Norwich setback leaves Villa staring into abyss
Norwich City 2 Aston Villa 0
Norwich City celebrated the appointment of former Labour MP Ed Balls as chairman with only a second win in seven matches but one which puts clear daylight between themselves and the bottom three thanks to Newcastle's defeat at West Brom.
By contrast, Aston Villa's plight looks increasingly desperate and one of the top-flight's traditional safe seats is now under severe threat.
Only Everton's 113 seasons in the top flight exceeds Villa's 105. Yet the Birmingham side, without a win in 18 league matches, are 11 points adrift of safety.
Rémi Garde's team worked hard enough to build on the draws against Newcastle and West Ham, in which they won praise for showing some fighting spirit, but rarely threatened to score goals and were punished twice for their shortcomings in defence as Norwich ran out comfortable winners without needing to play particularly well. The clean sheet was only their second of the season.
Jonny Howson was left unmarked to volley Norwich ahead after 24 minutes.
Then, late in the game, with Garde's second-half changes leaving Villa stretched, Dieumerci Mbokani found himself unmarked to head home Wes Hoolahan's cross. At that point, Villa looked like a team resigned to their fate.
Garde admitted that the odds against survival are lengthening with every negative result, but refused to concede that his cause is already lost.
"I am not a dreamer," Garde said. "I am not going to tell you that I know we will be safe and, with every defeat it becomes more difficult, but as long as it is mathematically possible for us to survive I will still believe we can stay up and I will not run away from my responsibility." (© Independent News Service)