Wednesday 25 April 2018

Kozak cameo lifts Villa

Norwich 0 Aston Villa 1

Mark Bryans

Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert played down fears over the fitness of Christian Benteke after the striker came off injured in their victory over Norwich.

The striker was brought off after 28 minutes and replaced by Libor Kozak who scored the only goal of the afternoon on the half-hour.

Brad Guzan also saved a penalty as Norwich slipped to a second consecutive defeat but the main talking point was the injury to Villa talisman Benteke.

"I think he's not too bad," Lambert said. "I think he's actually slipped, I think that was the initial injury but we'll see how he is. I was delighted for Kozak to come on and score his first goal and that's why we brought Libor here, we needed some back up just in case Christian got injured."

It was far from a classic encounter at Carrow Road but Lambert was delighted to come away from his former club with three points.

"We came here with a lot of injuries and a lot of lads had knocks which we had to play down but credit to every one of them I thought they were outstanding.

"I thought the penalty when Guzan makes the save was a massive turning point and after that we could have been two up early on so (I'm) delighted with the lads' performance."

Lambert has now won on all three of his returns to Norfolk and the Scot also saw his side keep their first clean sheet in the league since December 8.

His replacement at Norwich was Chris Hughton, who had said before the game that he was looking for a reaction from his players following defeat at Tottenham last weekend but, other than a dominant spell in the first half, they did not put in the sort of performance that warranted three points.

The home side spurned the best opportunity of the frenetic opening stages when Robert Snodgrass passed up the chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot.

Nathan Redmond's cross was headed back across goal in towards Ricky van Wolfswinkel and struck the arm of the recalled Ciaran Clark with referee Chris Foy immediately pointing to the spot. Snodgrass struck a hard penalty but Guzan flew to his left to push the ball away.

Kozak replaced the injured Benteke and needed just two minutes to put the visitors ahead. The summer signing from Lazio saw a close-range shot saved by Ruddy but was on hand to force home Gabriel Abgonlahor's resulting cross.

In the second half Kozak came close to a second goal but his 77th-minute strike was deflected behind by Michael Turner.

Guzan was again the hero for Villa as he acrobatically tipped over a Hooper shot in the closing stages.

Sunday Independent

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