Football

Aston Villa 1 – 1 Crystal Palace

Substitute Jeffrey Schlupp cancelled out Ollie Watkins’ goal as Crystal Palace earned a Premier League point at Aston Villa.

Schlupp had been on the pitch less than four minutes when he slotted in from Marc Guehi’s knock-down following a free-kick with nine minutes remaining.

Watkins, who had been a doubt for the game after sustaining an ankle injury against Liverpool in midweek, beat Guehi to Lucas Digne’s cross after 69 minutes with his first shot of the game.

Danny Ings twice went close inside the opening eight minutes for Villa, shooting wide following a darting run to the near post, and volleying over from Joachim Andersen’s attempted clearance.

Palace offered a positive response, but Wilfried Zaha’s stinging strike was parried by Emiliano Martinez and the Villa goalkeeper was also equal to Nathaniel Clyne’s low effort.

Despite a late flurry of chances, neither side could find a winner to improve their chances of securing a top-half finish.

Palace remain 11th, three points behind 10th-placed Brighton, with Villa still one place and one point behind the Eagles.

Crystal Palace manager Patrick Vieira challenged his side to clinch a top-half finish and end a pleasing first season under his tenure – which also included a run to the FA Cup semi-finals – on a positive note.

The Eagles are unbeaten in four matches following this draw and require four points from their final two games to match their highest Premier League points tally of 49, achieved in 1992-93 and 2018-19.

Likewise, Steven Gerrard’s Villa are chasing a first top-10 placing in the Premier League since 2010-11, but those hopes have taken a blow heading into their final two games.

The hosts were unable to capitalise on an encouraging start, as Ings failed to hit the target with three decent first-half chances – also curling wide after being teed up by strike partner Watkins.

It was Martinez who was the busier goalkeeper, but the Argentine was alert to well-struck attempts by Zaha and Clyne.

A largely uneventful start to the second half saw Matthew Cash flash an uncontested ball across the six yard box, while the Villa right-back was required to block Tyrick Mitchell’s strike shortly before Watkins’ opener.

Palace felt aggrieved that Watkins was not penalised for a foul on Guehi as the pair battled for Digne’s cross, but Schlupp’s near-immediate impact ensured Vieira’s side did not depart empty-handed after an even encounter.

Philippe Coutinho, who failed to shine following confirmation of his permanent move from Barcelona this week, was joined by Emi Buendia, Watkins, Conor Gallagher and Zaha in seeing late efforts blocked by committed defending at both ends.

Villa now host relegation-threatened Burnley on Thursday and title-chasing Manchester City on the final day, while Palace travel to Everton before hosting Manchester United next Sunday.

-bbc

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