Conor Hourihane breathed fresh life into Aston Villa’s survival hopes as his goal earned a crucial win over Norwich.
The substitute struck in the second half to seal a 1-0 victory and strike a huge blow to the Canaries’ own hopes of staying up.
Villa had lost seven of their previous nine top-flight games and, while victory failed to lift them out of the Premier League relegation zone, they head to Watford on Saturday with renewed hope, now a point from safety.
Norwich slumped to the bottom of the Premier League after a 10th defeat in 14 games and were again left to rue missed chances.
Sam Byram hit the bar and headed wide, Douglas Luiz cleared Alex Tettey’s drive off the line and Tom Heaton saved from Tom Trybull all before Hourihane’s opener.
The Canaries were the better side for long spells but paid the price for their lack of cutting edge and, even with half the season left, appear on course for a swift return to the Sky Bet Championship.
The strugglers shared early half-chances, with Luiz dragging wide and Todd Cantwell’s weak effort gathered by Heaton.
Trezeguet’s effort deflected wide and Luiz fired over, but it was an even start and there were no signs of nerves from Norwich, who had good chances of their own.
First Teemu Pukki was crowded out by Kortney Hause and Ezri Konsa after a superb ball from Emi Buendia before Byram’s header from Buendia’s corner hit the bar after 18 minutes.
A point would have done little to aid either sides’ survival chances and, while Norwich were more composed, they failed to force Heaton into a serious first-half save.
Villa, though, created the best chance nine minutes before the break.
Byram gets his head to a Buendia corner but his effort hits the ground and bounces against the woodwork!— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) December 26, 2019
Norwich have leaked goals regularly this term and Anwar El Ghazi should have cashed in when Matt Targett’s ball found him, but the unmarked midfielder steered wide from 12 yards.
The Canaries needed to find the end product to complement their build-up but were denied an opener four minutes into the second half by a sensational clearance from Luiz.
Marvelous Nakamba failed to clear and Tettey’s drive beat Heaton but not Luiz who threw himself across goal to turn the ball over.
From the corner Heaton saved Trybull’s header, with Villa under serious pressure.
Tim Krul parried Jack Grealish’s drive but the Canaries were on top and Byram was inches away from the opener after 59 minutes when he headed Max Aarons’ centre wide.
But it was the same old story for Norwich, who have failed to take their chances this season, when Villa grabbed the winner after 64 minutes.
Grealish held off Trybull’s challenge to pick out Hourihane and the substitute, only on the pitch for eight minutes, swept his finish into the top corner from 16 yards.
📸 Breaking the deadlock in a tight match…— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2019
The momentum had swung Villa’s way and Hause nodded a corner wide.
Norwich, who have not won a point after falling behind this season, rarely looked like recovering, but Heaton had to save smartly from Onel Hernandez’s late drive.
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