An incredibly poor second-half from Aston Villa handed Crystal Palace three points as the home side came from behind to win 3-2 at Selhurst Park. Villa held the half-time lead at 2-1, but put in a half to forget as Palace dominated play with numerous chances and took advantage with an 84th minute winner from young full-back, Tyrick Mitchell. Of course, it was his first professional goal and led to the Palace coming from behind at half-time to win for the first time in 32 attempts.
Mings out as Watkins returns
Villa made four changes to their starting 11, most notably, Kortney Hause, who started for the first time this year in place of vice captain, Tyrone Mings, who hadn’t recovered from a knock. Ollie Watkins also returned after his suspension, Ahmed Elmohamady replaced the injured Matty Cash and Jacob Ramsey came in for Ross Barkley. As Dean smith hinted at, following the Everton game on Thursday, Jack Grealish wasn’t ready to start and was again on the bench.
The first 15 minutes of the game completely belonged to Villa. Jacob Ramsey missed a good opportunity from just outside the box and Hause headed wide twice from corners, before Villa finally broke the deadlock. John McGinn, who was the standout player of the first-half, passed the ball into the far post from around 20 yards out after a headed attempted away from the Palace goal fell straight to him. This was only McGinn’s third league goal of the season and second in recent weeks. As soon as the goal went in, momentum completely switched as Palace seemed to wake up.
Emiliano Martinez made a couple of good saves from Jeffrey Schlupp and an Andros Townsend free-kick as former Villan, Gary Cahill, blazed a volley over. It was of course another former player that grabbed Palace’s goal as Christian Benteke scored a header that Villa fans were used to. After failing to clear their lines, Mitchell clipped a good cross in and Benteke out jumped Hause to head across goal and level the scores.
Despite the spell of Palace pressure, Villa fired right back as Anwar El Ghazi bagged his ninth league goal of the season. After a cross was only headed upwards, Ollie Watkins’ clever header found El Ghazi who fired past Jack Butland – with the Dutchman full of confidence after his call-up to the provisional Euro Netherlands squad.
45 Minutes to forget
Villa made a shaky start to the second-half as Martinez almost gifted Palace an equalizer, but recovered well to make amends and tackle Benteke. The keeper, who would have been frustrated to lose a possible record-breaking clean sheet early on, then made a phenomenal save from a Benteke header shortly after, maintaining Villa’s advantage.
Grealish replaced Bertrand Traore after 64 minutes to build up more fitness, but Villa never really managed to get him involved in the game due to the constant Palace possession. Their pressure finally resulted in an equalizer as Wilfried Zaha cut inside past Ezri Konsa on the left-hand side and fired a shot, which deflected past a helpless Martinez off Elmohamady.
With 15 left to play, it only looked like one side would go on to win it and unfortunately, it wasn’t Villa. Ebere Eze, who was probably the best player on the pitch, caused Villa problems in the second-half as he drove at the Villa defense and linked play extremely well. His shot from outside the box struck the bar shortly before his miscued shot was nudged home by Mitchell for the winner just two minutes later. Mitchell crept in to react first to the wayward shot and guided the ball home with what looked like a combination of shoulder and chest, meaning even VAR couldn’t save Villa. Two late chances came from substitute Kienan Davis and then Konsa, but neither could direct their headers on target.
Top-half hopes fade away...
Given this was Villa’s easiest game on paper, a failure to secure three points yet again from a winning position is incredibly frustrating. It seemed for a long spell of the season that when Villa took the lead in games, they would be guaranteed to take all three points. In recent weeks, it has now been a case of allowing the opposition to peg them back and even go on to win.
Other than the Grealish substitution, Smith didn’t make any further changes until Palace’s winner was scored and he probably should have reacted sooner to try and adjust the midfield and take back the ball from Palace. Villa seemed to miss the voice and organisation of Tyrone Mings at the back, who should return for the midweek game against Tottenham Hotspur.
On a positive note, this was the last game Villa will play without any fans in the stadium for what is hopefully a very long time. Two tough fixtures against Tottenham and Chelsea round out the season and hopefully with Grealish likely to start, Villa can end the season on a high and recover from today’s disappointment.