A weaker Aston Villa side battled fiercely against Sky Bet Championship winners Norwich City at Villa Park this afternoon.

Words by Harry Trend / @HazaTrand

Mario Vrancic’s late goal ended the Pride’s twelve game unbeaten streak as Norwich City became Champions in front of a packed Villa Park. 

 

In fairness, it was a weakened side which Dean Smith put out in preparation for the start of the play-offs next weekend. Henri Lansbury and Alan Hutton both getting rare starts while Jack Grealish, Tyrone Mings and John McGinn were omitted. 

It took just six minutes for the away side to take the lead. Kenny McLean sliced open Villas attack with a through ball, Onel Hernandez pulled the ball back across goal and Teemu Pukki tapped in for his 29th league goal of the season.

But five minutes later Villa were back on level terms, Johnathan Kodjia flicking Conor Hourihane’s free-kick past Tim Krul for his third goal in four games.

Soon after Alan Hutton picked out Andre Green in the box, however, the 20-year-old’s first-time shot was blocked by Max Aarons.

Then Hourihane’s swinging delivery was headed over the bar by a combination of Kodjia and Christoph Zimmermann – annoyingly corner wasn’t given by referee Peter Bankes. Nevertheless, Villa had been the better side since equalising and were unsettling Norwich with their pressing game.

With 36 minutes gone Marco Stiepermann accidentally played the ball straight into Kodjia’s path. Unfortunately, the Ivorian couldn’t beat Krul from close range.

Before half time Hourihane unleashed a bending strike which looked destined for the left-hand top corner but flew over the bar.

In stoppage time at the end of the half City had a long-range tester of their own, Onel Hernandez sending a curling effort from 25 yards onto Jed Steer’s crossbar.

Villa continued their pressure in the second half, Hourihane powering a shot into the arms of Krul after some good work from Tuanzebe and Green down the left.

Norwich grew into the second half, and after the hour mark, Jamar Lewis played a nice one-two with Stiepermann before flashing an effort across goal. Then Stiepermann forced a good one-handed save from Steer with a low shot. It seemed the Champions in waiting had woken up. 

The Pride had a possible penalty shout with less than ten minutes to go, Kourtney Hause claimed he was pushed in the box by Alex Tettey but Bankes wasn’t having any of it. Soon after, Krul could only divert Adomahs low tester out for a corner.

Late on the Pride were dealt a killer blow, Vrancic arrowed a low effort past Steer to put the Canaries in the lead. Norwich held on to secure the win and the title, while Villa shouldn’t be too disheartened with a decent performance from a second string side. 

 
Next up it’s the Baggies at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon in the first leg of the semi-final. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen! 
 
 
 
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