10-men Aston Villa brushed Crystal Palace to one side on Boxing Day following goals from Bertrand Traore, Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi. Tyrone Mings was given his marching orders just before half time after two silly bookings.
Dean Smith stuck with the side that beat West Bromwich Albion last week as the returning Ezri Konsa had to settle for a place on the bench. There was still no sign of on-loan injured midfielder Ross Barkley.
Despite Villa’s good form so far this season, the result actually ended a four-match winless run and their first win at Villa Park since the 7-2 win over Premier League Champions Liverpool in October.
Another early goal for Villa
It didn’t take long for Villa to get themselves ahead although it good have been so different had Wilfred Zaha took his chance very early on. Traore tried to play a pass back to Emi Martinez in the Villa goal from the halfway line but it took a deflection and allowed Zaha to run through as Mings was caught on the half turn. Martinez was in no mood to concede though and made easy work of Zaha’s effort.
Villa’s home form has generally been caught out due to the opposition hitting us on the counter but Smith’s men showcased their own counter-attack threat with the opener. Matt Target, who had yet another fine game, won a defensive header and the ball fell to John McGinn who then, in turn, found Traore. The winger fed Ollie Watkins who breezed past Scott Dann though his effort was parried by Vicent Guatita in the Palace goal. The ball was only directed into the path of Traore however who in turn smashed home for his second goal of the campaign.
The former Chelsea winger was in fine form and came close just moments later when he skillfully beat 3-4 Palace defenders and fired a shot but it crashed off the woodwork to deny Traore his second of the afternoon.
VAR: Don’t forget about me
Crystal Palace began to come into the game without looking any real threat but they had a shout for a penalty when Matty Cash and Patrick van Aanholt clashed in the box. My first thought that it was a penalty but referee Anthony Taylor was having none of it.
VAR did its usual thing and requested that Taylor look at the incident on the pitchside monitor which usually means the referee will change his original decision. He went against the grain however and was the first I have seen to do so and stuck with his original decision, no penalty.
I will question Taylor’s performance on a whole yesterday but I felt he was spot on here. Firstly, I don’t feel that VAR needed to get involved as it wasn’t a clear and obvious mistake. The exact reason VAR was apparently introduced.
Secondly, If Cash was judged to have got the ball, shouldn’t it have been a corner kick and not a goal kick? Unless of course, the referee judged that Cash didn’t get the ball and that Van Aanholt was already falling into Cash – my thoughts on replay. Something I guess we will never know.
Mings sees Red
What followed the decision was a crazy few minutes for Mings who would have been disappointed by himself on reflection. Zaha and Mings seemed to have clashed when we met with Palace last season at Villa Park and they seemed to continue this time around.
Zaha appeared to foul John McGinn but reacted in an angry manner as Mings come in after the challenge. On replay again, it looks like something over nothing. I am still unsure what Mings actually does apart from hold Zaha at arm’s length. Never the less, Taylor showed both players a yellow card.
I said to friends via Whatsapp as we watched the game that I could see Mings being sent off for something silly. I didn’t quite expect it to happen so quickly.
Just moments later he tangled again with Zaha after initially mistiming the ball and was given his marching orders. No-one could have had complaints about this incident and you have to question what was going through the England internationals mind at the time. Mings later excepted responsibility on his personal Twitter page.
Performance of the season that second half; lads were absolutely unreal!! I put the team in a horrible situation & I take full responsibility for that, but what a response 🦁💜🦁💜🦁
— Tyrone Mings (@OfficialTM_3) December 26, 2020
Fantastic Second Half
Villa could have been forgiven for shutting up shop and trying to protect their lead but they had different plans. What was about to unfold was arguably Villa’s best 45 minutes of the season so far.
Crystal Palace had a one-man advantage but Villa still looked the bigger threat with Watkins causing the Palace defence problems all afternoon. Smith later stated that he wouldn’t want any other striker upfront in the Premier League when down to 10-men.
The home side eventually scored their second when Luka Milivojevic gave away a silly foul on El Ghazi down the right flank. It appeared that the winger had nowhere to go. From the resulting free-kick, Watkins was first to react but the cross-bar denied his looping header and then Kortney Hause reacted ahead of Dann to head home and double Villa’s lead.
Villa completely killed off Palace with 14 minutes left on the clock. Jack Grealish played Watkins through but he over-run the ball, cut back and laid off El Ghazi who thumped a fantastic strike in off the woodwork at the far post.
Watkins also hit the post again late on as it wasn’t to be for the striker who did everything right but score on the day.
Next up for Villa is Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.