Aston Villa experienced something they hadn’t in a hell of a long time Tuesday night against Crystal Palace.
A win is the obvious answer.
But that’s not the one I’m looking for. Let’s this one instead: a bit of luck.
I wrote two weeks ago on how Villa’s defense hadn’t been good this term, but how it had also been more than a little bit unlucky. Perhaps that, for the whole squad, turned a little bit Tuesday?
From the onset yesterday, Lady Luck finally smiled on Villa when Wilfred Zaha’s opening-minute shot hit the far post and stayed out — inches, perhaps just one, separated Villa from still being level and from behind behind fewer than 60 seconds in.
It would’ve killed the spirits and dampened the mood around Villa Park.
But fortunately for the Claret and Blues, it didn’t.
Then, after it became abundantly clear the Eagles came for a point — and to perhaps snatch three on the break if they were lucky — it also became obvious Villa were going to have a hard time forcing anything other than a 0-0. Palace has a superb defence, especially away from home, and they’ve been one of the best sides this year at keeping teams silent.
Rémi Garde’s side had a lot of the ball Tuesday and more importantly, most of the territory, but couldn’t do much with it. Palace came to park the bus and it was evident from a Villa side that still, quite honestly, lacks a lot of ideas going forward. A match where they have to hold the majority of the possession still may not suit this side, especially given the personnel on the pitch.
But Villa pushed, no matter the likely futility of their efforts — and a quarter of the way through the second half, Villa prayers were answered with a bit of luck.
From a Jordan Veretout-taken corner, Joleon Lescott struck a header that merely, one thought, was going to force a simple save from Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey. It was weakly-hit and straight at him. If anything in goalkeeping is ever routine, it might’ve been that save.
Villa’s luck, however, dictated otherwise. Hennessey bobbled the initial save and then knocked it under himself and across the goal line for the goal, the only one of the match. Villa bore down from there to get the most vital three points of the season, bringing the club within single digits of 17th place.
Garde’s side still has its work left over for itself, sure. But I’ve always maintained this squad isn’t as bad as the points total might suggest. Time and time again, Villa would seem to play alright, if not a slight cut below the opponent, but was unable to get even a point. When Villa were marginally better than their opponents, they’d drew. A win, deserved or fortunate, never creeped into the picture.
If Villa are going to get out of the plight they’re in right now and pull arguably the greatest escape of all in English top-flight history, it’s going to take some of the best football we’ve seen at Villa Park in ages.
But it’s also going to take a little bit of luck. Villa finally got that Tuesday — and with a visit from high-flying Leicester City this Saturday, maybe a pinch more of it could boost our beloved Villa’s survival chances.
Smile for a bit today. Thanks to luck, we have hope. And hope leaves the door open for more moments like this…
Up the Villa.