Premier League - Agbonlahor brace fires Aston Villa clear of danger

Premier League, Carrow Road - Norwich 1 (Holt 73) Aston Villa 2 (Agbonlahor 55, 89)

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Gabriel Agbonlahor of Aston Villa celebrates scoring against Norwich City during their English Premier League soccer match at Carrow Road in Norwich, May 4, 2013 (Reuters)

A second-half brace from Gabriel Agbonlahor fired Aston Villa to the much-coveted 40-point mark as Paul Lambert left his former side reeling.

Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 55th-minute strike opened the scoring to the stun the home support, his long-range effort finding the bottom left corner after curling away from the outstretched Mark Bunn.

Norwich were thrown a lifeline in the 72nd minute after Joe Bennett dragged down Robert Snodgrass in the box for a penalty. Skipper Grant Holt sent the home faithful into raptures as he duly nestled his effort coolly into the bottom corner.

But the Canaries were left crestfallen after Agbonlahor found the back of the net in the 89th minute to deal the critical blow to the hosts.

Norwich now find themselves perched precariously just three points clear of the relegation zone after Wigan’s victory over West Brom, the latter of which they face next week before taking on Manchester City on the last day of the season.

Norwich enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the opening stages, with Holt and Snodgrass both coming close on a number of occasions.

But their forays forward were weathered well by the well-drilled Aston Villa rearguard, who time and again denied the Canaries a clear sight of goal despite their possessional dominance.

With Norwich camped inside the Villa half, the potent trio of Christian Benteke, Andreas Weimann and Agbonlahor threatened to force the breakthrough on the counter-attack, with Weimann finding his range early against the safe hands of Bunn just before the interval.

Both teams continued to exchange blows after the interval, with Benteke spurning a guilt-edged chance in front of goal in the opening minute of the second period, his shot lacking any power and dribbling impotently to into the gloves of Bunn.

Norwich responded in kind, with an early chance falling to Holt, but the bustling striker could only blaze his effort skyward as the Canary faithful were forced to wait for a meaningful attempt on goal.

But in the 56th minute, it was Agbonlahor who opened the scoring after his curling effort found its way into the net stun the home support into silence.

Weimann had the opportunity to double the visitors' advantage just minutes after the breakthrough, but he failed to put a clean boot on Agbonlahor’s neat cross as it flashed across the face of goal.

Firing on all cylinders after opening the scoring, Agbonlahor almost doubled his tally after latching onto a neat threaded ball from Benteke, but his scuffed effort dribbled agonisingly past the far post after beating the outstretched Bunn.

Villa were punished for their lack of clinical finishing as Bennett’s shirt tug on Snodgrass handed Norwich a soft penalty. Holt tucked his calmly taken effort into the bottom corner after sending Brad Guzan the wrong way.

But it proved to be a false dawn for the hosts as Agbonlahor did excellently to double his tally at the death, beating the outstretched Bunn with a low shot across goal after being played in by Benteke.

Holt had the opportunity to earn his side a point deep into stoppage time, but his headed effort looped agonisingly wide of the upright with Guzan left marooned.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston Villa) - A primary attacking outlet for the visitors throughout, his two goals were perhaps as important as any Aston Villa have scored this season as his clinical finishing and energy down the flanks proved the difference in an even contest.

PLAYER RATINGS

NORWICH: Bunn 4, Martin 6, Bassong 5, R Bennett 7, Garrido 6, Howson 6, Johnson 6, Pilkington 7, Snodgrass 7, Hoolahan 6, Holt 7. Subs: E Bennett 5, Kamara 7.

ASTON VILLA: Guzan 6, Bennett 5, Baker 6, Vlaar 7, Lowton 6, Delph 6, Westwood 7, Sylla 6, Agbonlahor 9, Benteke 6, Weimann 7. Subs: Holman 5, Lichaj 7.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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