Mitchell’s first goal for Eagles earns all three points in 3-2 victory over Aston Villa
By Alessandro Schiavone at Selhurst Park
Crystal Palace came from behind to see off Aston Villa 3-2 at Selhurst Park with Tyrick Mitchell providing both the assist for Christian Benteke’s opener and netting a late winner to ensure three points for the South Londoners.
Aston Villa took the lead through John McGinn’s diagonal finish inside 17 minutes after Gary Cahill had headed a cross into his path before in-form striker Benteke soared into the air from Mitchell’s cross to plant a header beyond 15-clean sheet goalie Emiliano Martinez.
But Villa hit back almost immediately through former Ajax star Anwar El Ghazi who lashed home at the far post following Watkins’ headed flick-on as Cheikhou Kouyate failed to clear his lines.
Villa hero Jack Grealish failed to mark his return to action after three months on the sidelines with a win as Palace avenged the 3-0 trashing in the corresponding fixture to dramatically turn the contest on its head in the last 15 minutes.
After a disjointed defensive display in the first-half, Crystal Palace produced a marked improvement in each department after the restart and won the game courtesy of Wilfried Zaha’s, who drew his side level with a deflected shot in the 75th minute and academy graduate Mitchell’s rare goal in the 84th minute.
Aston Villa showed attacking intent and an ability to break quickly from the start with Dean Smith’s men terrorising Palace’s backline and laying siege to Jack Butland, who was drafted in for the undisputed first-choice stopper Vicente Guaita who enjoyed a rare day off.
Inside two minutes Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz set the alarm bells ringing for Crystal Palace had it not been for a poor finish from outside the penalty area following Ollie Watkins’ quality cutback. A fortuitous early escape for the Eagles whose response came imminently through Benteke but the former Aston Villa centre-forward flashed his header over after Andros Townsend had swung in a perfect cross.
Kortney Hause nearly pounced on Joel Ward’s slip from six yards out but glanced his header wide before Watkins brilliantly swivelled and unleashed a shot which looked destined to rifle into the top corner, but Butland denied him with a superb reflex save. The experienced former Stoke City stopper marked his Crystal Palace league debut with a great day at the office.
But the irrepressible visitors deservedly got their noses in front on 17 minutes when McGinn delicately guided a composed effort into the bottom far corner after former Chelsea Champions League winner Cahill had cleared into his path.
Cahill then had the chance to make amends for the clearance that led to Villa’s goal three minutes later but failed to bury his volley, whereas Martinez was alert to deny Jeffrey Schlupp and Townsend from a free-kick. But after equalling Brad Friedel’s club record of 15 clean sheets in a single season against Everton, his hopes of surpassing the American were shattered when Benteke rose above Hause to send a towering header into the back of the net from Mitchell’s pinpoint cross. The Belgian’s impressive vein of goalscoring form continues thanks to his new-found appetite for goals after three seasons in the wilderness in which he only scored six times. He is now one goal shy of reaching double figures after netting for the first-time ever against the club which took a plunge by signing him from Genk nine years ago.
Just two minutes later, Dutch winger El Ghazi restored Villa’s lead with a predatory finish by hammering home a volley at the far post after Watklins had flicked a backwards header towards him in the box.
Three minutes later the irresistible and at times unplayable El Ghazi returned the favour when he put a dangerous ball in the six-yard area but former Brentford star Watkins couldn’t get on the end of it with the goal gaping.
Despite trailing 2-1 after being largely outplayed and outsmarted, Roy Hodgson’s Eagles fancied their chances and looked a different proposition in the second period, finally carrying a real threat going forward, all while restricting Villa to very little from open play.
In the 57th minute, Crystal Palace came within a whisker of breaking Villa down again but Kouyate directed a free header against the crossbar from Eze’s corner from seven yards out before Butland denied El Ghazi the double with a lucky save off his knee from a direct free-kick.
Douglas Luiz’s only way of keeping Eberechi Eze at bay was through cynical fouls but that didn’t discourage the former QPR player as he stepped up a gear.
In the 67th minute he effortlessly feinted past a couple of defenders and cut inside to get his shot away. It was the right idea but the wrong execution as his effort lacked sufficient power to find its way into the intended far corner and was headed away by a Villa player.
But eight minutes later Zaha succeeded where Eze failed and restored parity for his side when he cut inside from the left and unleashed a shot, which took a deflection off Ahmed El Mohamaday and wrong-footed Martinez. It was the 11th league goal of the season, the most the Ivorian has scored in a single season in his career.
Not content with the draw and refusing to sit on their laurels, Palace continued to throw bodies forward and stretch Villa to snatch a winner. Eze first rattled the crossbar from long range with Martinez well beaten in the 82th minute before he set up Mitchel for a winner six minutes from time, after miscuing his goalbound shot.
In the right place at the right moment Mitchell chested the ball into a gaping net to end Aston Villa’s hopes of European football and restore Palace’s pride after the 3-1 trashing at Southampton in midweek.