The two sides met at Selhurst Park even on points, but Crystal Palace emerge almost certain of safety, while results at the bottom mean Aston Villa are fearing relegation once more.
As was to be expected from a Tony Pulis side meeting a side set up defensively, there was very little action to be had in much of the match. In fact, by the break, Brad Guzan had needed to make just one save, while Villa hadn’t tested Julian Speroni at all.
It looked like Villa might be able to get something out of the match when Kagisho Dikgacoi went off injured. Pulis brought on Marouane Chamakh, pushing Joe Ledley into midfield and putting Chamakh just behind Cameron Jerome. The result was a rather disjointed Palace side.
Villa nearly took advantage of Palace’s inability to settle shortly after. Ciaran Clark got a touch on a corner from Ashley Westwood, but Jerome was there to clear the ball off the line.
Palace were able to work their way back into the game before the half had finished. The hosts’ best attempt came in the 41st minute, when Yannick Bolasie got on the end of a cross from Jason Puncheon. His header was rather tame, however, and Guzan had no trouble keeping it out.
Palace was again ready to cause trouble in the second half. Guzan was forced to push away a decent effort from Bolasie, but the ball fell to Jerome. The forward’s shot only rattled the bar, however.
At the hour mark, the lively Bolasie nearly got one past Guzan. His shot from 25 yards had the goalkeeper beaten, but Guzan was saved from embarrassment when the ball went just wide of the far post.
There was no one rescuing Guzan in the 76th, however, when Jason Puncheon put Crystal Palace up again. Last week’s hero netted his sixth of the season when he got on the end of a low ball from Bolasie to sweep home.
With less than fifteen minutes left to play, Paul Lambert made a double switch, bringing on Andi Weimann for Karim El Ahmadi and Marc Albrighton for Ryan Bertrand.
The substitutions very nearly paid off. Speroni was forced into a fantastic save to keep out an effort from Weimann. In injury time, the Austrian set up a good chance for Ciaran Clark, while Joel Ward and Scott Dann combined to keep out an attempt by Ron Vlaar.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Dikgacoi (Chamakh 19), Jedinak, Bolasie (Parr 83), Puncheon, Ledley, Jerome (Murray 75)
Goals: Puncheon 76′
Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Clark, Bertrand (Albrighton 82), Westwood, Delph, El Ahmadi (Weimann 82), Agbonlahor, Holt
Subs: Bennett, Weimann, Albrighton, Sylla, Bowery, Tonev, Steer