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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
16:58 26th December 2013


In this traditional Boxing Day encounter Dwight Gayle produced a late knockout blow to snatch all three points for Palace as he smashed home an injury time wonder goal to give Palace fans an extra Christmas present.

Introduced by Tony Pulis with 20 minutes to go, the striker drilled a strike from 25 yards into the top corner to give the Eagles a victory they fully merited over the course of the game having created the better of the opportunities, with Barry Bannan also hitting a post on his return to Villa Park.

In the first half both sides seemed to be suffering from a post-Christmas hangover as they contributed to a sloppy affair with neither side keeping the ball long enough to create a clear-cut chance. Jason Puncheon twice had a sighting of goal in the opening half hour, but after screwing a shot well wide after 16 minutes he later headed tamely straight at Brad Guzan.

Palace though began to frustrate their opponents and the Villa fans as they began to control theĀ 
midfield with the returning Barry Bannan looking particularly hungry, and he teed up Yannick Bolasie on he edge of the area but the recalled winger fired wide.

In stoppage time Villa finally woke from their slumber and after Karim El Ahmadi saw a drive deflected over and the resulting delivery from Mark Albrighton was nodded towards goal by Nathan Baker but Adrian Mariappa was able to head it back over the top.

After not dirtying his gloves in the first half, it took just three minutes for the Eagles the force Guzan into his first save of the afternoon. Bolasie won the ball on the right and cut it back for Puncheon, however despite struggling to control the ball managed to stab it towards goal but the American keeper was equal to it.

That sparked the game into life and the chances came thick and fast. Damien Delaney headed over a Bannan corner, Andreas Weimann volleyed straight at Julian Speroni and then some fine wing play by Puncheon allowed him the chance to find Bannan who hit first time towards goal and forced Guzan to tip the ball onto the post.

After being starved of goalmouth action in the first half, Villa suddenly had three more opportunities before the hour mark. Baker headed over the top from a corner before skipper Gabriel Agbonlahor showcased his explosive pace to burst into the box but fired straight at Speroni, and then Weimann shanked an effort well over the bar.

But back Palace came and some dazzling wing play by Bolasie saw him find Puncheon, but after taking a touch he hit the ball straight at the advancing Guzan who stood tall.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes Joel Ward attempted to find the top corner from range and despite having Guzan back-peddling could only find the roof of the net, but despite being a chilly passenger for most of the game Speroni produced a great save with a minute to go when he tipped over a header from Jordan Bowery.

That proved vital as Palace counter-attacked down the left as Dean Moxey found Gayle, and he advanced with the ball before sending a rocket into the top corner from well outside the area to clinch a crucial victory in this bottom of the table clash.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Baker, Clark, Lowton, Luna (Bacuna 66), El Ahmadi, Delph, Weimann (Tonev 87), Albrighton, Agbonlahor, Kozak (Bowery 77). Subs not used: Steer, Helenius, Sylla, Gardner

Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Delaney, Gabbidon, Parr, Ward, Jedinak, Bolasie, Puncheon (Williams 65), Bannan (Moxey 85), Jerome (Gayle 72). Subs not used: Price, Campana, Boateng, Phillips