Thursday , July 7 2022

Jeffrey Schlupp makes instant impact to earn Crystal Palace point at Aston Villa | Premier League

A Sunday afternoon time vacuum engulfed Villa Park, two managers with an eye on both present and future leaving with a point each – Ollie Watkins’ second-half opener was cancelled out by Jeffrey Schlupp – and plenty to ponder.

Upward or downward mobility for both Aston Villa and Crystal Palace from here is minimal, so these final throes of the season are a chance for Patrick Vieira and Steven Gerrard to split their gaze.

Gerrard is enjoying the flourishing partnership between Watkins and Danny Ings. Two up top is unfashionable right now but Villa are styling it out retro with some success. Watkins now has six in his past dozen league outings, while the pair’s wavelengths are increasingly in tune. “He is a warrior, a delight to work with,” said Gerrard. “We asked him to play with the eye of the tiger in the second half and he did.”

While pleased with the performance, Gerrard was irked that Villa failed to record what would have been only a seventh home league win. “If we were more ruthless, we would have been sitting here talking about three points rather than one,” he said. “The players are frustrated and I really like that. Hopefully we can take that out [against Burnley] on Thursday night.”

Vieira too enjoyed his viewing, and a fair wind could still see them match or beat their record Premier League points haul of 49. “From minute one we controlled the game,” he said. “We didn’t deserve to concede but showed quality and character to find the strength to get back in the game.”

Before kick-off, Villa had each home supporter waving a commemorative flag marking 40 years since the club’s European Cup triumph over Bayern Munich. The current players formed a pre-match guard of honour for the heroes of Rotterdam 1982. Some history for Palace, too: 500 Premier League games and counting. Not bad given their existence has been threatened several times.

The cold reality, though, is that Vieira and Gerrard have very little interest in backward glances. Trips requiring passports is the latter’s medium-term aim. That is why Philippe Coutinho’s loan move was made permanent, a four-year contract signed and a significant wage cut taken. Yet the Brazil international has now gone nine games without a league goal or assist.

Vieira named an experimental lineup, a quartet of changes including Cheikhou Kouyaté added as a third central defender. And that brought some initial clunkiness which Ings will feel he should have exploited.

Ollie Watkins after giving Aston Villa a second-half lead
Ollie Watkins after giving Aston Villa a second-half lead. Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Three times he was wayward before the break. The last Ings shot curled wide after strong hold-up play from Watkins. “You would expect him to burst the net with his quality,” Gerrard said.

But Palace grew in both stature and control. Eberechi Eze enjoyed being deployed as a No 8 next to Conor Gallagher, though he dragged a shot wide after a rare Matty Cash error. His vision then found Wilfried Zaha, who turned, drove and the defence retracted. Emi Martínez’s palms were stung.

The combination of south London’s king and heir apparent was a glimpse forward to make the visiting supporters purr. If Vieira et al can convince Gallagher that his World Cup chances will be enhanced by remaining at Selhurst Park, the future could be very bright.

Even Nathaniel Clyne – a man of Palace past, present and, he will hope, future – was adventurous and had Martínez scrambling to tip a low strike around a post before the break.

Any half-time fizz was flattened when Ezri Konsa went down clutching his knee. There was no writhing around in agony. In fact, Konsa barely moved, Gerrard confirming he is unlikely to return this season.

The Holte End grew frustrated as their manager bashed his hands together furiously, trying to inject energy from afar. Zaha played a pantomime villain, home fans goading him. The forward simply gestured for them to raise the volume.

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Soon afterwards they did, Lucas Digne’s whipped cross from deep poked home by Watkins after a spot of wrestling with Marc Guéhi. VAR was unwilling to intervene and Vieira was booked for protesting. “From where I was, I thought it was a foul,” he said. “But I did not have a chance to look at it again.”

Villa’s lead lasted just a dozen minutes. They failed to clear a free-kick and Joachim Andersen hooked back across goal. Guéhi flicked on and the substitute Schlupp ensured his impact was instant. “Naive” is the word Gerrard used repeatedly.

Jack Butland denied Digne in injury time before Watkins raced clear and missed. The draw was just about fair.

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