Palace 2 Villa 2: Skipper keeps double hopes alive
By Villa reporter
Sunday 14 Feb 2010 17:36:00
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Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov kept alive his team’s hopes of a cup double with an 87th minute equaliser in a pulsating tie at Selhurst Park.

Goals by Johannes Ertl and Darren Ambrose, sandwiched by James Collins’ header, meant Palace had one foot in the last eight – until the Bulgarian glanced home a header from a corner as Villa piled on late pressure. There’ll be a replay on February 23 or 24. The winners will be away to Reading or West Brom.

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Villa looked like they had suffered a major blow in the second minute when striker Emile Heskey stayed down after a heavy challenge near the touchline. But after treatment the England man was back on his feet and in the action.

On 20 minutes, Petrov fed Ashley Young, and he appeared to be pushed off his feet by Nathaniel Clyne inside the area. Referee Kevin Friend waved play on.

Three minutes later, O’Neill’s men found themselves one down. A corner on the Palace left was swung in by Darren Ambrose and Johannes Ertl beat James Collins to the header inside the six-yard box, with Brad Friedel also coming for it but looking like he might have been impeded.

Villa were behind for just 11 minutes. Stewart Downing’s inswinging free-kick on the right was glanced home by Collins, more than making up for any limitations he displayed in the goal conceded.

Either side could have had the lead before the break. First Petrov headed narrowly wide from James Milner's corner, then Alan Lee mis-hit a volley across goal. Just before the break, Ambrose's 30-yard free-kick took a deflection off the wall and Friedel did well to parry it to safety.

John Carew replaced Heskey for the second half, the subbed striker perhaps suffering from the effects of that early injury. Carew might have got himself on the scoresheet just three minutes after coming on, but Julian Speroni in the home goal saved well from his shot.

Villa had a half-hearted shout for a penalty in the 51st minute when Fabian Delph played in Milner, who went down as he challenged for the ball with Danny Butterfield. But in truth it was probably six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Palace defender Claude Davis was booked just after the hour for a meaty challenge on Milner. He protested his innocence but convinced no-one he should not have been carded.

There was a bizarre incident on 66 minutes. Keeper Speroni kicked the ball out from a goal kick as if a Palace player were injured, but it transpired he just needed to adjust his boot and relace it. When Ashley Young kicked the ball out for a Palace throw rather than give it back to Speroni he was roundly abused by the home crowd.

Three minutes later, Villa were behind again, and from a predictable source.

Ambrose had already shown his free-kicks were things to fear, and this one from all of 36 yards swerved past a pointless two-man wall and beat Friedel to his left to put the Eagles in front again.

Ambrose almost got a second goal in three minutes when his flicked header from a looping cross from the right beat Friedel but hit the angle of post and bar.

Villa were so close to an equaliser in the 76th minute as Richard Dunne headed on for Carew to power a header goalwards, but it was brilliantly tipped over by Speroni. Then from the corner Collins found space at the far post for a shot which a defender blocked on the line.

Villa were piling on the pressure and when Carew’s header was somehow kept out by Speroni, the corner led to Petrov glancing in a near-post header. O’Neill did a jig along the touchline to celebrate.

Young almost touched in Downing's cross from the right three minutes into time added on, which was lengthened after Milner needed treatment to a knee injury after a nasty collision.

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