Aston Villa v Crystal Palace
A Wayne Hennessey own goal saw Palace fall to defeat against Aston Villa as the home side picked up a vital victory in their quest to avoid the drop.
The Eagles struggled to hit the heights of the weekend’s win against Southampton and Alan Pardew’s side were to be left frustrated as they failed to score for the fourth league game in succession.
The crucial moment came on 57 minutes when Joleon Lescott headed a corner goalwards and the ball slipped out of Hennessey’s hands and trickled over the line, and Palace couldn’t come back from that mishap as Villa claimed their first home win of the season.
It just wasn’t the visitors’ night and that showed as early as the first 50 seconds when Palace carved out their first chance and Wilfried Zaha was left cursing his luck. The winger picked up the ball on the left and played a one-two with Jason Puncheon on the edge of the box before being allowed to ghost past the Villa defence to regain possession and strike past Mark Bunn but he watched his attempt clip the far post and bounce to safety.
After the shock of that setback, Villa began to get a foothold and Ashley Westwood went close with a long-range strike which didn’t trouble Hennessey, however when Bakary Sako tried his luck from 25 yards on 20 minutes he was a whisker away from scoring against the Villans again this season but saw a trademark blast fizz narrowly over.
A fairly even opening saw the game continue to ebb and flow between the two ends and Jordan Ayew slammed a shot into the side netting before a wicked Puncheon delivery struck the leg of Damien Delaney in the hosts’ box and flashed just the wrong side of the post from a Palace perspective.
The remainder of the first half petered out with both sides struggling to create any real threats in the final third, so at half-time Pardew brought on Connor Wickham to try and rectify that but it was Villa who had the first chance of the second period when Ayew found Libor Kozak in the area and the ball squirmed around his path before he saw a deflected attempt pushed around the base of the post by Hennessey.
But the Welsh stopper would soon be the next to rue his fortune when Villa got ahead on 57 minutes. A corner from Jordan Veretout was headed goalwards by Lescott, but the Palace keeper saw a routine save slip out of his grasp, bounce off his leg and agonisingly roll over the line – a decision that was verified by the Goal Decision System.
Palace were struggling to carve out any chances of their own and a wild effort by Wickham sailed well over with 20 minutes to go before Kozak stabbed the ball wide when he should have buried a one-on-one with Hennessey but his blushes were spared by the offside flag.
As the minutes ticked by it looked more and more unlikely that the Eagles were to be left frustrated, and Ayew nearly netted a second for his side with three minutes remaining when they broke on a swift counter-attack and after a mazy dribble in the box the striker blazed over the bar from close range.
However as much as Pardew’s men pushed for an equaliser it just wouldn’t come, with the ball evading Scott Dann’s path in the final seconds with the goal at his mercy as Villa clung onto a precious three points.
Aston Villa: Bunn, Cissokho, Okore, Lescott, Bacuna, Westwood, Veretout, Gueye, Gil (Clark 90), Ayew, Kozak. Subs not used: Guzan, Richards, Richardson, Sinclair, Lydon, Gestede.
Palace: Hennessey, Souare, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Ledley (Wickham 46), Cabaye, McArthur (Jedinak 78), Zaha, Puncheon, Sako (Chamakh 62). Subs not used: Speroni, Hangeland, Mutch, Campbell.