Dean Smith failed to get one over his former side on Tuesday night, with Norwich falling to a 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa.
Steven Gerrard replaced Smith in the Villa Park hot seat last month and will have been delighted with how much control his side showed in a comfortable victory at Carrow Road.
Villa dominated from the off and rarely let up. John McGinn’s dipping effort nearly found the top corner, but Tim Krul did well to backtrack and get a glove on the shot to tip it over in the opening minutes.
Norwich were giving up possession easily and looked nervy at the back, thanking their lucky stars that Ashley Young attempted a dummy in the penalty area when he had a clear sight of goal.
But Villa grabbed a deserved lead ten minutes prior to half-time. Jacob Ramsey picked up a pass from Ollie Watkins on the halfway line, and with no help in front of him, drove towards goal with guile and aggression before firing past the helpless Krul.
After nearly beating him from distance early on, McGinn then forced Krul into another sprawling save directly from a corner, with the Dutchman just about pedalling back across his goal in time to claw the set piece off the line.
Norwich knew they had to improve on a pathetic first-half performance and started applying pressure just after the interval, pressing Young into a mistake that saw the ball zip back across his own goal at pace, but no one in yellow was able to get a telling touch.
At the other end, Emiliano Buendia was causing plenty of problems for his former club, playing a beautiful cross-field ball over to Matt Targett, who cut inside and sent a half-volley into the side-netting.
Gerrard’s men continued their push for a second and nearly found it when McGinn picked out Watkins with a deep cross, but the England striker headed straight at Krul’s feet.
Norwich’s first half-chance of the game came in the 72nd minute when Billy Gilmour fizzed in a free-kick that was nodded on by Adam Idah, but the Irishman’s header was weak and easily dealt with by Emiliano Martinez.
Villa put the game beyond doubt in the final five minutes. Carney Chukwuemeka, fresh after being brought on as a substitute, easily held off the challenge of Gilmour and played a lovely ball across goal for Watkins to tap home and put the game to bed.
Tim Krul (GK) – 6/10 – Kept out as much as he possibly could. Would have been nice if he had some better defenders in front of him.
Max Aarons (RB) – 2/10 – Wasn’t up to the challenge physically. Easily pressed and hassled out of the game.
Ozan Kabak (CB) – 4/10 – Fine for the most part but he gave Ramsey the freedom of Norfolk for the opener and was substituted with injury before the break. So overall, not fine.
Ben Gibson (CB) – 5/10 – Not his finest game but wasn’t a complete liability.
Brandon Williams (LB) – 6/10 – Ran hard, tried hard and was up for the fight. Unfortunately for him that wasn’t enough.
Jacob Sorensen (DM) – 6/10 – Broke up play plenty but wasn’t much use on the ball.
Billy Gilmour (CM) – 2/10 – Gave away the ball for Villa’s opener, was weak in the challenge for their second and failed to do the midfield basics.
Kenny McLean (CM) – 3/10 – Like Gilmour was simply not good enough in or out of possession, being overrun with such ease.
Przemyslaw Placheta (RW) – 4/10 – Tried a few flicks and tricks but failed to keep hold of the ball.
Teemu Pukki (CF) – 3/10 – Starved of service but it’s not as if he helped much with holding the ball up either.
Todd Cantwell (LW) – 1/10 – Dear oh dear. An absolute net negative for Norwich. Couldn’t pass, couldn’t dribble, couldn’t track his runners. Back-heeled the ball out of play in the first half. Went straight down the tunnel after being subbed.
Sam Byram (DM, 45′ for Kabak) – 5/10 – Switched between centre-back and defensive midfielder with Sorensen. Things were a little better after he came on but not sure he was the reason behind that.
Adam Idah (LW, 61 for Cantwell) – 2/10 – Looked out of his depth but still wasn’t as bad as Cantwell.
Kieran Dowell (RW, 76′ for Placheta) – 4/10
Emiliano Martinez (GK) – 6/10 – Nothing to do.
Matty Cash (RB) – 9/10 – Relished bombing on and playing more like a winger after such a huge defensive shift against Liverpool.
Ezri Konsa (CB) – 7/10 – Enjoyed bringing the ball out from the back. Provided another body further up the pitch when in possession.
Tyrone Mings (CB) – 7/10 – Colossal. Norwich didn’t even threaten to make Mings’ life difficult.
Matt Targett (LB) – 8/10 – Would have rated higher if his teammates picked out more of his great overlapping runs. Superb performance mirroring that of Cash.
Douglas Luiz (DM) – 9/10 – One of the easiest games he’ll ever have. In fact, Luiz had stretches of the game where he would walk because of how simple his job was.
Jacob Ramsey (CM) – 9/10 – Always threatened to score a worldie because of his superb technique this season, and he grabbed one here.
John McGinn (CM) – 7/10 – Easily won the battle against compatriots Gilmour and McLean.
Emiliano Buendia (RW) – 9/10 – Every time he had the ball he was a thorn in Norwich’s side. Linked up well with every single teammate in a 30-yard radius.
Ollie Watkins (CF) – 8/10 – Pressed diligently, grabbed an assist (even if it was a two-yard pass followed by a 50-yard run) but for most of the night looked frustrated in front of goal – until Chukwuemeka offered him a chance he simply couldn’t refuse.
Ashley Young (LW) – 5/10 – Didn’t offer too much on the ball but his positioning and awareness allowed Targett to bomb on and stretch play.
Danny Ings (CF, 60′ for Young) – 5/10 – Butted heads with Watkins a lot, making it hard for either to get a clear sight of goal.
Carney Chukwuemeka (CM, 83′ for Buendia) – 7/10 – Provided a super assist for Watkins.
Axel Tuanzebe (DM, 89′ for McGinn) – N/A