Aston Villa 1 – 0 Crystal Palace. Crystal Palace are still waiting for their first Premier League win of 2023 after Joachim Andersen’s own goal saw them fall to a narrow defeat at Aston Villa.
Patrick Vieira’s side played the final half hour with 10 men after Cheick Doucoure was sent off for two bookings in the space of five minutes and have now gone nine matches without a victory.
Aston Villa were the better side in a drab encounter at Villa Park and took the lead after 27 minutes when John McGinn released Matty Cash down the right. The full-back burst into the penalty area and, with Ollie Watkins waiting to pounce, his low ball across the face of goal was turned in by the sliding Andersen.
Watkins should have doubled the advantage for Unai Emery’s side in the last minute of the first half but his shot clipped the outside of the post after Emi Buendia’s excellent pass left him in the middle of goal with only Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita to beat.
Earlier, the away side had the ball in the net after just four minutes when Wilfried Zaha, back in the side after four games out with a hamstring injury, raced on to Eberechi Eze’s through ball and rounded Emiliano Martinez to finish.
However, a VAR check showed that Zaha was offside and the goal was ruled out.
Chances were in short supply at both ends and Palace’s chances of finding an equaliser took a hit on 62 minutes when Doucoure, five minutes after being shown a yellow for a late tackle on Boubacar Kamara, mistimed a challenge on his replacement Calum Chambers and Craig Pawson produced a second yellow card, followed by a red.
Villa had chances to make sure of the points late on but could not find a way past Guiata, though did hold on to secure back-to-back league wins.
Not only do Palace remain winless since New Year’s Eve, they are the only side in the Premier League yet to score a first-half goal this year.
It might all have been different had Zaha held his run a split second longer in the fifth minute.
The forward showed his quality with a composed finish and the pass from Eze had been perfect – but it counted for nothing when VAR intervened and the lines were drawn at Stockley Park.
Zaha’s pace and direct running did give Palace more of a threat but they struggled to get him into the game, and even when they did, the potential threat exceeded the chances created.
Palace mustered only three shots, none of them on target, and just five touches in their hosts’ box.
Villa wanted a clean sheet after conceding four in each of their past two games, and despite Palace’s dynamic attacking trio Eze, Zaha and Michael Olise, they were not made to work hard to get it.
As forgettable as it was, the match served an important purpose for Villa.
Without playing anywhere near their best, the hosts scrapped their way to a valuable three points and increased the gap between themselves and Palace to seven points.
“We ground out the three points,” captain McGinn said. “I’m sure the manager won’t be pleased with the second-half performance but it’s a win and we’ve been craving a win here for a while.
“Great to get the three points and it gives us an opportunity to look up and not down.”
Any thought of a relegation battle can now be put behind them, and with just five points separating Emery’s side from Liverpool in sixth, a strong finish to the campaign could lead to European football next season.
The performance level would have to increase significantly, but there was quality in flashes – particularly when Buendia and McGinn got on the ball – and there is the chance for a far more exciting climax to the season than looked likely a couple of months ago.
source – BBC