First victory in 10 for Aston Villa comes against Palace

Christian Benteke on the scoresheet again after nine-month barren spell

Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Crystal Palace 0 Aston Villa 1

How Paul Lambert and Aston Villa needed this, a first victory in 10 and a first goal for Christian Benteke since March. It eases the pressure on a side who somehow left south London three points better off, Benteke's first-half effort enough for a valuable win despite the visitors spending the majority of this match on the backfoot.

For Crystal Palace and Neil Warnock sharpening their attack must now be a priority. They came into the game in reasonable form but were too often let down by disappointing decisions and terrible touches. Brad Guzan ultimately proved unbeatable and Villa, so often on the receiving end of late goals, held on.

The Palace ownership issue lingers on, with Josh Harris’ mooted takeover not expected to be resolved until the New Year, but Villa’s American owner will be mightily relieved at this result, ending a rot that had threatened to seep into the busy Christmas period.


Both these sides had accrued 13 Premier League points before this game, each managing only three wins this season. For Palace, though, there was certainly more optimism in the winter air before kick-off with a recent victory over Liverpool and a point at Swansea providing some cheer following a difficult spell. For Villa the situation appeared bleak. Lambert's side also won against Liverpool but their Anfield success seemed a distant memory, coming as it did before an abject winless run that had provided just three goals and three draws in nine matches.

They started poorly here but somehow ended the first half in front courtesy of Benteke’s first goal of the campaign. Palace could and perhaps should have extended Villa’s woe but found Brad Guzan in excellent form and their own forwards wretchedly wasteful.

Joe Cole was replaced in the ninth minute by Carlos Sánchez because of injury as Villa attempted to quell early Palace pressure. Guzan fumbled an early effort from Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak could not quite make decisive contact when backheeling from a corner, as the white shirts fought to keep Palace at bay.

Their resistance paid off. Benteke, returning from a three-match suspension following a red card against Tottenham, was the only man who looked like causing Palace any trouble and so it proved.

There was a warning sign four minutes before his opening goal when the Belgian striker turned Scott Dann on the edge of the penalty area and curled an effort towards the top corner, but Julian Speroni tipped it over.

Speroni was helpless when Benteke gave his side the lead. Again it was Dann at fault, the centre-half who has performed admirably this season. Benteke dispossessed the defender on the left touchline midway inside the Palace half before driving forward and finishing precisely into the bottom corner.

Guzan's goal now came under renewed threat but the American was not to be beaten before the break. Palace pressed and looked dangerous but too often the cross from wide was overhit or the shot delayed. Wilfried Zaha rifled an effort straight at Guzan from inside the area in the 34th minute and seconds later Bolasie forced the Villa goalkeeper into another excellent save from close range.

The second half continued in much the same vein. Zaha’s delivery from wide left much to be desired all night, and Bolasie’s was not much better.

He drilled a low ball into the penalty area with Palace’s first attack of the half but Chamakh had run ahead of it, and moments later the Moroccan forward could not make decisive contact with a header from another Bolasie cross.

Villa were content to play on the break and Benteke almost doubled his tally for the evening in the 51st minute but Ashley Westwood’s free-kick from deep flew narrowly over his head and into the grateful clutches of Speroni.

Fraizer Campbell had been brought on at half-time for Dwight Gayle and certainly provided Palace with greater impetus in attack. The former Manchester United striker broke clear of the last man in the 57th minute and, in a desperate attempt to reach James McArthur's through-ball, ended up clattering Guzan who had already cleared.

Campbell received a yellow card and was moments later involved in more controversy, going down in the penalty area under a challenge from Ciaran Clark. The referee, Michael Oliver, deemed it a fair challenge much to the anger of the Selhurst Park crowd who were becoming increasingly incensed with the official.

Their frustration was compounded by Palace’s dreadful decision-making in attack. A bad touch here, a poor pass there – despite the space on offer whenever Warnock’s side drove forward the end product was sorely wanting.

Zaha flashed a low ball through a clutch of bodies late on but no Palace player could turn it home inside the six-yard box. It summed up their night.

Guardian Service