After using the 4-5-1 system so well in recent weeks, Chris Hughton surprised everyone with a change of formation as City lined up 4-4-2.
Paul Lambert`s Villa lined up in a 3-5-2 with Lowton and Lichaj as wingbacks and with Benteke and Bent up front together.
Norwich were forced into changes due to injuries to Wes Hoolahan and Steven Whittaker and were still without Tettey and Ryan Bennett. Leon Barnett and Marc Tierney made their first starts for a while as Holt was joined by Morison up front.
The match kicked off at a lightning pace and was played as such for most of the first half. Within 2 minutes, Morison`s cross from the right had hit Shay Given`s post and bounced away to safety.
At the other end Bent found himself one on one with Bunn but the City keeper superbly dived low to his left to keep the score level.
Indeed, it became a feature of the game with Bunn making very good saves from Holman, Bentekne and Lowton.
On 19 minutes though it was City who opened the scoring with Morison chipping a flick on over the advancing Given.
The crowd erupted with chants of "WHO ARE YA?" But it was to be short lived. Two minutes later, after all his good work, Bunn was finally beaten by a powerful Holman shot from the edge of the area. He was given way too much space and his movement behind the strikers was making him hard to pick up.
The scores were level at half time but both sides could`ve increased their tallies.
Early in the second half, Bent pulled up holding his hamstring and was quickly replaced by Andreas Weimann. He immediately formed what looked like a much more dangerous partnership with Benteke.
Around the hour mark, Steve Morison had the chance to score again as Holt found him and put him one on one with Given. It seemed easier to go round the keeper but Morison decided to try to chip him and lifted the ball over the bar.
Moments later, Morison thought he had scored from a similar position but after putting the ball in the net it was ruled out for off-side.
At the other end, Benteke did the same as the crowd howled with derision at the Villa fans who also had to cut short their celebrations.
The second half seemed to fall away a bit compared to the frenetic first hour. But with ten minutes to go, City collapsed as Villa scored three times. Weimann scored a quick double on 79 and 85 minutes before Benteke scored his 10th of the season in injury time.
At the end, Paul Lambert shook the hand of every Norwich player as they left the pitch. He didn`t receive much stick from the crowd and was applauded by Norwich fans in the City stand when he first walked out into a wall of flash bulbs that were waiting for him.
In terms of the game and the way it panned out, I think Hughton was out thought by Lambert as he tried something different.
We haven`t played 4-4-2 for a while and looked to struggle as we were outnumbered in midfield. For all their endeavour, Johnson and Howson struggled to play much other than sideways and Holman was always dangerous.
Pilkington looked a little tired and the two Villa wingbacks meant that he and Snodgrass spent a lot of time backing up their full backs.
Tierney looked short of match practice, which of course he is and was often left with no other option by Pilkington than to just launch it down the line.
Holt and Morison? I`m not sure they can play together effectively, just like Lambert has spoken off with regard to Bent and Benteke.
Morison could`ve scored at least four times last night, based on the chances he had but was wasteful. He did look lively(ish) though and Holt only had one really good effort when Given made an outstanding one handed save from his header after a corner.
The changes when they did come were too late and Jackson would`ve been a better starter than Morison, in my opinion.
Our players should be able to adapt to different formations better than they did, but I`ll be happier when we return to the 4-5-1 and hopefully see some of the injured lads return.
We miss Tettey and Wes badly, but on the plus side, Michael Turner is fit again so should regain his place soon enough.
Tierney did look out of sorts as Hughton rested Garrido and I do wonder for his future in the first team now, while up against the classy Spaniard.
This is our first defeat for a long time and it doesn`t feel good. We will need to shake this out of the system very quickly in time for the visit of Wigan on Saturday. A very good chance to get to Wembley has gone for the second time in two seasons and that is very disappointing.
I don`t think we were short on effort, it was the application that did for us.
This chance has gone and it`s up to the players to make sure they push on from here, starting against Wigan.
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