Czech striker Libor Kozak came off the bench and scored his first goal in the Premier League to give Aston Villa a 1-0 win at Norwich City yesterday.
A ￡7 million (US$11.2 million) signing from Lazio, Kozak settled the game with a 30th-minute tap-in at Carrow Road only two minutes after coming on for Christian Benteke.
Villa manager Paul Lambert, returning to his former club, was also indebted to goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who saved an early Robert Snodgrass penalty and produced a stunning late stop to deny Norwich debutant Gary Hooper.
Victory ended a run of three straight defeats for Villa, while Norwich have won just once in five games.
Ciaran Clark replaced the injured Jores Okore at centerback for Villa in one of three changes made by Lambert, while Russell Martin and Jonny Howson were brought into the Norwich line-up by manager Chris Hughton.
The game exploded into life with Villa forward Andreas Weimann going close twice in the first three minutes.
He forced John Ruddy to save after a matter of seconds with an effort from outside the box and then curled a shot against the post.
Norwich should have taken the lead in the sixth minute, however, but after Clark was penalized for handball, Guzan plunged to his left to parry Snodgrass’ spot-kick.
Record Norwich signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel then chested a cross over the bar from point-blank range before Benteke and Ron Vlaar each went close within the space of a minute at the other end.
It was to be Benteke’s last contribution as he was forced off by an apparent groin injury, but not before Van Wolfswinkel had clipped a half-volley inches wide from Martin’s cross.
Kozak came on for Benteke and made an immediate impact, guiding home a cutback from Gabriel Agbonlahor to put Villa ahead.
The hosts came close to an equalizer in the 59th minute when Guzan had to react sharply to prevent Leandro Bacuna scoring an own-goal.
Hughton introduced Hooper for his first appearance since a ￡5 million move from Celtic, but the hosts could not find a way through.