It’s four goals scored and six points from a possible six for Steven Gerrard who’s start at Aston Villa couldn’t have gone any better after a dogged win over Crystal Palace.
Villa went ahead after just 15 minutes when Matt Targett fired home his first in more than two years, taking a touch before rifling home Ashley Young’s corner, with veteran chalking up back-to-back assists in the Premier League.
Young, 36, started for the first time under Gerrard who, prior to kick-off in London, said he was fully deserved of his place after being the standout pick in his first two weeks at Bodymoor Heath.
Leon Bailey was Villa’s other change here with the Jamaican and Young replacing Danny Ings and Emi Buendia.
To the action and Wilfried Zaha had the game’s first big chance as he dragged his effort wide on 11 minutes after reacting first to a loose ball as Ezri Konsa and Matty Cash were slow to react.
Just four minutes later and, with Villa starting well, Targett smacked home at the far post from Young’s corner after skipper Tyrone Mings – excellent once more – failed to get on the intended ball for him.
Villa, meanwhile, had two decent penalty shouts when Ollie Watkins was bundled over twice, first by Luka Milivojevic and the second by Cheikhou Kouyate with referee Michael Salisbury ruling them both as comings together.
It was then the turn of the excellent John McGinn to try his luck as he stuck his backside out, rolled Kouyate before curling one just wide of Vicente Guaita’s far post, with the best still to come for the midfield man.
Gerrard’s Villa were cool, calm and composed throughout in truth, with the boss making his first change after 65 minutes as Jacob Ramsey was replaced by the fit again Douglas Luiz.
The Brazilian was, though, initially sent off by referee Michael Salisbury – making his Premier League debut – for a late coming together on Kouyate before the red was rightfully downgraded after a VAR check.
Gerrard then introduced Anwar El Ghazi for Bailey with a little over 10 to go and, other than tame efforts from Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard that were saved with ease by Emi Martinez – that proved to be that in terms of Palace pressure.
Villa put a nice gloss on their display with a fabulous McGinn goal with five minutes remaining, with the Scot bending home first time on the edge of the 18-yard box after El Ghazi’s square ball.
Palace centre-back Marc Guehi poked home at the near post to pull one back in the fifth minute of stoppage time after getting in between Konsa and Mings but that was that.
The result, Villa’s first win at Palace since 2014, lifts them into mid-table with the Gerrard era going from strength to strength as the boss becomes the first Villa manager to win his first two Premier League games in charge since John Gregory.
Here are your player ratings from a gritty yet comfortable showing in Croydon with Gerrard and his coaching staff loving the manner of that one.
Starting formation: 4-3-2-1
Emi Martinez: Didn’t have a shot to save in the first half while he was alert to sweep up low crosses into his box and strong to claim high ones, even taking Targett with him on one occasion as he powered past bodies. Uncharacteristically dropped Olise’s corner with 20 to go but Villa scrambled clear. Martinez caught well from Benteke and then Edouard late on before going down with a tight hamstring. Sprinted over to the fans at the end with the stopper clearly enjoying that one. 7
Matty Cash: Up against the trickster Zaha here with the pair booked in the first half for a coming together, a caution which means Cash will walk a tightrope now knowing he’s another booking away from a one-match ban. Cleared well following Gallagher’s dangerous ball into the box just before the hour. Did well today. 7.5
Ezri Konsa: Clever knowing fouls from Benteke would come, which alleviated pressure for Villa. Strong but allowed Guehi in between him and Mings as the clean sheet went begging at the end. 7
Tyrone Mings: Strong as an Ox once again here as the skipper led from the front, out-muscling Benteke and steaming into Zaha to help Cash out. 8
Matt Targett: Bagged his first Premier League goal in over two years since his stoppage-time winner against Brighton. Targett crashed home Young’s corner, firing low into the goal to put Villa ahead. Workmanlike from Targett. 8
John McGinn: Rolled Kouyate beautifully and almost curled home a cracker in the first half. Scored a cracker to seal the three points after bending home from the edge of the area. McGinn’s carrying a huge goal threat under Gerrard. A solid performance from the Scot who loved his goal. 8
Marvelous Nakamba: Villa’s standout performer in the first half as he won possession back at will. The Zimbabwean oozed confidence with the ball at his feet as well, sending in crisp passes to those in front of him. Nakamba nipped in well to thwart Benteke. Nakamba simply took the sting out of anything Palace tried to do. Superb once again and undroppable against City on Wednesday. 9*
Jacob Ramsey: Plenty of energy and bite in midfield from the youngster who was singled out for praise by Gerrard in the build up to this one. Another pleasing display from the Great Barr kid. 7.5
Leon Bailey: One of two changes as the Jamaican’s training levels were rewarded with a start here. Bailey didn’t have it all his own way but he did look a threat as Palace backtracked whenever he had the ball. Bailey was a tad loose on occasion. Bailey lost the ball on too many occasions for Gerrard’s liking but it’s still early days for the winger given his stop-start Villa career to date. 6
Ollie Watkins: Enjoyed a sharp start, turning away from Tomkins and Guehi who struggled to contain him. Watkins looked much more at home leading the line with Young and Bailey floating off him. The striker had two decent penalty shouts waved away in the first half, while he was given a rollicking by Mings for losing the ball on halfway as his captain got him out of jail. 7
Ashley Young: Fully deserving of his start, Gerrard said pre-match, with Young the star pupil from Gerrard’s first two weeks in charge. Young floated narrowly off Watkins and always looked to drive at those in red and blue shirts. Young made it two assists on the spin after his corner found Targett at the back post. Clipped the top of the net with a 25-yard free-kick after the break. I liked his work today. Young wasted very little whenever he had the ball. Gerrard’s little lieutenant out on the pitch. 8.5
Douglas Luiz, on for Ramsey (66 minutes): The Brazilian was sent off just eight minutes after coming on but the decision was rightly downgraded to a booking after a challenge on Kouyate. 6
Anwar El Ghazi, on for Bailey (77 minutes): Carried a threat late on and assisted McGinn to win it. 6
Emi Buendia, on for Young (85 minutes): No time. N/A
Subs not used: Jed Steer, Morgan Sanson, Axel Tuanzebe, Danny Ings, Anwar El Ghazi, Kortney Hause, Carney Chukwuemeka.
Crystal Palace: Vicente Guaita; Joel Ward, James Tomkins, Marc Guehi, Tyrick Mitchell; Luke Miliviojevic (Eberechi Eze, 60), Cheikhou Kouyate, Conor Gallagher; Wilfried Zaha (Odsonne Edouard, 72), Christian Benteke, Michael Olise.
Subs not used: Jack Butland, Jordan Ayew, Will Hughes, Jeffrey Schlupp, Nathaniel Clyne, Martin Kelly, Jairo Riedewald.
Crystal Palace: Guehi (90+5)
Aston Villa: Targett (15), McGinn (85)
Officials: Michael Salisbury (referee); Paul Tierney (VAR)
Next up for Villa: Man City at Villa Park on Wednesday, December 1; kick-off 8.15pm; live on Amazon Prime