Anwar El Ghazi’s Christmas cracker seals a 3-0 win for 10-man Aston Villa over Crystal Palace at Villa Park.
Goals from Bertrand Traore, Kortney Hause and Anwar El Ghazi gave Villa a convincing win against their South London opposition despite having Tyrone Mings sent off in the first half.
Dean Smith named an unchanged side to the one that were dominant in victory over West Brom less than a week ago, as he celebrated his 100th game in charge of the Villains.
The celebrations were almost halted inside the first 40 seconds when Wilfried Zaha raced through one on one, however the Palace forward was denied by Emiliano Martinez.
The visitors had only kept one clean sheet in their last 28 matches and only held out for four minutes. Traore played Ollie Watkins in and the striker drove into the box before unleashing a strike which was well saved by the right hand of the Palace keeper.
However, the ball fell kindly into the path of the Burkina Faso international who smashed the ball into the roof of the net to put Villa in front with his second goal in as many weeks.
Villa were yet to be beaten in the league when scoring first this season, and out the two sides they looked the more likely to score next.
Goal scorer Traore almost doubled Villa’s lead after 16 minutes and his total when he cut in from the right and curled a left footed effort that beat Guita but not the post.
Minutes later Jack Grealish latched onto a through ball and charged into the box but pressure from the covering defender put the skipper off balance and he could only strike his shot at the Palace shot stopper.
VAR’s first involvement came a little after 20 minutes when Matty Cash challenged Patrick Van Aanholt in the area, which Anthony Taylor initially ignored. After being advised to review the incident, Taylor went over to the monitor and after minutes of consultation stuck with his original decision to not award the penalty.
Mings and Zaha were involved in a coming together on half way after the Palace man reacted angrily to a tackle from the Villain. Once the Ivory Coast international had been separated by teammates, both were cautioned.
A fantastic ball from the right found El Ghazi unmarked back post who did well to control and strike quickly, although his effort went straight at the Spaniard.
Villa had controlled the opening half without disturbance but were dealt a blow when Mings was shown a second yellow in injury time. The English international was dispossessed on half way by Zaha and left the referee no other choice to show red when he blocked off the striker.
For the four minutes added on at the end of the half, the game showed signs of turning. Martinez, who had been mostly a bystander, was called into action twice to deny Luka Milivojevic and Eberechi Eze from levelling.
Villa started the second half in a more conservative way allowing the visitors have more of the possession. However, in front of goal little tested the Villa shot stopper.
Christian Benteke had what was Palace’s best chance of the half with a strike inside the box. The former Villain, who scored 49 goals in 101 games for Aston Villa, saw his shot narrowly bounce wide of the post.
Villa doubled their lead 24 minutes from the end through their centre back, Hause, who was the quickest to react to the ball rebounding off the cross bar.
Watkins’ header from a free kick struck the bar and was put in by Hause who climbed higher than his opponent to head past Guita despite his best efforts to prevent the ball crossing the line.
The game was put to bed 10 minutes later when El Ghazi scored his fourth goal in four games with a Christmas cracker.
Grealish led a break for the hosts, which ended in Watkins teeing up the winger who curled his effort first time off the post and into the top corner. El Ghazi has already equaled his goal total in the league of last season after only 13 games.
Roy Hodgson sat deflated in his seat, and his side almost had a consolation goal through Joel Ward. The right back’s over hit cross nearly crept in the far post, although the ball ended up bouncing off the bar.
After his lightning start to the season, Watkins was without a goal in his last five games with two goals disallowed in those games.
It looked as though his small drought in front of goal had ended when Grealish’s reverse pass found him inside the box, but his left footed strike across goal rebounded of the inside of the post.
Smith’s men produced another dominating attacking performance to claim victory, and in defence have kept three clean sheets in a row and seven in total in the league- the same amount as the whole of last campaign.