Aston Villa and the forgettable fire

Villa beat Crystal Palace and Dave Woodhall tries to remember what happened.

There are few words in football that make the heart beat slower than ‘Crystal’ and ‘Palace’. Some teams have a reputation for playing good football, or for being cup specialists, or even that most hackneyed of cliches, sleeping giants. Palace have a reputation for existing. They’ve never really done anything, or been anywhere, except for when they needed a rival so they took a trip to the coast to find one. Games against Palace are ones to get out of the way, and they never live long in the memory. This one will be no exception.

Emiliano Buendia started in place of Leon Bailey, who was either dropped for his alleged indiscretions or because he’s been underwhelming for much of the season. We were down to eight subs and two of them were keepers again, which might make sense to the manager but I wish he’d let the rest of us in on the reason because to me it looks like a waste of at least one place, particularly as one of the keepers was Robin Olsen.

Palace had an early goal disallowed for a VAR-ruled offside, and being as objective as possible, if it had been the other way round I would be furious. It might be here to stay, and the authorities will never admit they get anything wrong, but having a toenail offside shouldn’t be enough to rule out a goal.

Nothing much happened for a while after that, until John McGinn laid on a ball for Matty Cash to run onto, he put over a cross for the oncoming Ollie Watkins and the ball flew perfectly-placed into the corner of the net to give Villa the lead. it would have given Watkins another record had the ball got to him, but he must have been impressed by the way the Palace defender took his own goal. Watkins should really have scored himself on half-time, but Buendia’s through ball ended up with his shot creeping just the wrong side of the post. Maybe he should have asked the player marking him for a few tips.

The second half had few things to remember, either. Boubacar Kamara was taken off after a foul that deserved more than a booking, his replacement was Calum Chambers, who barely had time to touch the ball before being brought down by the same player and Palace were down to ten men for the final half-hour.

That really was about it. Villa got three points from limited opponents whose spoiling made the game difficult for us, which is something we can usually do well enough ourselves. It was important to win today, not only to start picking up points at at home again but also to keep in touch with the sides above us, as well as widening the gap away from the ones below. We did that, we didn’t concede again and that outside chance of getting into Europe is still there. And when we do make the long-overdue next European trip, I doubt very much that we’ll remember this as one of the steps on the journey.