Crystal Palace 3 – 2 Aston Villa
An end of season clash With Crystal Palace was a real turning point for Aston Villa last season. Three of the eight points Villa gained to stay up, came as Trezeguet fired two past the Eagles. It would be fair to say there was a little bit less on the line this time out; both teams were safe from relegation, and Villa were comfortably sat in 11th, with a top half finish fading fast.
The last game for the Villans at Selhurst Park was ruined by some inept refereeing by Kevin Friend and he is yet to referee a Villa game since the incident last season.
Dean Smith made four changes to the side that drew against Everton. The most surprising came as Tyrone Mings dropped out for Kortney Hause, after suffering some after effects from his collision with Emi Martinez at the end of the Toffees encounter (he’ll return against Spurs). Other than that, Matty Cash was forced out due to injury (out for the rest of the season), Ahmed Elmohamady came in, Keinan Davis was replaced by the now available Ollie Watkins, and Jacob Ramsey took the place of Ross Barkley.
Villa started the game fantastically, with chances for Ramsey and Hause. After another handful of attacking opportunities, the ball rolled to John McGinn outside the box. The Scot caressed the ball into the bottom corner off the post, and the Villans had a deserved lead.
The next ten minutes were sloppy, and the home side came back into the game. After giving the ball away several times while playing out of defence, Christian Benteke looped a header over Martinez. This was the Belgian’s first goal against Villa since leaving in 2015.
It wouldn’t take long to cancel out that goal though, as Anwar El Ghazi profited from poor marking and hard work from Watkins. His low finish made sure that Villa went in at half-time up by a goal.
Villa simply didn’t show up in the second-half, as Crystal Palace notched the most attempts in any game they’ve played this season. After giving the ball away time after time, Wilfried Zaha drew the home side level. Villa huffed and puffed in reply, without any composure. Then Tyrick Mitchell ghosted in front of Elmohamady and shouldered the ball into the net.
The collapse complete, Villa didn’t look like grabbing a late equalizer. This performance was one of a team that was disrupted at the back, and on the beach. The management of the ball was poor, it looked like the players were handling a grenade, not a football, as they rushed the ball on and inevitably gave it away.
The game didn’t matter, but it was still a disappointing performance.
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Emiliano Martinez – 6
Emi Martinez had some uncharacteristically poor moments both with his feet, and coming to claim crosses. That being said, the ex-Arsenal man cannot be blamed for any of the goals, and he did in fact make some important saves. He can’t have been helped by the two changes to the backline, and the clear loss of the presence of Mings.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5
Ahmed Elmohamady has done some good things in a Villa shirt, but he’s lost what little pace he had, and his defensive positioning is dreadful. Up against Zaha it was a complete mismatch, and it really showed. The experienced full-back was torched by the Ivory Coast international at every opportunity, and over committed time after time when going forward.
Ezri Konsa – 5
Ezri Konsa struggled to deal with Zaha when Elmo was caught out of position. He failed to shepherd the tricky winger out of the box for the second Palace goal. On top of this he had some dodgy moments on the ball. This somewhat proved that while Konsa is an excellent defender, he needs someone of similar quality alongside him who can organise, as the defence was all over the place at times.
Kortney Hause – 5
Kortney Hause was a liability with the ball at his feet, causing several moves to break down before they started, keeping Villa on the back foot. On top of this, the strong defender missed two great chances to score. Hause is great at meeting the ball in the air, he just can’t direct it very well. It’s clear that the side missed Tyrone Mings’ presence.
Matt Targett – 6
Much like the rest of the eleven, Matt Targett had a much better first-half than second. The attacking full-back played some lovely passes forward into El Ghazi, and was a threat on the overlap as he has been so many times this season. Defensively he dealt relatively well with Andros Townsend, though his task was a lot easier than Elmohamady’s on the opposite side.
Douglas Luiz – 6
Douglas Luiz made a couple of interceptions, and passed the ball the most accurately of any Villa player. However, the Brazilian wasn’t able to pick up the slack when John McGinn was booked and couldn’t put in any more tackles. Palace ran the show in the second-half, and maybe Luiz throwing in a tackle here or there may have helped Villa to turn the tide.
John McGinn © – 6
The yellow card that John McGinn picked up contributed to his performance to falling off a cliff, after an influential first half. He started off terrorising the opposition midfield, and scored a goal and helped to set up the second. In the second-half he couldn’t pass the parcel, as he managed to end the game with the worst pass completion of any Villa player.
Bertrand Traore – 5
It was a quiet 60 minutes for Bertrand Traore. The Burkina Faso international wasn’t at his best, and failed to really impact the game. Having Traore in front of Elmohamady on the right spelled disaster for Villa, as the lack of back tracking allowed Zaha to tear up the Villans right side.
Jacob Ramsey – 4
Jacob Ramsey started the game by missing a good chance, and his afternoon didn’t improve from there. He played the least passes and had the least touches of any starter, and was dispossessed or had an unsuccessful touch four times. His defensive work and pressing were suspect at times too. He still has a lot to learn, but the reality is Villa didn’t look improved with Ramsey in the side instead of Barkley.
Anwar El Ghazi – 7
Anwar El Ghazi was lively and confident for the majority of the game. The Dutchman looked the most likely of any Villa player to cause the Eagles problems, and linked up well with Matt Targett in the first-half. The best moments from the visitors in the second 45 came from El Ghazi also, including a low free-kick that nearly caught Jack Butland off his guard.
Ollie Watkins – 7
There was plenty of tireless effort from Ollie Watkins, as fans have come to expect. At times he matched this with moments of great quality and hold up play. The pinnacle of this was a flicked header back to El Ghazi for Villa’s second. His problem was that he too often drifted out wide instead of staying down the middle, and he gave the ball away cheaply once or twice.
Off the Bench
Jack Grealish (64) – 6
Jack Grealish showed flashes of the player that fans know and love. In spite of these flashes, he too often stood on the left-wing, waiting for the ball to come to him, instead of making runs in behind or inside. Weirdly, it may take the team a bit of time to adjust back to playing with Grealish in the team, as the attack has been much more evenly spread across both wings in recent weeks.
Keinan Davis (84) – n/a
Keinan Davis had one moment of note in his short spell on the pitch. His near-post header was a fair distance wide, when the team really needed him to hit the target.
Wesley (87) – n/a
Wesley got on the pitch in another positive step for his recovery and return to match sharpness. He made three touches in his time on, which was somehow two more than Davis.
Dean Smith – 5
Aston Villa have dropped 19 points from winning positions in 2021. This stat is worrying, and we can only hope that it doesn’t continue into next season. Collapses like this one from Dean Smith’s men are more reminiscent of last season than the dazzling start to 2020/21.
On top of this, Crystal Palace haven’t won after being behind at half-time for three years. There’s a lot to be worried about, even if games like this don’t really matter.