Mahmoud Trezeguet downs Crystal Palace to keep Aston Villa's hopes alive

Paul Doyle at Villa Park on 12 July 2020

Aston Villa are not going to go down without a fight after all. They started slowly here but ended up dominant, fully deserving of the three points secured by two goals from Mahmoud Trezeguet. It has been a long time since a Villa forward scored one goal, let alone a pair, so Dean Smith’s side were grateful for the Egyptian’s sharpness, which ended a streak of 10 leagues games without a win.

Villa are still in the relegation zone but only four points below West Ham and Watford. Their remaining matches are against Everton, Arsenal and West Ham. They cannot count on any of those sides being as vulnerable as Palace, who sagged to their fifth straight defeat here. The visitors played like a team who want the season to finish; it may be over for Christian Benteke, who was shown a red card after the final whistle for kicking out at Ezri Konsa as the players headed for the tunnel.

Before anyone could address football problems, both clubs were moved to condemn another outbreak of racism before kick-off after Wilfried Zaha revealed abuse he was sent on social media. West Midlands police have arrested a 12-year-old boy from Solihull in connection with the abuse.

The game itself did not start as Villa would have wished. Palace even had the ball in the net in the seventh minute when Mamadou Sakho redirected a free-kick in but the goal was disallowed after VAR ruled he had used his arm rather than his shoulder. It was a close call but given the penalty decision that triggered Villa’s defeat here on Thursday to Manchester United, and the goal they had chalked off at Selhurst Park earlier this season, Villa no doubt considered the verdict a welcome break in their favour.

Then they took charge of their destiny, demonstrating enterprise and solidity that Palace could not match. Douglas Luiz again shone in midfield and Ahmed Elmohamady made several raids down the right, Jack Grealish and Mbwana Samatta both failing to find the net after dangerous crosses by the full-back.

Zaha made sporadic darts for the visitors but Pepe Reina saved his best effort in the first half. As the game seemed to drift towards the interval, Villa got the goal they badly needed. After a foul on Grealish, Conor Hourihane curled over a free-kick from the left, Joel Ward could only head it backwards, and Trezeguet tucked it into the net at the far post.

Trezeguet of Aston Villa scores his second goal.
Trezeguet of Aston Villa scores his second goal. Photograph: Visionhaus

Villa had a penalty decision overturned by VAR at the start of the second half after Grealish tangled with Patrick van Aanholt. They did not dwell on that. They kept attacking. Palace’s attempts to stop them alternated between flimsy tackles and blatant fouls. Vicente Guaita was forced into a flying save from a free-kick by Hourihane, and Konsa came close to scoring from the resultant corner. Then Trezeguet struck again, finishing neatly after a nodded pass by Hourihane.

Palace mustered some pride towards the end and tried to make the contest closer. But Reina did well to foil their best effort, prevailing in a one-on-one with Van Aanholt.

“That win has been a while coming but our performance deserved it,” said Smith. “Our second-half performance was really pleasing. We kept our foot on the gas, we were aggressive and created a number of chances.”

“It’s taken a little while for [Trezeguet] to adapt to the Premier League but he’s looked a real threat in the last few games. His attitude is spot-on, he works his socks off and he deserved those goals.”

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