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Jacob Ramsey stunner helps Aston Villa add to former boss Dean Smith’s woes
Ollie Watkins added a late second in Norfolk as manager Steven Gerrard was able to get the better of his predecessor.
Aston Villa inflicted more misery on old boss Dean Smith after goals by Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins consigned Norwich to a 2-0 defeat at Carrow Road.
Sacked by the Midlands club in November, Smith was looking to get one over his former side and boost the Canaries’ survival hopes but the hosts suffered a third Premier League defeat in a row.
Ramsey, who had been given his Villa debut by the Norwich boss, opened the scoring in the 34th minute and Watkins wrapped up the victory late on to make it four victories out of six under their new boss Steven Gerrard.
While Smith was up against the club who dismissed him last month, his focus in the build-up had been on dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak with four players missing due to the virus.
It saw Todd Cantwell brought back into the fold and for the visitors, Gerrard was true to his word and played Emi Buendia from the off.
After a warm reception from the home faithful, Buendia set about trying to haunt his ex-club and created an early chance for Watkins, who tested Tim Krul with a tame header.
The Canaries custodian was called into more strenuous action soon after when John McGinn let fly from 35 yards but the Dutch goalkeeper tipped over.
Villa had failed to have a single shot on target against Liverpool at the weekend and yet were doing the early pressing in Norfolk with Matt Targett volleying wide in the 20th minute.
Matty Cash had been a constant thorn in the side of the home defence during the first half and almost created the opener but Ozan Kabak produced a timely clearance to deny Ashley Young.
A delay occurred soon after when Ramsey needed treatment. He was able to continue though and Villa were pleased he did with the youngster able to open the scoring with 35 minutes played.
Ramsey played a one-two with Watkins by the halfway and ran at the Norwich back four with purpose before he rifled into the top corner.
It was the type of effort his manager Gerrard would have been proud of and the 20-year-old almost turned provider minutes later but Brandon Williams intercepted his shot-turned-cross before Watkins could pounce.
Norwich’s fortunes went from bad to worse when Kabak was forced off but it did allow Sam Byram to make his first appearance in 22 months.
With Smith’s team-talk still ringing in their ears, the hosts came out with better intent after the break and Ben Gibson’s looping header called Emi Martinez into action.
Young’s poor back-pass then also opened the door for Kenny McLean but he lost his footing and while Watkins had a header saved by Krul, the Villa boss had seen enough and introduced Danny Ings before the hour mark.
After Watkins had appeals for a penalty waved away, Norwich substitute Adam Idah headed straight at Martinez from a Billy Gilmour cross as the home side continued to push for an equaliser.
Buendia almost put the game to bed after a Brandon Williams error only for the Manchester United loanee to atone for his error with a fine block but Villa’s second arrived with three minutes left.
Teenage substitute Carney Chukwuemeka got away down the left and squared for Watkins to tap home to move Gerrard’s side into the top half of the table.