Crystal Palace earned a deserved point against Aston Villa as the two mid-table clubs played out an entertaining draw.

If the top four and title races are enthralling at this point, the midtable battles are proving just as entertaining as the season comes to a close. Aston Villa and Crystal Palace hampered their chances of clinching a top-half finish, with their encounter at Villa Park ending all square.

There were plenty of chances on both ends, and the two halves were well balanced in attacking play. Despite the flowing moves on show, the attackers on both ends lacked the cutting edge to convert decent chances to take the lead.

Danny Ings threatened Jack Butland’s goal first, then on the opposite end, Wilfried Zaha tested Emiliano Martinez, forcing the Argentine into a good save. Those efforts could be regarded as the best pieces of action in the first half before the teams came back onto the pitch to get something out of the game in the second period.

It was not until the 69th minute that the opening goal arrived, as Ollie Watkins finished expertly to give Aston Villa the lead. The striker did very well to hold off Marc Guehi and meet Lucas Digne’s pinpoint cross before slotting the ball past Butland.

Then it was Crystal Palace’s turn to reap the rewards for their hard work ten minutes from time. Odsonne Edouard’s knockdown from a corner was met by Jeffrey Schlupp, who got in the right position for a simple tap-in. Digne and John McGinn then tested Butland, while Watkins had the chance to seal the game, only to place his shot wide.Β Here’s how the players fared as Aston Villa and Crystal Palace played out an entertaining draw.

Aston Villa

Emiliano Martinez: 6/10

The Aston Villa goalkeeper was on hand to push a few efforts away and displayed strong arms to stop one of Wilfried Zaha’s shots on target. Martinez was constantly busy to keep out some creative Crystal Palace attack or the other. As for the goal, there is nothing he could have done to thwart Jeffrey Schlupp.

Matty Cash: 6/10

Cash was stifled in the wide areas as the Crystal Palace attackers contained the threat he posed from the flanks. Defensively, the right-back was good enough to deal with the threat posed by the opposition forward and did a good job there.

Ezri Konsa: 7/10

Konsa was superb at the back as he kept a tight lid on his marker and always forced attackers out of their plan to make the right move. His reading of the game was solid, and once he was forced off with a knock early in the second half, Aston Villa looked vulnerable at the back.

Tyrone Mings: 6/10

Mings complemented Konsa in his efforts to control the defence and played a good role at the back. He did not do anything wrong, but he did not venture forward too much in his usual manner.

Lucas Digne: 7/10

Digne initially struggled to get forward as the Crystal Palace players stuck with their plan of stifling him and containing the Frenchman’s threat. However, in one moment of brilliance, the Aston Villa left-back produced a top-notch cross, from which Watkins scored.

Douglas Luiz: 6/10

Luiz started on the right side of the Aston Villa midfield and ended up in his usual holding midfield role. He was energetic and covered a lot of ground, and he worked hard to keep things in the centre under control.

Marvelous Nakamba: 4.5/10

Nakamba was anonymous in the first half, and although he did seem to have some relevance later on, it was nothing more than a diligent performance.

John McGinn: 7/10

McGinn’s switch to the other side of the Aston Villa midfield seemed to have no effect whatsoever, as the Scotsman continued to wield his influence heavily on the game. Moreover, his defensive numbers spoke for his work rate, as the midfielder made six tackles and many interventions to help keep the control in the central areas.

Philippe Coutinho: 5/10

Coutinho is more effective when he stays forward and wriggles through defences to create chances. Against Crystal Palace, the Brazilian was seen dropping too deep, which restricted his chance creation capabilities.

Danny Ings: 4/10

Ings continued to be a good option up front, but Steven Gerrard would have been a happy man had the striker taken his chances well. Wasteful is the word suitable for the English forward after missing numerous good opportunities.

Ollie Watkins: 8/10

The English striker made a telling contribution with the goal. Watkins scored a terrific goal from a tight position, even as the defender was all over him. Yet, he managed to get the deftest of touches and score through Guehi, while a stunned Butland could only look at the ball pass him.

