Gerrard gets better of Vieira in battle of EPL greats

AP , Saturday 27 Nov 2021

Steven Gerrard got the better of Patrick Vieira in the battle of the English Premier League greats-turned-managers as goals from Matt Targett and John McGinn secured a 2-1 win for Aston Villa at Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard celebrates his side s 2-1 win after the final whistle of the Brit
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard celebrates his side s 2-1 win after the final whistle of the British Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Aston Villa at Selhurst Park, London, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. AP

Two of the finest midfielders of their generation went head-to-head on the touchline for the first time in a competitive match and it was Gerrard who was able to celebrate a second straight victory since leaving Rangers for Villa.

A 15th-minute strike by Targett, after a corner reached him at the back post, put Villa in the ascendancy and McGinn wrapped up the three points late on. Marc Guehi netted a consolation in stoppage time.

Gerrard had to wait 84 minutes for Villa to open its account under him last weekend in a 2-0 win over Brighton but his players opened the scoring much earlier in south London.

It came through an unlikely source, too, with left back Targett rifling home from Ashley Young's corner to score for only the third time in the Premier League.

James Tomkins, recalled in place of the injured Joachim Andersen, had been at fault _ Targett was his man _ and he also mistimed his jump while trying to head Young's cross away to ensure Palace conceded a 10th goal from a set-piece this season.

Aside from Wilfried Zaha's left-footed effort that was dragged wide early on, it was largely Villa on top during the opening 45 minutes.

The two changes made by Gerrard from the win over Brighton were paying off, with Leon Bailey and Young causing numerous problems, while McGinn went close to making it 2-0 in the 27th minute, curling just wide.

Young was the next Villa player to fire off target and with Palace clearly lacking rhythm, Vieira would have welcomed the arrival of halftime.

Palace captain Luka Milivojevic was withdrawn around the hour mark after a poor match and Eberechi Eze, fit again after an Achilles tendon injury, was introduced for his first appearance since May 16.

It was a bold call by Vieira, given the playmaker's long layoff, and he made another when Zaha was replaced by Odsonne Edouard soon after.

Gerrard also turned to his bench by this point and saw substitute Douglas Luiz issued a red card with 18 minutes left, only for VAR to intervene.

Referee Michael Salisbury, taking charge of his first Premier League fixture, was asked to review the incident and downgraded the tackle on Cheikhou Kouyate to a yellow card.

It added to the frustration of the home supporters but Palace did finally muster a shot on target when Christian Benteke fired straight at Emi Martinez from Tomkins' knockdown. Edouard did the same not long after.

Villa was to ensure Gerrard finally tasted success at Selhurst Park when grabbing a second with four minutes left.

Substitute Anwar El Ghazi dribbled into the area and teed up McGinn, who curled a shot into the corner for his third goal of the season.

Guehi tapped home from Kouyate's cross to pull one back for the home side in the fifth minute of stoppage time but Gerrard, who failed to win as a player in six outings at Palace, watched his team hold on for another victory.

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