Aitor Karanka’s first game as Nottingham Forest manager ended in defeat as Scott Hogan’s goal earned Aston Villa a 1-0 win at The City Ground.
The striker hit the back of the net in the first half and that goal proved decisive as Forest were unable to claw their way back into the game.
The new Reds boss was forced into one change from the side which dispatched Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup last weekend, with Matt Mills coming in for the suspended Joe Worrall.
Matty Cash had the game's first real effort on goal on 14 minutes, with a fast-paced move forward seeing Kieran Dowell find the midfield man on the edge of the box. Cash cut inside onto his left foot but his shot was straight at Sam Johnstone in the Villa goal.
But on 18 the visitors went in front through Hogan. Robert Snodgrass delivered a wicked ball from the right-hand side and Hogan got in front of Michael Mancienne and Jordan Smith to flick a header into the net.
It was almost two for Villa on 24 as another superb delivery by Snodgrass, this time from a free kick, was met by John Terry whose powerful header cannoned back off the crossbar.
Forest dominated the ball and looked the more likely to create an opening, but Villa's stubborn defence kept them at arm's length. The Reds had to wait until first-half stoppage time for a meaningful effort on goal, with Dowell's free kick crashing into the side-netting.
The first effort of the second half also came direct from a free kick, with Snodgrass's effort from a tight angle on target but Smith equal to it to beat the ball clear. Jack Grealish was next to set his sights for Villa, but his 50th-minute curling effort drifting just wide of Smith's left-hand post.
Barrie McKay was introduced from the substitutes' bench just after the hour-mark and he had a good opportunity presented to him on 68. James Chester's loose pass fell straight to the Scotsman's feet and he drove at goal but his shot was tame and easy for Johnstone to save.
On 80 it was McKay who was again involved for Forest, playing a long-distance one-two with Ben Brereton before seeing his shot saved at the near post.
The City Ground crowd roared behind their side and Dowell's swerving effort from 30 yards almost caught out goalkeeper Johnstone on 86, with the stopper palming it around the post.
Albert Adomah had the ball in the Forest net only to see the flag raised for offside and The Reds couldn't quite find the bit of quality needed in the final third to get their way back into the game as Aitor Karanka's rein began in defeat.
Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Mills, Mancienne (c), Traore, Cash (Ward 81'), Osborn, Vaughan (Bridcutt 81'), Clough (McKay 64'), Dowell, Brereton
Unused subs: Henderson, Darikwa, Bouchalakis, Walker
Bookings: Lichaj 61', Cash 63'
Aston Villa: Johnstone, Elmohamady, Chester, Terry (c), Hutton, Whelan (Bjarnason 46'), Snodgrass, Grealish, Hourihane, Adomah (Taylor 90'), Hogan (Davis 83')
Unused subs: Bunn, Lansbury, Onomah, Elphick
Goal: Hogan 18'
Bookings: Elmohamady 71', Terry 89'
Referee: James Linington