Aston Villa 2-0 Norwich: Norwich are relegated to the Championship after goals from Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings see Dean Smith’s side suffer another defeat
- Norwich have been relegated from the Premier League after losing to Aston Villa
- Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings were on the scoresheet as Villa prevailed
- Norwich have suffered 23 league defeats this season and have just five wins
It’s the time of year where fans dust off their calculators to work out mathematical possibilities but the fate of Norwich City has been an easy sum to solve all season.
Straight back to the Championship – their passing visit to the Premier League over already. Saying that, it never really got going.
The relegation became official as Burnley scored two late goals at Watford. But in truth, there’s been a big, fat ‘R’ pencilled in next to Norwich’s name on the league table for many months.
Dean Smith’s Norwich have been relegated after a defeat to his former club Aston Villa
Grant Hanley and Jonathan Lowe of Norwich are dejected after their relegation was confirmed
Teemu Pukki reacts after Norwich were relegated to the Championship following defeat
Aston Villa were the latest team to cut through the Canaries at ease. It’s not so much that teams make Norwich look poor, more that they make average teams shine like 1970s Brazil.
That’s not an insult to Steven Gerrard’s Villa team. Though far from their best, this win was richly deserved and most welcome, after a run of just one point in their last five games.
So this ended the worst rot of Gerrard’s tenure, as he stood next to his predecessor Dean Smith, who got a heroic welcome on his return to Villa Park.
But that was the final cheer for anyone connected with Norwich here, bar fans’ appreciation for goalkeeper Tim Krul, who made sure this match remained goalless for much of the first half.
The Dutchman tipped Leon Bailey’s finessed shot onto the crossbar with his fingertips, after the Jamaican had danced past a couple of yellow-and-green shirts.
Bailey showed dazzling feet but he soon pulled up with a niggle and was substituted – a spell to sum up the £30million-man’s first year at the club: promising but ruined by injuries.
Norwich defender Max Aarons trudges off the pitch following his team’s relegation
Norwich fans are devastated following the Canaries’ return to the Championship
Ollie Watkins celebrates after his penalty put Aston Villa in the lead against Norwich
Watkins found the net in the 41st minute as Villa secured a 1-0 victory at home to Norwich
Danny Ings celebrates after his goal in the closing stages made it 2-0 to Villa against Norwich
The stadium announcer wrongly welcomed Emi Buendia to the field and, before fans had finished jokingly mocking his error, Bailey’s actual replacement had created a goal.
Danny Ings’ first touch was to unleash Ollie Watkins with a searching ball, which his English colleague controlled well but had a lot to do.
ASTON VILLA (4-3-3): Martinez 7; Cash 6.5, Chambers 6, Mings 6, Digne 7; McGinn 7, Ramsey 7, Iroegbunam 7 (Luiz 73); Bailey 7 (Ings 40, 8), Watkins 7.5, Coutinho 6.5 (Buendia 76).
Subs not used: Olsen, Konsa, Traore, Young, Nakamba, Chukwuemeka.
Booked: Chambers, Iroegbunam, Ings, Ramsey.
Manager: Steven Gerrard 7.
NORWICH (4-1-3-2): Krul 7; Aarons 5, Byram 6.5, Hanley 5, Williams 5; Normann 7, Lees-Melou 5 (Sargent 67, 5, (Rupp 82)), Gilmour 5; Dowell 5; Pukki 5, Rashica 5 (Rowe 78).
Subs not used: Gunn, Gibson, Gilmour, Placheta, Sorensen, Giannoulis.
Manager: Dean Smith 6.
Referee: John Brooks 7.
He was significantly aided by Brandon Williams’ slip, giving Watkins a free route to goal. He fired past Krul powerfully.
One of Gerrard’s biggest legacies of his first half-season at Villa is cultivating the strike duo of Watkins and Ings – or ‘WatkIngs’ as it is called by some fans.
Since the start of last term, Watkins, with 23, has more goals in the league than any Englishman but Harry Kane’s 35 and Jamie Vardy’s 25. The experienced Ings can only help him.
The pair combined again early in the second half as they exchanged quick, short passes. Watkins chipped the ball into Ings’ path but the forward was denied excellently by Sam Byram.
From the resulting corner, Ings glanced a header onto the far post. Watkins also shanked a couple of good chances.
As far as Norwich were concerned, it was too easy. And in terms of their late push for an equaliser, it was too little, too late.
Much like their season. Smith revived them slightly but the writing has been on the wall since they started the campaign with no wins in their first 11 games, including nine losses.
And as two late goals went in for Burnley at Vicarage Road, news spread to the away end of the relegation confirmation.
‘City ‘til I die’, sang the away followers who had battled through train cancellations to be here. Fair play to every one of them – there will be brighter days.
The inquest to why it has gone so wrong for Norwich can wait for another day. One of the reasons at a glance might be the man who sat on the home bench for much of this match.
The Argentinian Buendia – a spare part at Villa towards the end of this season – was the Championship’s best player last season for Norwich who walked the league.
He had a few chances of his own without converting but, with one of the final kicks of the game, Buendia teed up Ings for a poachers’ finish to put one final nail in Norwich’s coffin.
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