SUBSTITUTES

Calum Chambers: 4.5/10

Chambers’s introduction and Konsa’s withdrawal caused defensive instability at the back for Aston Villa. Otherwise, the English defender was not anywhere close to even his modest best, and he continued to show shaky form.

Jacob Ramsey: 5/10

Ramsey replaced the ineffective Nakamba and instantly added some much-needed energy into the midfield. He made some driving runs, and Gerrard may rue his absence from the start.

Emiliano Buendia: 5/10

Buendia had some bright moments in his 20 minutes on the pitch, as the Argentine got into dangerous positions. His inability to keep possession may have cost Aston Villa and the player some momentum in the final third.

Crystal Palace

Jack Butland: 6/10

Butland was kept busy by the Aston Villa attackers and will be fortunate that Ings was not wearing his scoring boots. He stood and watched the strike by Watkins pass him by, but otherwise, he did make some decent saves to keep Crystal Palace in the game.

Cheikhou Kouyate: 7/10

Vieira changed the system and experimented with a back three, meaning Kouyate slotted on the right side of the central defensive unit. He was instrumental in stifling Aston Villa’s creative influence, more specifically Coutinho, constantly forcing the Brazilian to go deep and find another route to influence the game.

Joachim Andersen: 7/10

The Crystal Palace defence is a strong unit whenever Andersen plays, and the Danish defender showed why. He was tasked with distributing the ball from the back and remained tidy in possession. The centre-back made one crucial block late in the game to deny a potential goal.

Marc Guehi: 5.5/10

While Guehi’s overall game was good, he will rue the Aston Villa goal where he could not hold off Watkins. The English defender was outclassed by his compatriot for physicality, and the Aston Villa striker scored through him.

Nathaniel Clyne: 6/10

The presence of a back three gave Clyne more freedom to roam forward, and he was effective with his runs. The wing-back had one effort saved by Martinez, but this system certainly suits his talents.

Conor Gallagher: 6.5/10

Gallagher was his team’s creative hub and caused problems for the Aston Villa defence with his ball-carrying abilities. However, in terms of creating clear cut chances, those opportunities came at a premium, although the English midfielder was oozing his class throughout the afternoon.

Luka Milivojevic: 7/10

Another productive display from the experienced midfielder, who continues being impressive since returning from a recent injury. Milivojevic’s ability on the dead ball remains dangerous, while his energy in midfield allowed him to plug gaps and sniff out some decent build-up plays.

Eberechi Eze: 5/10

Eze still needs time to get back into his rhythm, and his display against Aston Villa was proof of that. His hard work is unquestionable, but the ability to create good chances is fast evaporating from his game.

Tyrick Mitchell: 6.5/10

Mitchell continued to show why he got nominated for the Young Player of the Year award. The left wing-back was afforded more freedom in the final third due to the implementation of a back three, and he used it well.

Jean-Philippe Mateta: 5/10

There were a few good moments for the lead striker, but he was focused more on link-up play and holding the ball for his fellow attackers to run forward for most parts.

Wilfried Zaha: 6/10

Zaha seems to be comfortable in multiple systems and positions. He had no problems slotting in a more central zone alongside Mateta and got a few shots away. But he wasted a brilliant chance to put Crystal Palace ahead in the game shortly before Aston Villa scored at the other end.

SUBSTITUTES

Odsonne Edouard: 7/10

Edouard continues to impress in the centre-forward role as he produced more than Mateta could again. He rose the highest to knock the ball down for Schlupp to score the equalising goal.

Christian Benteke: 5/10

Vieira seemed to bet on making the frontline more physical than fluid. Benteke’s presence helped create space as he got tangled in a physical battle in the final third.

Jeffrey Schlupp: 7/10

Intelligent movements helped Schlupp emerge in the right place in a timely manner to execute a simple tap in and equalise for his side, which was only his fourth touch after coming on.

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