It was perhaps through an unlikely source, but Aston Villa finally took a step forward in their push for Premier League survival, as two Trézéguet goals pushed the Claret and Blues past Crystal Palace, 2–0.
Early on Sunday at Villa Park, it looked like Dean Smith’s men would play from behind, as Mamadou Sakho scored an opener on 7 minutes — but Villa caught what feels like a rare stroke of good fortune, as the goal was ruled out for handball. The French defender appeared to have scored off his shoulder, but the VAR determined the shot was off his arm instead (a similar decision to the penalty Tyrone Mings conceded against Leicester City)
The Claret and Blues’ first clear-cut chance came on the half-hour mark, when Ahmed Elmohamady played in a perfect ball to Mbwatta Samatta’s head — but the Tanzanian striker headed over from the middle of the penalty area. Seven minutes later, Villa were forced into a chance, as Matt Targett replaced Neil Taylor, who’d picked up a knock early in the match.
Villa had a second clear-cut chance in the 39th minute, and it was Elmohamady — only in the XI due to Kortney Hause picking up a pre-match injury — who again played creator. The Egyptian full-back hit a good cross that found Grealish making a run toward the back post, but Vicente Guaita did well to save the Villa captain’s effort. Just two minutes later, Pepe Reina was called into action, as old friend Christian Benteke had a double-chance to put the Eagles ahead, but the Villa goalkeeper stood firm.
Dean Smith’s men finally got their breakthrough on the stroke of half-time, and just like every goal they’ve scored since the restart, it came from a set piece. Conor Hourihane played a great ball in from a free kick on the left wing, and the ball ran to Trézéguet at the back post, the Egyptian winger turning home to put the Claret and Blues ahead.
For a moment, it looked like Villa would have a chance to make it 2–0 early in the second half, as Martin Atkinson pointed to the spot for a foul on Jack Grealish. Annoyingly for Villa though, the VAR today got the decision right, unlike against Manchester United three days ago — Grealish had stepped on Patrick van Aanholt, not the other way around, and the penalty was waved off.
The Claret and Blues kept the pressure on, though, and on 59 minutes, they finally turned home on the third of three great chances. Hourihane had a stellar free kick saved by Guaita to start the spell, and Ezri Konsa was denied by another good Guaita save on the ensuing corner. Palace failed to clear their lines appropriately, though, and Villa took advantage — Hourihane’s header back into the box found Trézéguet, who slotted home calmly for his brace just before the hour mark.
Villa kept the pressure on after their goal — Hourihane having another go from outside the box in the 63rd minute was a notable chance — and kept the visitors at bay until the 75th minute. It was Palace’s first big chance of the second half, as a potentially offside van Aanholt was played through, but Reina made a strong save to keep Villa 2–0 to the good. A couple minutes later, Villa caught a break; Benteke took the ball off Scott Dann’s head, and sent a weak header over when Dann looked more likely than not to score.
Villa would regain their foothold, though, and it could’ve easily been 3–0 on 86 minutes. Matt Targett brilliantly passed the ball across the box for both Trézéguet and Keinan Davis — but both the Villa winger and striker failed to connect, and the ball ran out for a goal kick.
The Claret and Blues saw out their first win in 12 and second clean sheet of 2020, and will now head to Everton on Thursday, knowing that another win puts them just one point back of Watford and West Ham United. Those two sides play Friday night.