Wilfried Zaha double inspires Crystal Palace comeback against Aston Villa

Wilfried Zaha remains integral to Crystal Palace’s future and the irrepressible forward struck twice to fire his team to their first win of the season. Despite conceding an early goal to Aston Villa via Ollie Watkins, Palace recovered rapidly with an equaliser from Zaha before a rebound effort, from a second-half penalty, and a goal from the substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta completed a thrilling turnaround.

Palace were rampant at times and their manager, Patrick Vieira, described the performance as one of the best since his arrival last year. Vieira, who preferred to focus on their collective strength despite several standout individuals, said: “I’m really happy. From the first minute to the last we played with a lot of intensity. I would say it’s one of the most consistent performances from the start to the end.”

A home victory did not look likely after Villa opened the scoring with their first attack. Leon Bailey neatly flicked a long ball from Tyrone Mings into the path of Watkins and the forward swept his low strike beyond the Crystal Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita. But the hosts struck back immediately with Zaha launching a bulldozing run from the halfway line, outpacing Ezri Konsa and tucking a low shot into the net for a quickfire equaliser.

Palace thought they had taken the lead midway through the half after Odsonne Édouard set up Jeffrey Schlupp for a low finish. Their delight was swiftly curtailed when VAR ruled Édouard had strayed offside. Eberechi Eze offered a significant threat for the hosts and the gifted attacker launched several rampaging runs which left Villa toiling. Palace again went close to taking the lead after Zaha set up Jordan Ayew, but his low shot was parried to safety by the Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martínez.

Palace were in the ascendancy again early in the second half and a long pass from Joachim Andersen found Ayew, but Martínez reacted quickly to smother the ball. Villa still carried an occasional threat, though, and were denied a second goal when Bailey cut inside and curled a sumptuous strike from the edge of the area that cannoned off the crossbar. Palace responded and Ayew played the ball into the path of Édouard but he dragged his effort past the post to the frustration of the home supporters.

Villa conceded a penalty after 58 minutes when Lucas Digne was adjudged to have handled the ball from a header by Marc Guéhi. The referee, Andy Madley, checked the monitor, after a VAR recommendation, before pointing to the spot. The Villa head coach, Steven Gerrard, said: “A big moment goes against us with the penalty. For me, it’s harsh. I’m not sure what Lucas can do. He tries to jump naturally and it’s a complete accident.

“The players are trying but obviously the momentum swung with the penalty. It’s not the reason we lost the game but it’s certainly a big turning point.” Gerrard bemoaned Villa’s lack of consistency after last weekend’s win over Everton and he will be concerned by back-to-back away defeats to start the season.

Zaha stepped up and his penalty was saved by Martínez, but he reacted sharpest to bury the rebound for his third goal of the season. Zaha’s tally of 12 league goals in 2022 is surpassed only by the Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.Eze continued to cause havoc with the freedom to roam across the attack, and a lung-busting run was halted only by a vital block from Digne.

Palace turned on the style and scored an exceptional third goal when Mateta fired the ball into the net – from his first touch – after a delicious cross from Tyrick Mitchell following a one-two with Zaha.

Selhurst Park was raucous and Eze released Mateta again but his fierce strike flew just past the post. Will Hughes should have added a fourth Palace goal but his tame shot was held by Martínez.

It did not matter, with Villa run ragged at times. Palace’s breathless performance provided emphatic evidence of the potential of the team at Vieira’s disposal.