You may remember Hoolahan as the player who never starts for Norwich City and who Villa wanted this January. Well, after spurning Paul Lambert, Norwich decided to start him today and of course he scored against Villa. Hoolahan actually had a pretty great day, but it would be forgotten amidst the spate of goals that were soon to come.
If Villa didn't score by the 27th minute, they would have exceeded their longest goalless streak from last season for the second time this season. Apparently Christian Benteke knew that and wasn't prepared to let it happen, because in the 25th minute he scored what has to be one of his best goals in the claret and blue:
But he wasn't done there! In case the statisticians missed the goal, he got another IN the 27th minute to give Villa the 2-1 lead:
So we've got a perfectly controlled ball off the chest turned into a gorgeous goal, and a well-timed run on a corner to easily place the ball in the net. Benteke is so much fun when he does his job and scores.
Things would cool down a bit from there, as Villa waited 10 minutes to score their third. This one came off of a classic Aston Villa counterattack that ended with Andi Weimann and Leandro Bacuna in the Norwich box. From there, Andi sent a pass over to Leandro who caught the ball with his right foot, sent it to his left, and fired it home. Here's the whole play:
And here's just the goal:
And here, for the fun of it, is Bacuna's joy:
From there, Villa were done scoring in the first half. But Norwich weren't! In the wrong net! Here's Sebastien Bassong with an own goal:
To be fair, you could almost give Fabian Delph that goal since he just sort of bounced it off of Bassong. At the very least, Delph should get an assist, right?
That's how things would go into halftime. Villa with a 4-1 lead that literally no one could have predicted. In the second half, Villa came out attacking still, which was refreshing to see. But there wasn't much urgency to it, which is entirely understandable with a 4-1 lead.
Really, the first thing of much interest in the second half was the appearance of Grant Holt and Marc Albrighton as 81st-minute subs. Holt, of course, was making his first appearance against his former team, and if the gods of football were kind, he would score a goal that was as ironic as Hoolahan's in the 3rd minute. Unfortunately the football gods do not have a finely-tuned sense of irony and that was not to happen.
But the fairly staid second half was quite alright, as Villa had that 3-goal cushion and didn't let anything else in. At 31 points, Villa sit seven clear of the drop, though 18th-place Sunderland have two matches in hand (at Manchester City and West Brom). Nevertheless, three more wins would put Villa at 40, which should be more than enough this season.
Perhaps it is a bit too early to be thinking like this, but does anyone else feel shades of the 6-1 win over Sunderland last year? At a time when Villa are well and truly in the relegation fight, they get a huge win to turn things around. Let's just hope the rest of this season follows to script.