Aston Villa 2 Norwich City 0 – 1st April 2017.
Jonathan Kodija scored a double with one goal in each half as Villa punished an at times sloppy Norwich City by 2 goals to 0 to move into the top half of the table.
Sound familiar? Well it should be those were the opening lines to my Aston Villa Sheffield Wednesday match review on March 11th except you can cross out Sheffield Wednesday and replace with Norwich City.
Kodija repeated exactly what he did at Villa Park against Sheffield Wednesday 21 days later against a Norwich City team who had Pinto given his marching orders in the 80th minute. Kodija is a strange phenomenon, a striker that at times couldn’t hit a bar door from 5 metres and at other times a potential superstar who actually does know where the back of the net is. Maybe because he is always on the prowl and misses a lot of chances makes us think of him being a poor player but as my Grandmother used to say ‘If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you won’t win the lottery.”
But let’s give Jonathan Kodija some credit, he is always sniffing around and in the action and Steve Bruce will be a happy man knowing he goes into the 2017/18 season in August with Kodija on board up in attack.
Villa are currently on a great run at the moment that even Brendan Foster would be proud of. I could say it’s amazing what a fortunate fixture list, a number of sending’s off for the opposition, a bit of confidence, a shortening injury list, lady luck and an in form Jonathan Kodija can completely change the dynamics of a football club. But that is exactly what has happened. Villa two months ago were short on confidence, short on players, short on goals, short on points and high up in defensive frailties. However Steve Bruce and good luck to him had a bit of fortune with the fixture list whereby Aston Villa played three of the bottom four over the course of three weeks, saw a couple of sending’s off go against the opposition and Kodija come into his own in the 6 yard box. The crocked list has come down noticeably and Bruce’s stern managerial credentials have held firm.
In fact I bet Bruce wishes there were another 13 or 14 more games to go and they could have been knocking on the play off doors.
Still Villa are playing much better than around the New Year and Kodjia put the hosts ahead midway through the first half when Scott Hogan played him in and the Ivory Coast striker found the roof of the net.
The game was all but settled when Ivo Pinto was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Jordan Amavi although Kodjia made sure of a home win in the 87th minute when he capitalised on a mistake in the Norwich defence.
A third successive victory for Villa lifted them to 11th, just three points behind Norwich, who slipped to ninth and seven points outside the play-off places.
Nelson Oliveira had the visitors’ best chance after 84 minutes when he was played in on goal by Cameron Jerome, but the Portuguese could not get a shot away after a poor first touch.
Jerome also went close to scoring in the opening 10 minutes, but his effort went inches wide as Norwich’s poor return on the road continued. The Canaries have won just one of their past 14 away league games and remain without a manager following Alex Neal’s departure in early March.
Villa were denied a second before Kodjia’s late goal when Nathan Baker saw his header cleared off the line by Ryan Bennett and Conor Hourihane’s follow-up skimmed the crossbar.
Despite the score line Norwich bossed possession with 70% of the ball but couldn’t do much with it.
An upbeat Norwich caretaker boss Alan Irvine said: “I thought we played really well for most of the game, even with 10 men. We dominated possession, we had territorial advantage, we got into some great positions and we fell down where we would normally be at our strongest.”
“The last pass, the last cross in the final third, the last attempt at goal were the things that let us down.”
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce was honest in his analysis of the game: “We showed a little bit of resilience and my goalkeeper has played very very well today.
“I thought we were a little bit leggy but we’ve stuck at it again and we’ve kept a clean sheet.
“We’re improving. We’ve still got a lot to do. We weren’t great again but we’ve done enough to win a game of football in this division.”
The great thing about Bruce is he is realistic and has his feet on the floor and has been exactly what the Doctor ordered for Aston Villa since his appointment last year. The team is up to 11th in the division and that’s about where they should be this season. He knows there is a lot more to come from the team but in his own way he is getting there slowly.
In the words of the late great George Michael, ‘You Gotta Have Faith’.