Mateta and Eze inspire Crystal Palace to crushing win over Aston Villa

mateta and eze inspire crystal palace to crushing win over aston villa

Goalscorers Eberechi Eze and Jean-Philippe Mateta share a high five. Photograph: Tony Obrien/Reuters

It is just as well Aston Villa’s raucous travelling fans had already decided to treat this sun-drenched Sunday afternoon as little more than an opportunity to celebrate a historic season, because the thorough pasting their side received would otherwise have been impossible to stomach.

In bringing Europe’s premier competition to Villa Park next season for the first time since it was rebranded as the Champions League, Unai Emery has earned every plaudit that comes his way. But this swaggering Crystal Palace performance was another reminder that he was not the only magician in the Selhurst Park dugouts.

Evident in every flick, trick, tippy-tappy first-time pass and brazen ambition all over the pitch was the extraordinary confidence Oliver Glasner has brought to Palace since taking the reins in February. In the space of three months, the Austrian has turned a club perennially concerned with avoiding relegation into a team capable of beating anyone.

His Palace side were rampant, concluding the season with a seven-game unbeaten run that meant they finished in the top half of the Premier League table for only the second time in their history.

In Jean-Philippe Mateta, Glasner has somehow transformed a misfiring striker into one of the top-flight’s most deadliest finishers. Having scored just seven league goals across the past two campaigns, the Frenchman grabbed his first ever Premier League hat-trick here, taking his stunning late-season run to 13 goals in 13 games.

Behind him, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise were their unplayable best, tearing a terrified Villa defence to shreds at will as the hosts ran riot. Eze scored two brilliant second-half goals in a timely performance that will give Gareth Southgate further headaches as he contemplates how to fit his surfeit of attacking options into England’s European Championship squad.

Both of his thunderous strikes came from outside the Villa 18-yard box and left poor goalkeeper Robin Olsen helpless.

Mateta’s hattrick was the mark of a man who seems to have found an answer to every question football throws at him. Two goals in the first half were slotted from close range with a minimum of fuss, before he added a neat third after Eze had played the role of wondrous creator. Mateta did even put the ball in the net for a potential fourth, only to be ruled offside in the build-up by no more than an inch.

Faced with an ever-growing injury list that has decimated his squad, Emery’s team wilted alarmingly as the season drew to a close. So bleak were the options at his disposal that he was unable to fill the bench, even resorting to naming his 21-year-old goalkeeper son Lander Emery Fernandez among the substitutes simply to occupy a slot.

Thankfully the hard work had been done in previous months and a travelling contingent featuring Buzz Lightyear, a bunch of bananas and no fewer than a dozen traffic cones rarely let their singing cease. Nothing their buoyant opponents could produce was going to take the gloss off finishing fourth, which is just as well because this was a humiliation to forget.

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