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Steven Gerrard shows ruthlessness Aston Villa need to defeat old foe Vieira

Aston Villa made it two wins from two under their new manager with a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon, after targeting the Eagles’ Achilles heel

Gerrard and John McGinn celebrate victory over Crystal Palace

Steven Gerrard described a midfield face-off with Patrick Vieira as one of his toughest battles.

He won and lost against the formidable Frenchman in the battle zones at Anfield and Highbury – but there was no contest at Selhurst Park.

Villa’s boss made mincemeat of his former adversary with his side producing a professional and mature show to end the Eagles’ seven-match unbeaten run.

Matt Targett and John McGinn grabbed a goal in each half before Marc Guehi pulled one back in the dying seconds but that didn’t stop the former England international grinning from ear-to-ear after the final whistle.

He said: “It’s a fantastic away performance – I’m really pleased we have taken six points from six.

“We were excellent in the first-half. I thought we were on top in a lot of departments.

A delighted Gerrard celebrates
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“We knew we would have to dig in after the break. We knew Patrick would make a few changes – they improved. But we still had two or three opportunities to score.

“Overall, we executed the game-plan and we were difficult to play against. That’s what we want – a real structure in terms of our shape and distances.

“If we can keep tweaking and evolving it’s going to stand us in good stead – we need to take confidence from what happened here.”

Gerrard has shown already he has little time for reputations – Ollie Watkins was rewarded for his goal last week with a start – and so too was veteran Ashley Young.

He omitted £70m of summer talent – Emi Buendia and Danny Ings were benched – but Villa looked sharp, compact and disciplined from the off.

It will surprise no Eagles fan to learn that the opening goal came from a set-piece.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche admitted targeting the Eagles during their 3-3 draw at Turf Moor last week – and profited twice.

Vieira promised work on the training ground. It wasn’t followed through. His players are set for another dollop of defensive discipline this week after Villa bagged their first from a calamitous attempt to stop Ashley Young’s outswinging 15th-minute corner.

James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate missed the ball altogether as Tyrone Mings caused confusion. Targett pulled away slightly and although his first touch wasn’t the best, his second fizzed across Vicente Gauita into the net.

Aston Villa’s Matt Targett (right) scores their side’s first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park
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It was the left-back’s first Premier League goal in 770 days and 74 matches. And Villa put in a real shift to defend it – keeper Emi Martinez was not tested with a direct shot on his goal until ten minutes from time.

It might have been different had referee Michael Salisbury upheld his initial decision to dismiss sub Douglas Luiz after a clumsy 72nd-minute challenge on Kouyate. But he changed his mind after reviewing the pitchside monitor and Palace lost any change of building impetus from that.

Gerrard’s men sealed it with the move of the game. Targett, Buendia and Anwar El Ghazi were all involved on the left with the latter’s ball across goal thumped home beautifully from the edge of the area by John McGinn – described as ‘outstanding’ by his boss after the final whistle.

Guehi prodded home Jordan Ayew’s cross four minutes into added time to take the gloss off the scoreline. But there were no complaints from Vieira.

He said: “I’m disappointed with the result – but more so with the performance. We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t move the ball quickly enough, we didn’t defend well enough and the consequence of that is that we didn’t get anything from the game. We made it comfortable for them.”

As for Gerrard, it’s two wins from two. And the small matter of Manchester City at Villa Park on Wednesday.

Asked if he was finding it easy, Villa’s boss said: “I wish – I wish. We can enjoy tonight.

“We will be back at work tomorrow. We know it will be tough in midweek. We’ll be the underdogs – but we are really pleased with the start we’ve made.”




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