Image alt text here

Match report: Villa 1-0 Palace

FT: Villa 1-0 Crystal Palace - Full match report to follow The Boss: Garde on vital win, Lescott, Kozak and staying humble
Match report: Villa 1-0 Palace

Joleon Lescott's second half header helped Rémi Garde record his first win as Villa boss on a memorable night in B6.

The victory was the claret and blues' first in the league since the opening day of the 2015/16 season and it was three points well deserved.

It could have started so differently, though.

There was an immediate let-off for Villa in the first minute when Wilfried Zaha's shot clipped the post after a clever one-two with Jason Puncheon.

It seemed to be the early wake-up call Garde's men needed - their tempo increased and their play began to get the home fans on their feet.

Libor Kozak, making his first Barclays Premier League start since Boxing Day 2013 - ironically against the Eagles - saw his shot charged down from a miscued clearance while Jordan Veretout's corner found Ashley Westwood and he shot off target from 18 yards.

As top-flight sides have become accustomed to in the past few seasons, the visitors were well drilled and tight at the back - threatening mainly on the counter-attack.

Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was first called into action on 14 minutes - Veretout trying his luck from distance - comfortable for the former Wolves custodian.

The claret and blues almost took the lead just shy of half an hour.

Forward Kozak's flick found Ayew - the Ghana international shooting into the side netting.

Such is the speed of the Londoners' front players, they charged forward immediately and came close in the next attack.

Skipper Damien Delaney worked his way between two defenders to meet Yohan Cabaye's cross but steered his effort wide, much to the relief of those of a claret and blue persuasion.

The home side finished the first period strongly winning a number of corners.

Midfielders Gana and Westwood both saw efforts blocked by Dann and Delaney respectively.

Whatever Garde said at half-time proved dividends.

Kozak, clearly regaining match sharpness required at this level, grew into the contest and his clever turn and shot in what appeared a cul-de-sac was turned around the post by Hennessey.

After a spell of relentless pressure, the claret and blues took a deserved lead on the hour mark - stand-in skipper Lescott heading a corner goalwards - Hennessey getting a touch but unable to prevent the ball crossing the line.

Lescott

 

Garde

 

Lescott

Moments later, Holte End hearts were in mouths as the tricky Cabaye stepped up to take a free-kick on the edge of the box but the wall did its job.

Half-time substitute Connor Wickham then let fly with an ambitious strike from distance which looped over the bar.

Garde's side worked tremendously hard to break up play and as the game opened up, their newfound confidence from taking the lead was evident for all to see.

They had the chance to wrap the game up with just under 10 minutes remaining as Kozak met Westwood's inch-perfect pass and saw his effort drift marginally wide of the target.

Villa were then grateful to the solid Jores Okore after he cleared a cross with forward Wickham lurking in front of goal.

Ayew demonstrated tremendous skill to work his way past two defenders and unleashed a drive which was just wide of the far post in what would have been game, set and match.

In truth, Alan Pardew's men were disjointed throughout and their evening was summed up in the closing stages.

Joel Ward sent a cross into the box but Dann was unable to control.

In stoppage time, the experienced Kozak used his match management skills to perfection - his persistence winning a corner as Villa were able to see the game out.

VILLA: Bunn, Bacuna, Okore, Lescott (C), Cissokho, Gana, Westwood, Veretout, Gil (Clark 90), Ayew, Kozak. Unused subs: Guzan, Richards, Sinclair, Richardson, Lyden, Gestede.

PALACE: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney (C), Souare, Cabaye, Ledley (Wickham 46), McArthur (Jedinak 78), Zaha, Puncheon, Sako (Chamakh 61). Unused subs: Speroni, Campbell, Mutch, Kelly.

By @AVFCOfficial 12th January 2016