Aston Villa paid the price for twice throwing away the lead to Crystal Palace in a second-half collapse which continues their awful record at Selhurst Park.
Villa have now won just one of their last thirteen visits to Crystal Palace. The chances of a top-half finish are all but gone now as they trail Leeds United by four points with just six points left to play for.
Ollie Watkins returned to the starting line-up following his suspension replacing Keinan Davis. Dean Smith was forced into two other changes as Ahmed Elmohamady and Kortney Hause replaced Matty Cash and Tyrone Mings respectively after both picked up knocks in the 0-0 draw with Everton. Jacob Ramsey also replaced Ross Barkley in the midfield. Jack Grealish once again, started from the bench.
Villa quick off the mark
Villa should have been in the lead inside 90 seconds when Matt Targett’s ball over the top found Watkins out on the left and then he picked out Ramsey on the edge of the box but his effort went just wide of the post.
The early pressure paid off after 17 minutes when Villa did take a deserved lead. Elmohamady’s cross was cleared and fell to John McGinn who struck the ball with the side of the foot from 25 yards out and went in off the post past Jack Butland.
At one stage this season, when Villa scored first, a victory usually followed but not anymore. Not for the first time in recent games Villa were once again pegged back. Tyrick Mitchell’s cross found Christian Benteke’s head at the far post climbing above Hause to get the home side level.
Villa were soon back in the lead, however. Two minutes later to be exact. McGinn beat former Villan Gary Cahill on the right to send over a cross, Cheikou Kouyate could only head the ball directly up and when the ball came back down, Watkins beat his man to the header, knocking it into the path of Anwar El Ghazi to score at the far post.
Despite the Palace goal, Villa looked comfortable going into half-time but things were about to change.
Within seconds of the kick-off Emi Martinez found himself having to tackle Benteke in the box following a poor back pass from Ramsey.
The warning signs were there and Benteke once again came close moments later but this time Martinez was able to deny the Belgium striker as he tipped his effort onto the bar.
With 15 minutes remaining, the home side got what they deserved. Wilfred Zaha was gifted way too much space on the left-wing before cutting inside and shot which deflected Elmohamady into the back of the net.
Once again the woodwork denied Palace when Eberechi Eze‘s long-range effort clattered off the bar but then Mitchell grabbed the winner when he was quickest to react to head home Eze’s mis-hit shot.