Steven Gerrard has become the first manager to win his opening two fixtures at Aston Villa since John Gregory in 1998 – thanks to goals from Matt Targett and John McGinn.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa travelled to Selhurst Park this afternoon for Steven Gerrard’s first away trip as a Premier League manager, and would face off against a familiar face in the dugout – Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. Palace found themselves in a rich vein of form, and unbeaten in seven, while Villa were looking for back-to-back wins.
Gerrard’s side started well, and looked strong in possession – it was a positive start for the away side.
The strongest chance of the first ten minutes came the way of Wilfried Zaha for Palace, however, with the winger chopping onto his left and scuffing his shot slightly, as it swept past the keeper’s right-hand post.
It would be Aston Villa that would take the lead. A high, long corner from Ashley Young flew into the box – with two players attracted to Tyrone Mings – leaving Matt Targett at the back post to fire a shot at goal. The ball flew towards the net and bounced off the boot of Christian Benteke, before nestling into the back of the net.
John McGinn came close in the 26th minute with a trademark turn at the right-hand side of the box, before attempting a left-footed shot into the top right which swung just wide.
In the 28th minute, Kouyate was booked for a foul on Leon Bailey – before both Wilfried Zaha and Matty Cash were booked for a ruckus around the ball shortly after Kouyate’s challenge.
Aston Villa were relatively dominant across periods of the first half, and deserved their lead. Joel Ward was booked for a rash challenge on Ashley Young a minute before the end of the half.
Just before the end of the half, Aston Villa nearly benefited from a gaffe at the back for Crystal Palace – as Tomkins left a ball for Guaita who wasn’t expecting it, leaving Joel Ward to clear the ball away from the goal mouth and out for a corner. The resulting corner came to nothing.
Aston Villa went in at the break leading, with Crystal Palace failing to muster a shot on target in the first half.
Neither side made a change at the start of the second half, with Crystal Palace opening proceedings.
Crystal Palace started the second half the better side and were causing Aston Villa issues with their counter-attacks after winning the ball in midfield.
In the 55th, Marvelous Nakamba was booked for a challenge on Wilfried Zaha, allowing Luka Milivojevic a free-kick opportunity. The free-kick was poor, and Aston Villa were able to counter. Ollie Watkins was close to getting a shot away at the edge of the box, before Milivojevic sliced him from behind. The midfielder was given a yellow for the challenge.
On the hour mark, Eberechi Eze was Crystal Palace’s first change – his first appearance since snapping his Achilles against Aston Villa last season. He replaced the booked Milivojevic.
In the 66th minute, Aston Villa opted for their first change, with Gerrard replacing Jacob Ramsey with Douglas Luiz. Five minutes later, Odsonne Edouard replaced Wilfried Zaha.
In the 73rd minute, Douglas Luiz was red carded for a challenge – before VAR asked the referee to check the pitch-side screen. The referee then overturned the red, and rightly so, giving Luiz a yellow card.
Three minutes later, and Leon Bailey was replaced by Anwar El Ghazi for Aston Villa.
With several minutes, plus added time, left in the game, Steven Gerrard opted for his third and final change – replacing Ashley Young with Emiliano Buendia.
In the 86th minute, Aston Villa looked like they would put the ball out of reach of Crystal Palace. Emi Buendia and Anwar El Ghazi combined on the left, before El Ghazi cut inside and played the ball into a central position for John McGinn to latch onto. The Scottish midfielder curled an effort with his left, around the diving Guaita and into the back of the net.
There were six minutes of added time at the end of the 90.
With two minutes remaining in stoppage time, Marc Guehi bagged a goal for Palace. The defender poked a foot out at a crossed ball, which nestled into the back of the net and behind Martinez.
Aston Villa would win though – and a much deserved victory it was! Steven Gerrard is now the first manager to win his opening two fixtures since John Gregory in 1998.