BIRMINGHAM. — Maybe, just maybe, there could be a flicker of hope for Marvelous Nakamba and his Aston Villa teammates in their quest to avoid relegation from the English Premiership.
A 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Villa Park yesterday provided the glimmer of hope but, given it’s their first league win since January 21, the good money still looks on them going down.
They have Everton, Arsenal and West Ham to come before the end of the season.
“Some players who drop from the Premier League to the Championship never play in the Premier League again and history proves that,’’ Villa manager, Dean Smith, had said ahead of the game.
Nakamba was, again, left on the bench for this battle which was a controversial, and fiery affair, which saw a Palace effort ruled out by VAR for a handball, which only the match officials appeared to see, while Christian Benteke was sent off after the game had ended.
The Zimbabwean midfielder was thrown into the fray, with 10 minutes left in the game, with Egyptian forward Trezeguet scoring either side of half time.
West Midlands Police later announced they had arrested a 12-year-old Villa fan after Palace forward Wilfried Zaha was sent a series of racist messages ahead of the match.
Ahead of the match, Zaha posted a number of screenshots revealing racist messages from one user claiming to be a Villa fan.
Zaha tweeted the abuse and added the caption: “Woke up to this today.”
“We were alerted to a series of racist messages sent to a footballer today and after looking into them and conducting checks, we have arrested a boy.
“The 12-year-old from Solihull has been taken to custody. Thanks to everyone who raised it. Racism won’t be tolerated.”
Palace manager Roy Hodgson supported his player’s decision to post the abuse on public platform.
“It is very saddening on the day of a game that a player wakes up to this cowardly and despicable abuse,’’ Hodgson told the club website.
“I think it is right that Wilf made people aware of it; I don’t think it is something he should keep quiet about.
“I think it is very good that our club, Aston Villa and the Premier League are doing everything they can to find out who this despicable individual is and one can only hope that they will get identified and they will get called to account and they will pay for these actions.
“There is literally no excuse; there is no excuse at all.”
Villa posted a statement which said: “We deplore the disgusting racist messages sent to @wilfriedzaha.
“We condemn all forms of racial discrimination and stand with @CPFC. We are working with the police in investigating this extremely serious matter and when the culprit is identified AVFC will issue a lifetime ban.”
Ahead of the match, the vultures had been circling. The talk around this place, long before kick-off, was not so much whether a relegation exodus would ensue as which players would be on the way out.
The prospect of Tyrone Mings departing to Everton and Jack Grealish’s suitability for many of the Premier League’s aristocrats both consumed the local Midlands press.
Such are the consequences when you’re seven points adrift, haven’t won since January and — after Watford’s win at Newcastle — needing two wins from your last four games as an absolute minimum.
But Aston Villa were still standing, last night. It took some time coming and was preceded by the good fortune of a VAR decision in their favour after a piece of apocalyptic defending on their part.
But the vision of Conor Hourihane and two priceless goals from Trezeguet saw them record a justified first win since January.
It helped that Palace, whose season is vanishing into the realms of the nondescript, were so poor. They had Christian Benteke sent off after the final whistle for what seemed to be an off-the-ball incident with Villa’s Ezri Konsa.
His side finally found some of the VAR fortune which has been pitifully absent here this season.
Mamadou Sakho was somehow adjudged to have handled when leaping to sending Luka Milivojevic’s seventh-minute free kick past Pepe Reina when the ball actually hit his shoulder.
The chaos in Villa’s defensive ranks as that ball went in said everything about the way they spent last summer.
The defensive vulnerability they showed in last season’s Championship was not resolved. They laid out heavily but inadequately in defence.
However Mings displayed some of the fight Smith had been looking for, going nose-to-nose with Wilfried Zaha in defence of Ezri Konsa, whom he felt had been brought to ground by the striker. He, Zaha and Mamadou Sakho were all booked for the episode.
And then Villa became to show a capacity to create.
Ahmed El Mohamady’s cross from the right came with the kind of pace and accuracy which Mbwana Samatta was bought to convert from.
Somehow, he managed to lift his header over the bar. — Mailonline/Sports Reporter