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Aston Villa 2 Crystal Palace 0 - Report

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

Villa kept their hopes of Premier League survival alive and ended a 10-match winless run with victory over Crystal Palace.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Jose Reina (bottom) makes a save during the Premier League match at Villa Park

Trezeguet netted either side of half-time as Dean Smith’s team secured three precious points which gives them hope of pulling off a Great Escape in the season’s final fortnight.

Villa were given a let-off when Mamadou Sakho saw an early goal controversially ruled out by VAR for handball.

Trezeguet then fired the hosts in front on the stroke of half-time, before bagging his second just before the hour mark.

Former Villa striker Christian Benteke was sent-off after the final whistle for kicking out at Ezri Konsa.

Analysis

Trezeguet’s goals were reward for a bustling display from the much-criticised Egyptian, who has endured a difficult first season in English football following his move from Kasimpasa last summer.

Both goals were set up by Conor Hourihane, the midfielder serving up an excellent performance having been restored to the starting line-up for what was, for Villa, a must-win game.

Wins for West Ham and Watford on Saturday had piled the pressure on Smith’s team but they responded impressively. Let-off with Sakho’s disallowed goal aside, they were deserved winners.

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Villa are now back to within four points of safety ahead of Thursday night’s trip to Everton. West Ham and Watford then face each other on Friday.

Smith’s team still have a mountain to climb but at least this was a start.

Hourihane replaced Anwar El Ghazi in the starting XI, while Villa were forced into another switch shortly before kick-off when Kortney Hause suffered an injury in the warm-up. Ahmed Elmohamady was the man to replace him.

For the second time in four days Villa Park witnessed a VAR controversy, though this time it was the home team’s advantage.

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With Villa’s defence all at sea, Sakho converted Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick to seemingly put the visitors ahead.

Yet Jon Moss, the referee who had wrongly awarded Manchester United a penalty three days previously, ruled the ball had struck the Palace defender’s arm and ruled it out, this time from his seat at Stockley Park.

Villa tried to make the most of the let-off and John McGinn was close to getting on the end of a Hourihane cross after the midfielder had been sent scampering to the byline by a Jack Grealish pass.

Clear-cut chances were again hard to come by for the home side and Mbwana Samatta wasted a good one when he headed over Elmohamady’s inviting cross on the half-hour mark.

The Egyptian, making his first start since the league resumed, was proving Villa’s best creative outlet and delivered another decent centre from which Grealish drew a sharp save from Guaita on the volley.

Palace enjoyed their best spell as half-time approached, Christian Benteke forcing Pepe Reina into a save with his legs after collecting a Zaha cross. The Spanish keeper then gathered a shot from the latter at the second attempt.

But it was Villa who would grab the lead moments before the break as Trezeguet became the first attacking player to net in the Premier League for more than 14 hours.

Grealish was hacked down by Cheikhou Kouyate on the left and when Joel Ward could only get a slight touch on Hourihane’s free-kick, Trezeguet arrived at the far post to drill home his fourth league goal of the season.

It looked as though Villa would have the chance to double their lead early in the second half when Grealish tumbled under the challenge of van Aanholt and referee Atkinson pointed to the spot.

But again the decision was reversed by Moss, this time the VAR ruling Grealish had actually trodden on the Palace defender’s leg, an almost identical challenge to the one he had ruled a penalty on Thursday night.

Villa did not let the moment distract them and Guaita had to be alert to push a Hourihane free-kick round the post.

Palace escaped again at the resulting corner when Ezri Konsa had an effort cleared off the line but had no such luck seconds later when Houriahne nodded the ball into the path of Trezeguet, who took a touch before finishing underneath Guaita.

Buoyed by the breathing space, further chances came Villa’s way and again Hourihane was prominent, Guaita just about succeeding in turning a low drive from the midfielder round the post. The goalkeeper also had to gather a Grealish effort after John McGinn had chested the ball into the skipper’s path.

Palace were not yet finished and Reina was required to save with his legs from van Aanholt after excellent work from Zaha had played the Dutch full-back in.

There was another nervy moment for Villa when Benteke was unable to get a clean connection on substitute Andros Townsend’s inviting cross.

Trezeguet should have completed his hat-trick but failed to connect with Matt Targett’s cross, before Benteke saw red after the final whistle.

Key Moments

7 - NO GOAL - Palace think they have taken the lead when Mamadou Sakho converts Luka Milivojevic’s free-kick off his shoulder but VAR Jon Moss controversially rules it out for handball.

45+4 GOAL Villa take the lead when Trezeguet converts Conor Hourihane’s free-kick at the far post.

59 GOAL Trezeguet doubles Villa’s advantage and grabs his second of the match when he slides a finish underneath Guaita.

Teams

Villa (4-3-3): Reina, Elmohamady, Konsa, Mings, Taylor (Targett 37), McGinn, Luiz, Hourihane (Nakamba 80), Trezeguet (El Ghazi 88), Samatta (Davis 80), Grealish Subs not used: Lansbury, Jota, Guilbert, Nyland (gk).

Palace (4-3-3): Guaita, Ward, Dann, Sakho, van Aanholt, McArthur (McCarthy HT), Milivojevic © (Meyer 74), Kouyate (Riedewald 65), Ayew (Townsend 65), Benteke, Zaha Subs not used: Kelly, Woods, Mitchell, Pierrick, Hennessey (gk).

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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