Aston Villa 1-0 Crystal Palace: Wayne Hennessey howler gifts Remi Garde first win
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 13/01/16 9:20am
Wayne Hennessey's howler allowed Joleon Lescott to score the winner as Aston Villa beat Crystal Palace 1-0 to record their first Premier League victory since the opening day of the season.
Palace goalkeeper Hennessey made an awful mistake as he managed to let Lescott's header from a corner slip through his hands and over the line just before the hour mark.
It was Remi Garde's first win in 11 matches since he took over from Tim Sherwood, ending Villa's run of 19 Premier League games without victory.
Palace, however, have now failed to win or score in their last four top-flight games.
Garde made six changes from the side that could only draw 1-1 at Wycombe in the FA Cup at the weekend, with captain Micah Richards the most notable absentee as he was left on the bench.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan also failed to regain his spot as Mark Bunn continued in goal, and striker Libor Kozak made his first start in more than two years.
Despite the changes, it was Palace who got off to the better start and they nearly took the lead after just 42 seconds.
Wilfried Zaha played a one-two with Jason Puncheon into the Villa area before taking a touch and curling one onto Bunn's far post.
It was the closest Villa Park would come to seeing a goal in the opening 45 minutes. Garde's side were probably slightly the better but lacked sharpness upfront, which was unsurprising considering it was the first time Kozak had started a Premier League game since Boxing Day 2013. That day, Villa were beaten 1-0 at home by Palace.
In fact, the Czech Republic international's only major contribution in the first half was kicking Palace defender Damien Delaney in the face while attempting to acrobatically shoot on the turn. He was lucky to avoid a card of either colour.
In a game with plenty of endeavour but a lack of real craft in the final third, it was almost inevitable that it would take a howler for the deadlock to be broken.
Jordan Veretout swung a corner right onto the head of Lescott in the box, and he should have done far better with his attempt than nod it right into the arms of the keeper.
Somehow, though, Hennessey managed to let the ball slip through his hands, wriggle between his legs and crawl behind him over the line, leaving Villa jubilant.
Palace took the game back to the home side, but failed to create any real clear-cut chances to get back into it.
Villa are still eight points from safety, but the feeling of optimism around Villa Park at full-time will give Garde and his players hope that the greatest of escapes could yet be on.
Aston Villa: Bunn (6), Bacuna (6), Okore (6), Lescott (7), Cissokho (6), Gueye (6), Westwood (6), Veretout (6), Gil (6), Ayew (5), Kozak (5)
Subs: Clark (N/A)
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (3), Ward (5), Dann (5), Delaney (5), Souare (4), Cabaye (5), Ledley (4), McArthur (5), Zaha (6), Puncheon (5), Sako (4)
Subs: Jedinak (5), Chamakh (5), Wickham (4)
Man of the match: Joleon Lescott