Villa 1-1 Norwich match report: Benteke goal not enough for battlers
Villa staged a battling second-half rearguard action to earn a point against manager Paul Lambert's former club.
It looked as if Lambert's men were poised for a much-needed victory when they led at the interval through a well-taken 26th-minute goal from Christian Benteke.
But it became an uphill battle seven minutes into the second half, when Joe Bennett was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Villa's 10 men endured incessant pressure for the remainder of the game and it was no great surprise when Michael Turner headed a 78th-minute equaliser after Brad Guzan had made some outstanding saves.
Until Benteke pounced with the opening goal, neither side had really threatened, although Guzan did well to get the ball away for a corner after Grant Holt's miscued effort had rolled kindly, if unintentionally, into Wes Hoolahan's path.
The midfielder was left with a clear scoring opportunity from just a few yards but Guzan managed to keep the ball out with his left leg.
The best Villa could offer during a nervy start were a Benteke header and a Karim El Ahmadi 25-yarder which were both well off target, plus a low Brett Holman shot which was comfortably saved by John Ruddy.
It was a pity that one came to nothing because the build-up, featuring a superb crossfield pass from Marc Albrighton, deserved more.
When the goal came along, though, there was no question about either the approach work or the finish.
Guzan had just done well to clutch Holt's dangerous knock-down but Villa swept straight to the other end.
Gabby Agbonlahor played the ball out to Holman and the Australian midfielder delivered a low cross from the left.
Benteke quickly brought it under control before displaying perfect composure to sidefoot calmly past Ruddy as the keeper dived the wrong way.
There was nearly another goal in the 38th minute, Benteke controlling Delph's superbly lofted diagonal pass on the right and cutting side for a left-foot shot which deflected for a corner.
Fit-again Chris Herd then made a timely clearance from the home goalmouth following Elliott Bennett's cross, but Benteke was close again a minute after the interval.
Albrighton collected a misplaced Norwich pass on the half-way line before making a powerful surge down the right and crossing for the Belgian striker to get in a downward header which was saved by Ruddy at the foot of the post.
Six minutes later, though, Villa were down to 10 when Bennett's foul on Elliott Bennett earned him a second yellow card and a dismissal by referee Phil Dowd.
Delph briefly moved to left-back but Lambert decided it made more sense to sacrifice Gabby Agbonlahor and send on Eric Lichaj to take up the full-back position.
Not surprisingly, the visitors were well now on top.
Guzan had great difficulty in keeping out a dipping Bennett cross which almost deceived him and in the 63rd minute the keeper made an excellent save, pushing away Hoolahan's fierce angled drive.
Guzan did even better when he raced from his line to save from Holt after the Norwich skipper had burst through the middle.
But an equaliser looked increasingly inevitable, and it arrived 12 minutes from the end, Turner leaving Guzan helpless with a glancing header following Pilkington's short corner and Hoolahan's cross.
Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Herd, Vlaar, J Bennett; Albrighton, El Ahmadi, Delph, Holman (Weimann, 76); Agbonlahor (Lichaj, 54), Benteke (Bent. 69). Unused subs: Given, Ireland, Westwood, Bannan.
Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin (R Bennett, HT), Turner, Bassong, Garrido; E Bennett (Snodgrass, 64), Tettey, Hoolahan, Johnson (Morison, 70), Pilkington; Holt. Unused subs: Rudd, Howson, Jackson, Barnett.
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