Villa have played a lot better this season without getting points, but the three points off Palace are truly welcome. In another exciting encounter Villa showed enough grit and determination and rode its luck to rob Warnock and his men.
I don’t think any team has come at Villa the way the home side did in the first 12 minutes. Villa looked nervy from kick off as it tried to get in a passing rhythm like it tried at Turf Moor on Saturday. Nobody seemed to want the ball and it was too easily surrendered. Even Guzan looked uncharacteristically nervy when he failed to hold on to the ball.
Eight minutes in a Joe Cole limped off injured and Sanchez came on. Once Sanchez did get the ball Villa began to play the ball well and the Columbian’s passes were solid and accurate, if short.
Wide men Bolasie and Zaha were under orders to run at the full backs every time and they got crosses in every time, but either the crosses were too high or dealt with by Okore or Clarke. Okore and Cissokho were looking shaky on the ball and Okore was out of position too many times.
Up front Villa weren’t keeping the ball. Benteke’s first touch was awful for the first 20 minutes, but Villa was at least getting a grip of midfield.
On 25 minutes Benteke fired his first warning shot, which the Palace keeper swatted away very well. Palace did not heed the warning and Villa grabbed a goal after 31 minutes. Benteke saw that former Blues defender Scott Dann was laboring on the ball 35 yards out on the touchline, the Belgian out muscled Dann and ran away from him. Hangeland backed up and with no support just dared BENTEKE to run around him, instead he used the large centre half as a screen unleashing a low curling strike that caught Speroni out.
Palace’s response was swift as the home team roared on by its fans peppered Villa’s goal for the next few minutes. Guzan had a shot bounce off his chest and Villa finally cleared.
For the final minutes Villa looked in control again and at half time the commentator mentioned that Villa would be thrilled to go in at the half 1 up after the amount of possession and shots Palace had had.
Then the stats appeared and Villa was credited with 67% possession!!!!
Half-time saw Campbell on for Gayle who had a back injury and who had just ruined attacks with his silly fouls.
Villa started out the blocks well, but again Palace jumped on everything with a high pressing game and then running at the full backs. Villa was back on the ropes and Palace was pounding. However the final ball was always just off.
The home fans and Warnock became impatient with the ref not automatically giving them decisions whenever one of their players hit the floor. It became fever pitch when Campbell went through onside, but beaten to the ball by the alert Guzan and left a leg out giving the keeper a dead leg and memories of a perfect flying spin through the air. The card came out much to the annoyance of the fans.
Tackles were flying and holding was the norm, but the ref tried to allow the game to flow and allowed the physical stuff. The fans thought Clark was guilty of a hold in the area on Chamakh, but again the ref was spot on.
Zaha pushed Cleverley into the hoardings after the Villa midfielder had kicked the ball away when it crossed the line. Later on Campbell, on a booking, would push Cissokho toward the adverts, then hip checked Sanchez into them as well.
Weimann should have scored when he got a lucky ricochet in the area, but his shot was straight at Speroni. At the other end Guzan spilled the ball as he was being jumped into, illegally according to Mr. Oliver, then came out for the ball on another cross and got nowhere near it. Another scary Brad moment came when he tried to keep the ball from going for a corner and again dropped it to Chamakh’s feet, but it had crossed the line, finally a shot cross was spilled with no Palace forwards around.
The most comical moments for me were whenever Palace got a free kick and Benteke was nearby, he would pick the ball up and hand it to his opponent as if to say he wanted no controversy.
In the end Villa held out the 5 extra minutes fairly comfortably. Weimann picked up a booking, so he and Cole won’t be playing against Leicester and that maybe a good thing as some of these lads need a rest after the last 4 tight games.
Hutton once again inched his way to becoming player of the season with another MOTM performance.
If there is a complaint it is that Lambert will not switch tactics even though it was barely working.
For all the commentators spewing about Palace possession the stats showed Villa ending with 54%, maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.