Villa 0-1 Palace
Crystal Palace won at Villa Park for the first time since ‘91 thanks to a stunning 92nd minute goal from record signing Dwight Gayle. The £4.5m man climbed from the bench to score and send the travelling Palace fans crazy in their little corner of the ground and haul the Eagles out of the relegation zone for the first time since September.
Dean Moxey won possession on the edge of his own area and played a far from orthodox one two with Jonny Williams before beating a man and threading a brilliant ball down the line for Gayle to latch on to, seeing all three of Tony Pulis’ second half substitutes combining. Gayle found himself one on one with Fabian Delph as Villa piled forward looking for a winner that would have been unlikely to arrive in a month of Sundays. The midfielder proved to be no challenge for the former Peterborough striker as he cut inside on to his right foot and curled an absolute beauty into the far top corner, past the impressive Brad Guzan.
"Barry Bannan almost returned to haunt his former club."
Barry Bannan almost returned to haunt his former club as he swept the ball towards the bottom corner only for Guzan to spring away to his left and get the faintest of finger tips onto the post. He had previously denied Puncheon and then again stopped the Southampton loanee and looked to have earned a point for his team, before Gayle opened up his body and curled home..
Smash and Grab?
As a rule I tend to avoid TalkSport like the plague. However, as Boxing Day trains are as scarce as a Palace Premier League away win against a non Steve Bruce managed team (this was the first time we have won a Premier League away game against a team not managed by Steve Bruce since March 18th 1998 – a niche joke I know) I was driven to the game (thank you, Andrew Windsor) and the radio station choice was his. What I had to listen to from Stan Collymore was absolute nonsense.
“A bit of a smash and grab from Palace” was his constant sentiment, echoed by the several Villa fans that called in.
"Guzan had to make brilliant stops on three occasions."
What game were you watching? Palace had more shots and more shots on target and created the only great chances of the game, four of them. Whilst Speroni only ever had to make extremely comfortable saves, Guzan had to make brilliant stops on three occasions, twice from Puncheon and once from Bannan, before being helpless to stop the Gayle wonder strike.
It is pointless looking at the possession stats in any Palace match, as this was all that Collymore seemed to want to look at. We let the opposition have the ball and press when danger arises. On countless occasions yesterday Palace pressed Villa until they gave the ball to Baker or Clark. Palace then stopped pressing as they were clearly not a threat and we simply allowed Baker/Clark to float awful long ball after awful long ball straight into the hands of Speroni or straight onto the head of Damien Delaney.
“That is the worst I have seen my team play this season.”
Pulis sets his team up to stifle the opposition by making them play in ways that they are not accustomed to and then trusts the pace that we have on the counter to cause the required problems. It is why you will often hear opposition fans saying “that is the worst I have seen my team play this season.” Yesterday was no different. We executed our game plan perfectly and created far greater chances on than Villa, so explain again to me exactly how this was a “smash and grab” please, Stan.
Man of the Match: Yannick Bolasie
This is a relatively controversial choice. Mile Jedinak would probably be the obvious choice and undoubtedly Adrian Mariappa would have a fair few people throwing the award his way, however, the award goes to Yala for two reasons.
Firstly, he was a constant threat. Villa struggled to deal with Yala’s blend of directness and skill and time and time again he skinned his man and got the ball into the box. On two of these occasions he found Jason Puncheon who should have scored.
"His attacking threat neutralised Aston Villa’s natural game plan."
Secondly, his attacking threat neutralised Aston Villa’s natural game plan. Villa like to counter attack at pace. This is always going to be tough against a team that allows you to have the ball as Palace do, however, Newcastle showed last week that teams at the top level can manufacture the game situations that they want and managed to hit on the break constantly by drawing players out of position in the middle of the park. By Yala sticking wide and constantly attacking the Villa fullback had to stay back and thus could not get forward to support Agbonlahor. This meat that Mariappa was only ever up against one man, Agbonlahor in the main, and this is where he is very good as opposed to having to deal with an overlapping fullback where he looks awful.
Basically put, Bolasie’s attacking menace stopped Villa from attacking effectively. Well played, Yala.
Oh Boxing Day, you do have a tendency to create shoddy football crowds. Obviously we sang for most of the game and were far better than our opponents, however, there were certainly a scent of Christmas Day hangover in there. Obviously the goal sparked the previous steadfast observers into life but it too late by then to create anything special.
Could do better.
Up Next: Manchester City
Without doubt the toughest fixture this season. 9 wins from 9 for City at home probably means that we have a snowballs chance in hell of coming away with anything but a thrashing. But who knows, stranger things have happened in football.
Come on you Palace!