Christian Benteke volleys his spectacular equaliser for Villa

Christian Benteke volleys his spectacular equaliser for Villa
Aston Villa drove a wedge between Paul Lambert and his former club that the Villa Park faithful actually cared about.

For all the talk of grudge matches, bitter feuds and ill feeling, the only score Villa wanted to settle was on the field and in the Premier League table.

Villa fans don’t want to be particularly close to Norwich – they entered the match neck and neck with near identical playing records – in fact the further away the better.

A three-goal winning margin and three-point gap will do for starters.

The Norfolk club have a downer on Villa following the exodus of Lambert and Co from Carrow Road to Villa Park, but in B6, the Canaries are no more of a fierce rival than Cardiff, Fulham, Sunderland or Crystal Palace.

But the identity of the victims of Villa’s fourth home win of the season was irrelevant. It is the seven-point breathing space away from the dropzone that matters most.

Having scored just 12 league goals at Villa Park all season, it took them just 16 minutes to hit a third of that tally yesterday. Four goals in 16 minutes!

Half of their 16-goal home tally have come from two matches, against West Brom and now Norwich.

Not so much formidable as four-mid-table.

The only shame was that Villa’s lowest home crowd of the season of 30,303 were there to witness it, meaning 6,000 of the regular hardcore stayed away, discouraged by previous setbacks.

Few could have predicted such an emphatic outcome, although one element was written in the script. It was inevitable that Wes Hoolahan, Villa’s prime January transfer target, would make his mark on the match.

Hoolahan was unable to find the Carrow Road exit, but finding space is his speciality as he proved for the opening goal on three minutes.

The Irish playmaker showcased precisely why Lambert pursued him so relentlessly last month with a clever give-and-go with Gary Hooper down the right before sneaking in to steer the ball in at full stretch.

Hoolahan, conscious of the January transfer saga, declined to celebrate, although it is not clear whether he chose to celebrate the other four!

The Canaries fans were not so restrained and there were audible groans from the Holte End and around the ground.

At that stage the claret and blue faithful must have feared the worst, as Hooper smashed a shot across the face of goal, Russell Martin scuffed a low effort wide and former Bluenose Nathan Redmond fired a shot straight at Brad Guzan.

Enter Christian Benteke.

The big Belgian was Villa’s survival saviour a season ago and he made another massive contribution.

Earlier Russell Martin’s methods of blocking Benteke in the box with a fistful of his shirt went unpunished. The next time the ball was aimed towards Benteke in the penalty area, the top scorer was unstoppable.

In the 25th minute, he controlled Ron Vlaar’s floated pass on his chest, held off Joseph Yobo and sent a spectacular overhead kick beyond John Ruddy into the top left corner.

Suddenly, Villa were walking as tall as their six-foot star striker.

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