Aston Villa 1-0 Norwich City

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Conor Hourihane has six goals and three assists in eight league appearances against Norwich

Conor Hourihane came off the bench to score the only goal against fellow strugglers Norwich and halt Aston Villa's four-match losing streak.

Both sides were promoted back to the Premier League last season and came into Christmas in the relegation zone after going five games without a win.

It was visitors Norwich who were the most positive during the first hour at Villa Park, with Sam Byram's first-half header bouncing against the top of the crossbar.

But within eight minutes of coming on, Irish midfielder Hourihane swept the ball in from Jack Grealish's lay-off to score with just Villa's second shot on target.

Tom Heaton then produced a fine reflex save to deny Norwich substitute Onel Hernandez as Villa held on for a crucial victory.

Although they remain third-bottom, Villa are back within a point of safety while Norwich have slipped below Watford to the bottom of the table.

Hourihane comes off bench to deliver Christmas cheer

Villa lost John McGinn to a fractured ankle during Saturday's 3-1 home defeat by Southampton and are set to be without the influential midfielder for up to three months.

Hourihane also dropped out of the starting line-up after Saturday, with manager Dean Smith making four changes.

And although Anwar El Ghazi twice went close during the first half, Villa looked susceptible to the counter-attack and for the first time at home this season, they failed to record a single shot on target in the first half.

Norwich continued to look most likely to break the deadlock after the interval until the introduction of Hourihane, who swiftly showed he could be the man to ease the creative burden of Jack Grealish during McGinn's absence.

El Ghazi came in from the left and found Hourihane, who played it first time to Grealish. Villa's top scorer dummied past Alex Tettey, sticking the Norwich midfielder on his backside, before nudging it back to Hourihane and the Republic of Ireland international fired in his third Premier League goal of the season from just inside the box.

Villa were also indebted to Heaton for his late save and some dominant defending by centre-half Kortney Hause but victory brought some much-needed Christmas cheer to the Villa faithful.

More to follow.


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