Christian Benteke grabbed the only goal of the game as Aston Villa came away from Selhurst Park with all three points in a scrappy affair that won’t live long in the memory.
The Villans striker came back into the side from suspension and made the game’s only major impact when he coolly slotted the ball away just after the half-hour mark as Neil Warnock’s men failed to continue their good run of late.
A quiet opening half hour was punctured by just the one real attempt of note when Yannick Bolasie switched the ball onto his right foot and shot straight at Brad Guzan, but the American stopper fumbled the ball into Dwight Gayle’s path and the striker stabbed it goalwards however Ciaran Clark’s sliding clearance off the line wasn’t necessary as he was flagged offside.
Despite enjoying more time in the final third than their opponents in the opening half, Palace couldn’t carve out a decent opening and it was Julian Speroni who was next to be tested when Benteke hit a shot on the turn and forced the Eagles keeper to swat a rising ball away for a corner.
And indeed it was the powerful and pacey Belgian who grabbed the opening goal on 32 minutes. After dispossessing Scott Dann on the left flank, Benteke raced towards goal and lacking in support he opted to take aim and causally passed the ball into the bottom corner out of Speroni’s reach to score his first of the campaign.
Despite the setback, Palace responded well and Wilfried Zaha forced Guzan to push a powerful effort over the bar, but the Villa custodian knew very little when Bolasie then blasted towards him a couple of minutes later and the ball struck him on the shoulder before ricocheting away from danger.
They went into the interval trailing but continued where they’d left off after the restart. Fraizer Campbell came on for Gayle and made an instant impact, embarking on a mazy dribble past three players and finding Bolasie who whipped in a cross which Marouane Chamakh dived to get on the end of but arrowed his header wide.
But Palace just weren’t clicking up top and after another counter-attacking opportunity went begging, Villa broke themselves and after Gabriel Agbonlahor laid the ball off for Andreas Weimann to shoot, Speroni did well to block with his feet to prevent the lead being doubled.
The second half was a bitty affair with plenty of meaty challenges flying in from both sides, but that didn’t help the rhythm of the game which saw Palace relying on set pieces for the majority of their chances, and a mixture of good defending and poor execution meant they entered the final 10 minutes still a goal behind.
It looked as though it just wasn’t to be Palace’s night though and that was summed up a minute from time when Zaha skipped around three Villa defenders before putting the ball across the face of goal, but it evaded a host of Eagles attackers and drifted away, along with Warnock’s men’s hopes of a result.
Palace: Speroni, Kelly (Puncheon 89), Dann, Hangeland, Ward, Jedinak, McArthur, Bolasie, Zaha, Chamakh, Gayle (Campbell 46). Subs: Hennessey, Fryers, Bannan. Boateng, Thomas.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Clark, Okore, Cissokho, Cleverley (Richardson 89), Westwood, Cole (Sanchez 8), Weimann, Agbonlahor, Benteke. Subs: Given, Herd, Lowton, N'Zogbia, Grealish.