Aston Villa 1-1 Crystal Palace: Steven Gerrard sets his sights on a first top-half finish in 11 years after Villa Park stalemate… and his side could still have an important role to play in this season’s title race
- Ollie Watkins put Aston Villa in front with just over 20 minutes remaining
- Jeffrey Schlupp netted an equaliser inside the final 10 minutes for the visitors
- The result means Crystal Palace stay a point above Villa in the league table
- Steven Gerrard now wants his side to push on in their final two matches
- Villa are set to play title-chasing Manchester City on the final day of the season
Steven Gerrard is targeting a first-top 10 finish for Aston Villa since 2011 and could deliver the Premier League title to Liverpool if he achieves it.
Villa fans came to toast the men who lifted the European Cup 40 years ago as second-half goals from Ollie Watkins and Jeffrey Schlupp – four minutes after coming on as substitute for Crystal Palace – ensured the points were shared, leaving Villa three points behind 10th-placed Brighton, with a game in hand.
That fixture is against relegation-threatened Burnley on Thursday, before Villa travel to Manchester City next Sunday. If they deny City, it may be enough to send the title to Anfield. Gerrard has already said he would like his former club to win it, something he never achieved during an outstanding playing career at Liverpool.
Steven Gerrard wants his Aston Villa side to secure a top-half finish for the first time since 2011
Ollie Watkins scored with just over 20 minutes to go to give Aston Villa the lead on Sunday
Marc Guehi slid in with him, but could not prevent Watkins from finding the net
Aston Villa (4-3-1-2): Martinez 6.5; Cash 7, Konsa 6.5 (Chambers 50, 6.5), Mings 6, Digne 6; Douglas Luiz 6.5, Nakamba 6 (Ramsey 66, 6), *McGinn 7.5*; Coutinho 5.5; Watkins 7, Ings 5.5 (Buendia 71, 5.5). Subs not used: Olsen, Sanson, Traore, Young, Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam.
Scorers: Watkins 69
Manager: Steven Gerrard 6.5
Crystal Palace (3-1-4-2): Butland 6; Kouyate 6.5, Andersen 7, Guehi 6; Milivojevic 7 (Benteke 78, 6) Clyne 6.5, Gallagher 6.5, Eze 5.5 (Schlupp 78, 6), Mitchell 6; Mateta 6 (Edouard 71, 6), Zaha 6.5. Subs not used: Guaita, Ward, Ayew, Hughes, Kelly, Rak-Sakyi.
Scorers: Schlupp 82
Booked: Gallagher, Edouard, Kouyate
Manager: Patrick Vieira 6.5
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6
Gerrard’s main concern, however, is the health of Ezri Konsa. The defender will have a scan in the coming hours to assess damage to his knee, sustained after he fell awkwardly early in the second half under pressure from Jean-Philippe Mateta.
‘We are concerned about Ezri,’ said the Villa boss. ‘There is an issue in the knee area and I would be very surprised if he plays again this season.
‘There was not much wrong with the performance but the goal we conceded was very naïve. My players are frustrated and I really like it. Hopefully they can take out that frustration on Burnley.’
The day was all about Villa’s win over Bayern Munich in Rotterdam on May 26, 1982, with banners, flags and a guard of honour for the greats in front of the club’s billionaire owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, who aim to restore those unforgettable times.
Gerrard knows his team will have to win games like these if they are to return to the elite, yet Palace deserved their point. Along with the goals, the highlight of the match was John McGinn’s running duel with Wilfred Zaha, who was typically grumpy with the officials.
‘This is part of Wilfried’s personality – a strength and a weakness at the same time,’ said Palace manager Patrick Vieira. ‘He is a player who is a target for opponents, but he has to manage his mind better.
‘He needs to keep that energy and strength to make the difference in the final third. He has to manage it better but he is a target, and at times it has been a bit difficult for him.’
Jeffrey Schlupp tapped home from close range to earn Crystal Palace a point
His goal ensured that Crystal Palace remain a point clear of Aston Villa in the table
Danny Ings came close to opening the scoring in the first half for Aston Villa
‘It’s a sideshow,’ added Gerrard. ‘He was talking to himself, or the crowd. We dealt with him well – that is all I am concerned about.’
Villa took the lead in the 69th minute when Watkins steered in Lucas Digne’s cross, though the visitors were convinced he had fouled Marc Guehi, and Vieira was booked for protesting.
But Guehi made amends eight minutes from full-time when he flicked on Joachim Andersen’s hooked cross, and Schlupp drifted away from fellow sub Emiliano Buendia to steer home the leveller.
Patrick Vieira’s side are now unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches