Forty one thousand gathered at Villa Park, keen to take in a rare Saturday 3pm kick off and off the back of an away win at Everton last time out.
This was a difficult afternoon’s “entertainment”, against a dysfunctional opposition side, with Villa finding themselves suffering the footballing equivalent of writer’s block for most of the game.
However, a win is a win, and this is certainly the kind of game that Villa would somehow have conspired to lose in the recent past.Embed from Getty Images
Villa barely got out of second gear across the 90 minutes, which whilst giving the impression of some control over proceedings, did little to inspire the gathered masses. Momentary bouts of excitement were often displaced by the sounds of frustration from the stands. It all depends on your outlook as the squad adapts to a possession-based style of play.
Emery will no doubt reflect on some good fortune when it came to a welcome second clean sheet. Zaha, returning after a spell out injured, was a nuisance. The 30-year-old forward warned of his potential threat by finishing well inside 5 minutes, only to see his effort chalked off for offside after a VAR check.
Palace’s other forays forward were disjointed and either broken down by Kamara or McGinn, or wayward passes/crosses drifting harmlessly out of play. Patrick Viera’s side did look every bit the team that had struggled to score, let alone win in 2023.
Villa managed to force what would be the only goal on the half hour.
This came after a good run and cross from Matty Cash was diverted into his own net by Palace’s Joachim Anderson. This capped a decent performance from Cash, who has attributed a recent uptick in performances being due to the input of the new manager.
Ollie Watkins meanwhile, who had barely seen the ball in the opening period, had a glorious opportunity to score a sixth goal in as many games. After smart work from Buendia, Watkins fired an effort just wide from inside the box when perfectly placed. The former Brentford striker wouldn’t get a better chance all afternoon.
The second half became ever more entrenched with Villa as cautious as Palace were lacking in desire to take the game forward.
As time went on the visitors, who the referee had permitted a number of challenges to pass, began to cross the line.
Kamara was the first victim, cynically fouled, resulting in the Frenchman receiving lengthy treatment before hobbling off the field. Replays of the incident don’t look pretty with the former Marseille midfielder’s ankle folding awkwardly under the challenge. It might be something of a miracle if the 23-year-old isn’t missing for a few weeks judging by preliminary medical reports:
Kamara’s replacement Calum Chambers appeared into the fray and impressed with a number of quick passes and interceptions. However, it wasn’t long before Chambers too was the victim of a poor challenge, one which resulted in a second yellow for Palace’s Doucoure.
This extra man did little to change the dynamic of the game. Emery introduced Duran for a late cameo, but the young Colombian saw a speculative effort rifle high above the bar, before the referee called time on proceedings.
The win keeps Villa level on points with 10th placed Chelsea and up to 34 points and just 5 points from the lofty heights of 5th.
Up next: An interesting trip to West Ham looms next Sunday, with David Moyes’ side flirting with a relegation battle following a 4-0 thumping against Brighton.
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Our idea was to win with a clean sheet – we did it. To keep everybody confident, it was an important victory. I’m very happy.
Of course, we can analyse the match and the first half and second half were very different.
The first half was better, we deserved to win that half. They had a goal but it was offside but in that first half, we were playing like we are trying to do.
Second half is a little bit strange. We weren’t very fluid but today we focus on the clean sheet and the win.VILLA BOSS FOLLOWING VICTORY OVER PALACE