Palace 1 Villa 2: Gerrard gets back-to-back wins but Vieira suffers first home loss of season as Targett and McGinn net
STEVEN GERRARD came out on top of the clash of the managerial midfielders as he consigned Patrick Vieira to his first defeat in eight games.
Vieira may have taken the majority of the bragging rights in their contests as players but it is Gerrard who took the plaudits in the first time they have come face to face across rival dugouts.
Goals from Matt Targett and John McGinn were enough for Aston Villa to make it two wins out of two under their new manager.
And having taken maximum points from his two games in charge, there will be few now challenging the decision to dump Dean Smith at the start of the month.
It is the small matter of Manchester City at home next on the table for Gerrard, but however that pans out it is clear he is already getting a tune out of his players at Villa Park.
In contrast, Vieira will have to go back to basics at Selhurst Park as his team missed out on the chance of setting a club record by making it eight undefeated in the Premier League as they were well beaten.
Gerrard has wasted little time showing he is able to make the tough decisions, as Danny Ings found to his cost.
Having seen Ollie Watkins perform better of the two forwards last week against Brighton, the new boss decided it was he who should lead the line as a lone striker with Ings relegated to the bench.
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Villa’s best shape is definitely with one up top, affording them far more balance across the team to be able to compete, particularly in midfield.
And it was here they quickly gained the ascendancy against a Crystal Palace team strangely lacking in spark in the opening 45 minutes at least.
Having not lost in their previous seven match, built on performances full of tempo and verve, Vieira would have expected his team to set about Villa from the off.
And when Wilfried Zaha dragged a ball out of the sky before turning to shoot narrowly wide on 11 minutes, the early signs were promising.
But from then on, Villa simply dominated proceedings up the break as Palace endured something of a shocker – ponderous in possession and slow to react to loose balls.
Their lack of urgency was summed up fully on 15 minutes when Villa took the lead through Targett.
Ashley Young’s corner from the right evaded all the defenders, and the full-back was afford the time to control without being closed down to drive a low shot into the net.
Young then tested Vicente Guaita with a low shot at the near post before McGinn curled a lovely effort just across the face of goal with Palace on the rack.
Needing a spark from somewhere the Eagles were looking to talisman Zaha to make a difference, but instead the winger seemed intent to just get involved in a personal feud with Villa’s Matty Cash.
The pair exchanged words several times before Zaha responded to a niggly challenge to push the full-back to the floor – with both earning a booking for their troubles.
It was a sign of how in control Villa were that Palace were booed off at the break after perhaps their worst 45 minutes of the season.
Yet though the intensity improved slightly after the break, the quality was not much better and on 55 minutes they were fortunate not to go down to 10 men.
A shocking free-kick in an attacking position allowed Villa to break through Watkins, and as he cut through on goal he was hauled down by Luka Milivojevic.
The midfielder was only shown a yellow by ref Michael Salisbury, but Vieira had seen enough as he dragged his captain off to be replaced by Ebere Eze.
The playmaker’s introduction was met with a standing ovation by the fans as one of their favourites made his first appearance since rupturing his Achilles in May.
Ref Salisbury was another who was having an indifferent afternoon, and Villa were stunned when he waved a red card in the face of sub Douglas Luiz for a foul on Cheikhou Kouyate.
Luiz had only been on the pitch for five minutes, and though firm the challenge looked innocuous and after VAR urged him to look again he downgraded the dismissal to a booking.
As Villa neared the victory they began to sit in deeper protecting their lead, allowing Palace to finally start to threaten going forward.
Even so it was only in the 80th minute when they recorded their first shot on target as Christian Benteke controlled and hooked a shot over his shoulder which Emiliano Martinez held.
A minute later the Argentine keeper had to fling himself to his right to deny sub Odsonne Edouard an equaliser with a shot from the edge of the area.
Just for a moment there was the hint of a late equaliser for Palace – but those hopes were soon snuffed out by a moment of quality from McGinn.
The Scot stepped onto a ball on the edge of the area and curled a delicious shot into the top corner to make sure of all three points – despite Marc Guehi scrambling a late consolation in stoppage time.
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