Aston Villa – Crystal Palace: Aston Villa took an early lead and somehow improved after Tyrone Mings was sent off, the 10-man Villans throttling woeful Crystal Palace 3-0 on Saturday at Villa Park.
Bertrand Traore scored for the second-straight game and was joined on the scoresheet by Kourtney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi after Mings picked up his second yellow just before halftime.
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Villa is now sixth with 25 points, holding at least one match-in-hand on the top five teams, while Palace’s 18 points are seven clear of the bottom three.
The Eagles next have Leicester City at home and Sheffield United away.
Three things we learned from Aston Villa – Crystal Palace
1. Villa prepped for massive, month-long litmus test: Whether the top four push is achievable or not is one thing, but the Villans are miles ahead of last year now that Grealish has more options to both finish the chances he produces and follow his shots to goal. Watkins looks the part of a rambunctious forward and Dean Smith’s men look properly motivated and organized. The fact that the hosts just kept pounding away at Palace following the Mings red is *chef’s kiss.*
Now it gets very real: away to Manchester United and Chelsea before Liverpool visits in the FA Cup. League visits from Spurs and Everton after that. What should Villa’s points target be for those four PL outings? Seven or more and they’re a legit European threat. Nine or more and there’s no reason not to think bigger given their lack of schedule congestion from January onward.
2. Zaha wins mental, physical scrap with Mings: Tyrone Mings and Wilfried Zaha both saw yellow cards in the 39th minute after a scrap that required slow motion to see the ugliness. Zaha fouled John McGinn from behind and Mings saw his chance to kick the Ivorian in the thigh. Zaha responded by kicking Mings’ boot which caused a coming-together, and the Villa defender cleverly disguised a legit hockey-style, shirt-grab punch that escaped red. Both saw yellow, and Mings’ block of a Zaha dribble four minutes later saw Villa down a man but up a goal just before halftime.
3. Pitiful Palace have no answers to advantage: Up a man for a full half, Crystal Palace did almost nothing you expect from a team going 11-on-10. Credit to Villa for taking the game to the Eagles but the mistakes were plentiful. Palace lost two positioning battles on the corner kick that produced Hause’s goal, then Jairo Riedewald — just Into the game as fresh legs in place of Luka Milivojevic — failed to track a Villa break and gave El Ghazi time to lash home when Watkins’ first touch of a Grealish feed took him to deep into the box. Ugly.
Man of the Match: Ollie Watkins
Watkins got everything but a goal, and that might’ve arrived in the 88th had his shot off the post not been caught by Guaita. Watkins took nine shots and twice hit the frame of the goal, assisting El Ghazi’s goal with one of three key passes over 90 minutes.
Aston Villa – Crystal Palace recap
Ex-Chelsea man Traore, 25, was on the scene to push home a rebound after Ollie Watkins forced an early save out of Vicente Guaita.
Jack Grealish carried a long, low pass from Traore toward goal but was pushed to his left foot by a back-tracking Wilfried Zaha and Guiata stopped the Villa captain’s cut shot.
A long VAR review of a Matty Cash challenge on Patrick van Aanholt led to Anthony Taylor heading to the pitchside monitor and upholding his original call of no penalty.
Tyrone Mings and Zaha tangled before halftime and both were shown yellow cards (See Thing No. 2 above). Mings saw a second yellow, touchy at best, for a foul on Zaha minutes later.
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Villa didn’t look to be down a man when they came out fo the break despite Dean Smith swapping his goal scorer for center back Ezri Konsa.
But Palace began to find chances near the hour mark and Christian Benteke turned and fired just wide in a big to level the score.
Hause delivered the lead-doubler down a man off a corner. Ollie Watkins nodded the ball off the cross bar and Hause followed it to the back post to push over the line before Guaita pawed it out and Taylor’s watch told him goal.