Aston Villa’s fine run of form continued as they beat Crystal Palace and kept a clean sheet despite playing for more than 45 minutes with 10 men after Tyrone Mings’ sending off.
Villa were already leading when Mings was dismissed by referee Anthony Taylor towards the end of the first half for a foul on Wilfried Zaha - six minutes after both players had been booked for clashing.
In an incident-packed game, Villa claimed an eighth clean sheet of 2020-21 - and moved to within three points of second-placed Leicester City.
Burkina Faso winger Bertrand Traore, who also hit the post, put Villa ahead when he was left unmarked to pounce after Vicente Guaita had beaten away an attempt by Ollie Watkins.
Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez had set the tone for an entertaining match with a fine save to keep out Zaha in the opening minute, while Guaita twice denied Anwar El Ghazi as well as Jack Grealish.
Palace looked to take advantage of Mings’ dismissal but instead conceded two more goals.
Defender Kortney Hause nodded the second after Watkins’ header had rebounded off the bar before Dutch winger Anwar El Ghazi lashed home the third with a quality finish.
Hard-working Villa look the business
Having avoided relegation on the final day of last season, Villa are now up to sixth in the table, with two games in hand over Leicester, after making it three wins in four.
Their latest victory was built on grit and a determination not to let Mings’ red card disrupt them.
The England defender can have few complaints about his dismissal, sticking out an arm to block Zaha’s attempt getting away from him, not long after the pair had clashed following a challenge.
If anything, Mings’ loss galvanised Dean Smith’s side, who produced a thoroughly professional performance to win at Villa Park for the first time since thrashing Liverpool 7-2 on 4 October.
Villa have now won the past two Premier League games in which they have finished with 10 men, having earned a 1-0 victory at Wolves on 12 December after the dismissal of midfielder Douglas Luiz.
Former Chelsea player Traore was excellent before he was substituted earlier than planned following Mings’ dismissal, while the hard-working Watkins twice hit the woodwork and El Ghazi produced a moment of pure class with his goal.
Villa’s recruitment has been impressive. Traore has looked an excellent piece of business, having joined for £17m from Lyon in September, while Martinez - who also cost £17m, from Arsenal - continues to impress in each game.
With his side down to 10 men, Martinez produced a big save to keep out Luka Milivojevic’s deflected attempt as Villa claimed a fourth clean sheet in a row, their best run in the top flight since February 2010.
Bruising week for Palace
Roy Hodgson’s side had been hammered 7-0 by Liverpool at Selhurst Park seven days earlier, so this result and performance capped a bruising week.
Hodgson has now moved into the top 10 on the list of those to have faced the most Premier League games as a manager - this was his 341st match. But the former England boss had little to celebrate, and looked miserable by the end.
Palace started well after Zaha embarrassed Mings with his pace only for Martinez to produce an excellent stop.
But their defensive frailties were once again exposed while they were unable to take advantage of the Villa defender’s dismissal.
Without a top-flight clean sheet since the opening weekend of the season, Palace have now lost four of their past seven matches and face high-flying Leicester next.
Villa’s Boxing Day red card record to forget - the stats
- Aston Villa received their fourth red card on 26 December in the Premier League, more than any other side in the competition (also Andy Townsend in 1994, Michael Oakes in 1998 and Zat Knight in 2007).
- Crystal Palace are without a clean sheet in their past 14 Premier League games, their longest run without a shutout in the competition since November 2017 (also 14).
- Bertrand Traore has scored in each of his past two Premier League games - his tally of two goals being as many as he managed in his 19 previous appearances in the competition.
- Kortney Hause’s eight goals in English League football have come across seven different seasons, since his debut in 2012-13.
- Anwar El Ghazi has struck four goals in his past four Premier League appearances, as many as he managed in his previous 37 games in the competition.
Both teams have a short turnaround before they are back in action on Monday, with Aston Villa away at Chelsea (17:30 GMT) and Crystal Palace hosting Leicester City at 15:00.
- 5MingsBooked at 45mins
- 6Douglas LuizSubstituted forRamseyat 90+1′minutes
- 15TraoréSubstituted forKonsaat 45+4′minutes
- 10GrealishBooked at 45mins
- 21El GhaziSubstituted forEl Mohamadyat 86′minutes
- 27El Mohamady
- 2WardBooked at 68mins
- 3van Aanholt
- 15SchluppSubstituted forTownsendat 82′minutes
- 4MilivojevicBooked at 56minsSubstituted forRiedewaldat 69′minutes
- 18McArthurSubstituted forBatshuayiat 75′minutes
- 25EzeBooked at 83mins
- 11ZahaBooked at 39mins
- 9J Ayew
- Anthony Taylor
Match ends, Aston Villa 3, Crystal Palace 0.
Second Half ends, Aston Villa 3, Crystal Palace 0.
Attempt missed. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Andros Townsend.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Matthew Cash (Aston Villa).
Attempt missed. Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Patrick van Aanholt.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Jacob Ramsey replaces Douglas Luiz.
Attempt missed. Joel Ward (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Eberechi Eze.
Attempt saved. Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Michy Batshuayi.
Attempt missed. Jairo Riedewald (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the left.
Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) hits the right post with a left footed shot from the centre of the box. Assisted by Jack Grealish.
Attempt saved. Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jack Grealish with a through ball.
Foul by Joel Ward (Crystal Palace).
Matt Targett (Aston Villa) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Aston Villa. Ahmed El Mohamady replaces Anwar El Ghazi.
Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Matthew Cash (Aston Villa).
Attempt saved. Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Jairo Riedewald.
Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace).