penalty saved by Brad Guzan. Villa then lost star striker Christian Benteke, but replacement Libor Kozak stepped up by netting the winner half an hour in.
Both sides were looking to bounce back after losses to Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United respectively. Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann all started for the visitors in an attacking line-up. Fullback Matt Lowton was left out of the Villa squad with Lambert denying the young defender was carrying an injury.
Canaries striker Gary Hooper was again left on the bench with record signing Ricky Von Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander starting up front for the hosts. Bradley Johnson was rested in favour of Johnny Howson. In-form England Under-21 international Nathan Redmond was preferred to the returning Anthony Pilkington.
Visitors Villa started the brightest, clearly set up to counter with pace, but Norwich were given a golden opportunity to go in front when they were awarded a penalty.
Referee Chris Foy harshly judged Ciaran Clark to have deliberately handled in the area. Snodgrass stepped up, but his poor penalty was saved by Guzan, who sprang off his line.
Both teams went tit for tat, then the turning point came on 25 minutes when Villa’s main main Benteke injured his groin in a challenge with Sebastien Bassong.
The Belgian international was replaced by Kozak, and the summer signing from Lazio made an instant impact, scoring just two minutes after coming on.
Weimann played a perfect through-ball for Kozak, who struck straight into John Ruddy, but then made no mistake second time round converting Gabriel Agbonlahor’s cut back from the rebound.
Norwich looked for the equaliser and threatened down the wings with Nathan Redmond and Snodgrass, yet they failed to carve out any clear openings before the break.
Canaries captain Bassong suffered a hamstring injury in the closing minutes of the first half and was replaced by Ryan Bennett.
Chris Hughton looked to level after the interval by bringing on Anthony Pilkington for Redmond and replacing Elmander with Hooper.
The Canaries dominated possession, and the vast majority of the second half was played inside Villa’s half of the pitch, but the host never really looked like threatening.
Villa defended well, frustrating Norwich and limiting them to half chances and long balls into the box. Hughton’s side were unable to mount a comeback and Aston Villa held on for all three points.
A good result for Lambert and Villa, but it could come at a cost with the injury to Benteke. Canaries fans and Houghton will be concerned that his side failed to turn their dominance into goals, especially after splashing out during the transfer window.
- Norwich: 1 John Ruddy, 2 Russell Martin, 6 Michael Turner, 5 Sebastien Bassong (c) (24 Ryan Bennett 38′), 18 Javier Garrido, 7 Robert Snodgrass, 8 Jonny Howson, 10 Leroy Fer, 22 Nathan Redmond (12 Anthony Pilkington 63′), 16 Johan Elmander (11 Gary Hooper 63′), 9 Ricky van Wolfswinkel 4-4-2
- Villa: 1 Brad Guzan, 7 Leandro Bacuna, 4 Ron Vlaar (c), 6 Ciaran Clark, 14 Antonio Luna, 24 Aleksandar Tonev (18 Yacouba Sylla 77′), 8 Karim El Ahmadi, 16 Fabian Delph, 11 Gabriel Agbonlahor (9 Nicklas Helenius 61′), 10 Andreas Weimann, 20 Christian Benteke (27 Libor Kozak 28′) 4-4-2
- Goals: Libor Kozak 30′