The Villa Report – Aston Villa 1 Crystal Palace 0
In a Word
Grind: ‘A difficult or boring activity that needs a lot of effort.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
Coming into the game on the back of a solid 2-0 win at Goodison Park last weekend, spirits were high amongst the Villa faithful, augmented by an appearance on the pitch before kick-off by Juan Pablo Angel. The Colombian got a fabulous reception – could the current team replicate his prowess in front of goal?
Unai Emery made two changes to the side that won at Everton, with Emi Buendia and Alex Moreno replacing Leon Bailey and Lucas Digne.
Within five minutes, Villa were 1-0 down, courtesy of Wilfred Zaha, given the freedom of Villa Park to run towards the Holte End and round Emi Martinez before rolling home a cool finish. Only VAR could save Villa now. And, remarkably, it did, with the ‘goal’ being ruled out for offside by an inch.
The hope on the Holte was that this would serve as a warning that Palace had the attacking prowess to get behind the Villa defence, and that the players would make the necessary tactical adjustments.
As the first half progressed, it became clear that this was going to be a battle. Palace adopted a physical approach throughout (more of that later), packing the midfield and looking reasonably solid at the back, whilst kicking anything that moved.
However, the South London side were undone after 27 minutes. Villa captain John McGinn threaded a superb pass down the right flank into the path of the galloping Matty Cash. Now, we’ve been here before, and this situation often results in something similar to a shout of ‘fore!’ in golf for residents of the Trinity/Lower Holte stands, however this time Cash sent a menacing cross into the box for the waiting Ollie Watkins, only for the hapless Joachim Andersen to deflect the ball into the net instead. 1-0.
Towards the end of the first half, Villa had a golden chance to make it 2-0, only for Watkins to fluff his lines and hit the outside of the post when it looked easier to score.
The half-time mood on the lower Holte concourse was optimistic, despite the biting cold. The two pairs of socks were paying dividends.
The second half largely followed a similar pattern to the first, with Palace keen to put a foot in whenever necessary, sometimes rather more aggressively than required. This approach led to arguably the most significant moment of the half with Palace’s Cheick Doucoure picking up two yellow cards in 5 minutes after clattering into first Boubacar Kamara, who had to leave the field, and then his replacement, Calum Chambers. We can only hope that Kamara’s injury is more of the ‘impact’ variety and doesn’t rule him out for too long.
Could Villa now go on to get a decisive second goal and kill the game?
Emery reacted by making two changes on the 70 minute mark, with Leon Bailey replacing Jacob Ramsey and Lucas Digne coming on for Alex Moreno.
The change nearly worked when Bailey mesmerised the Palace defence before rolling the ball to McGinn, whose shot was well saved by Vincent Guaita.
Villa Away Shirts £22 – Click Below
Palace were not posing much of an attacking threat, but the nerves were jangling around the stadium, with a palpable sense of unease as the clock (very slowly) ticked down. Jhon Duran replaced Ollie Watkins on 85 minutes, with another fun cameo culminating in the Colombian frontman spinning clear of his marker and arrowing a left-footed shot into the Holte. His time will come.
Despite plenty of possession, Palace could not threaten the Villa goal, and the final whistle was greeted with relief by the majority inside the stadium after five minutes of additional time.
Back-to-back wins for Emery’s men, and back-to-back clean sheets. Encouraging performances from Buendia, Moreno and McGinn in particular ensured that the Villa masses were sent out into the chilly B6 evening happy.
Despite another win, Villa remain in 11th place, which we are seemingly making our own. With winnable games on the horizon, in the shape of struggling West Ham and Bournemouth, the opportunity is there to make a concerted push for the European places over the next few weeks.
Carter Match Value – £50
OK, that’s an inflated price for such a scrappy game, but there’s nothing like a dirty 1-0 win, even if you end up with heartburn from the stress of defending the lead (which I did).
From this week onwards, to add a bit more fun to the Villa Reports, Rob will be providing a match value based on the cost of a £675 season ticket – so games are marked out of £35.53 a game ( he’s taking the mickey a bit with the above value score!)
For reference the last two home match reports would have the following Match Value ratings…
Leicester – £25 – Good value but ultimately ending in disappointment, like a great meal with a crap dessert.
Arsenal – £26 – Again, good value but with a sting in the tail. Like getting the bill in a restaurant and finding out you’ve been charged for the bread.