This was not the perfect victory but Aston Villa made it 10 out of 10 wins at home by recovering from going behind to gain all three points thanks to three goals scored after the 87th minute.
In a crazy end to a game Villa deserved to win but had almost thrown away, Jhon Durán equalised, Douglas Luiz scored a delayed penalty eight minutes into added time and Leon Bailey added a third.
Crystal Palace did everything they could to provide their absent manager, Roy Hodgson, with a tonic as they sought to extend their unbeaten away start to the season thanks to Odsonne Édouard’s goal early in the second half.
With their manager taken ill on the morning of the game and obliged to stay away with what a Palace spokesperson said was “a private medical matter”, his team survived a Villa onslaught in the first half to gain the upper hand, Édouard converting Jean-Philippe Mateta’s cross for his fourth Premier League goal of the season.
Villa, though, are the third-best team in the country this year, with only Manchester City and Arsenal having won more Premier League games in 2023. They never stopped believing, even when Ollie Watkins’s shot rebounded off a post, back off the head of the goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone, and out for a corner.
In the 87th minute, Durán chested down Lucas Digne’s cross from the left before unleashing a howitzer of a half-volley beyond Johnstone, who had earlier required treatment.
The game was eight minutes into the nine allocated for added time when Youri Tielemans put Watkins in on goal and the referee, Darren England, gave a penalty for Chris Richards’s challenge.
The video assistant referee sent England to the dugout to review the incident but while replays suggested the defender may have got a sliver of the top of the ball before upending Watkins, it was hardly a clear and obvious error to award the penalty. Going against the grain, but staying true to his judgment, the referee deserves credit.
Douglas Luiz sent Johnstone the wrong way to make it 2-1 and with Palace not surprisingly totally out of shape as they frantically threw men forward in a bid for an unlikely equaliser, Moussa Diaby broke down the left and crossed for Bailey to score again. Douglas Luiz has now scored in four successive home games in the Premier League, the first Villa played to do since Gareth Barry in 2006.
Villa can jet off to Poland in high spirits, as they start their Europa Conference League group action against Legia Warsaw, while Palace are left to lick their wounds.
Palace, who lost Jordan Ayew to injury in the first half after Marc Guéhi had failed to recover from the muscle injury he collected on England duty, made light of their absentees to play with heart, organisation and, on the counterattack, no little creativity, with Eberechi Eze again a stylish outlet.
The Palace fans sang ‘Roy Hodgson, he’s one of our own’ and their togetherness is testimony to their manager. Paddy McCarthy, his assistant, said his absence did not affect the team’s plans: “All the preparations were done,” he said.
“It was between breakfast and the pre-match meal he felt a bit unwell. We had some communication with him before the game but with the game going on it was difficult. I’ll be looking to speak to him now.”
With Palace leading, Unai Emery reacted with increasingly attacking substitutions and when Bailey showed great skill to weave down the right and cross, Durán’s shot was saved after Douglas Luiz headed the ball down for him.
“Sometimes we have to use our heart, use our passions and we needed as well the referee giving us [something],” the Villa manager said. “We played a different way but we deserved to win.”
Palace could have sealed victory in the 82nd minute. Martínez saved, however, as Eze, ghosting in on goal, almost lifted the ball over the keeper. That left Villa to make their breakthrough, Durán smashing in his third goal for the club in all competitions. Now for Europe.