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Premier League: Grealish gets the goal to keep Aston Villa up

Aston Villa confirmed Premier League survival thanks to a goal from their captain, Jack Grealish, in what could be his last appearance for the club.

Soccer Football - Premier League - West Ham United v Aston Villa - London Stadium, London, Britain - July 26, 2020 Aston Villa's Jack Grealish celebrates scoring their first goal, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coro

Aston Villa’s Premier League status appeared to be hanging by a thread with four games remaining after a 3-0 defeat to Manchester United that left them four points adrift of safety. They had managed just two points from their first six post-lockdown matches but an incredible run of form since then has seen them pick up eight points from their final four games to secure survival.

They went into the final day just above the relegation zone but knew that both Watford and Bournemouth could overtake them. Watford got off to a terrible start at the Emirates and were three goals down before halftime, effectively sealing a return to the Championship for the Hornets. Bournemouth started strongly against Everton and went into the break 2-1 up at Goodison Park. Junior Stanislas got a third for the Cherries with just ten minutes remaining to put the pressure on Villa in the final stages, who would be relegated if they lost against West Ham United.

Aston Villa get the point they needed thanks to Grealish goal

It was 0-0 at the London Stadium until the 84th minute when Villa fan Jack Grealish stepped up to make perhaps the most vital contribution of his time with his boyhood club. Receiving the ball on the edge of the West Ham box, he fashioned himself a bit of room and lashed a left-footed drive past Lukasz Fabianski to put Villa ahead.

That gave the visitors some breathing room but West Ham struck back almost immediately, with Andriy Yarmolenko levelling the score just a minute later. Villa boss Dean Smith watched on anxiously as his side closed out the game for the point they needed for survival.

Villa boss not drawn on Grealish future at club

Speaking after the game, Smith felt that his team’s work during the suspension of play and the good form since the restart was what kept them up. “It’s a magnificent achievement because up to the pandemic a lot of people had us as relegated and we have had to work extremely hard," he said. "I felt we used the pandemic [break] really well. We’ve been solid defensively, we’ve looked strong and we’ve managed to stay in the Premier League.”

Asked about the future of star player Grealish, the Villa boss refused to be drawn. He was asked in a post-match interview if he expected the midfielder to be at the club next season and answered: “I expect him to get drunk with me tonight, that’s all I expect. I’ll sit down with the sporting director and the CEO and speak to the owners tomorrow but we will enjoy this for now”.

Points total the second-lowest for a Premier League survivor

Aston Villa stayed up with 35 points, the second-lowest total of any team to have avoided Premier League relegation after West Bromwich Albion’s 34 points in the 2004/05 campaign. Watford and Bournemouth will join Norwich City in the Championship next season.