Everton 1 – 2 Aston Villa
The last time Aston Villa played Everton, many fans thought that relegation was guaranteed for the Villans. Ezri Konsa’s sliding finish was cancelled out by a Theo Walcott header, and after Anwar El Ghazi missed a a sitter, it seemed as if Dean Smith’s men had thrown away their survival chances. Fast forward nine months or so, and Villa find themselves very comfortably in mid-table, and playing Everton twice within two weeks.
Smith opted to leave Keinan Davis on the bench, despite his good performances against Fulham and the Baggies. One change was certain to happen though, as Matty Cash came in at right-back for Ahmed Elmohamady. The discovery of the team news would be a little different for the Villa faithful, due to the ongoing social media boycott by clubs and players.
In what was a very entertaining first-half, Villa played some lovely football, but often couldn’t find the finish. Despite the half being book ended by short periods of Everton dominance, the Villans were on top throughout.
Ollie Watkins pounced on a poor Mason Holgate touch, showed great strength and slotted a shot under Jordan Pickford. It looked like it would get better as Ezri Konsa played in Watkins again. A fluffed finish couldn’t beat Pickford for a second time. However, it was the marking system from a corner that would be the teams downfall once more. Dominic Calvert-Lewin made a simple run to the back post unchallenged and headed home. One of the best headers of the ball in the Premier League without one of Villa’s taller players man-marking him, what does Smith expect?
It was a Claret and Blue shower on the Everton net from then on, as Watkins, El Ghazi, Barkley and more had attempts to pull Villa ahead. Bertrand Traore provided one of the highlights of the half with a lovely touch to send Allan for a pack of toffees.
It was a great half of football to watch, a contrast to most of Villa’s performances in 2021.
Villa did their best to gift Everton a second goal early in the second half. Konsa, then McGinn and then Mings, gave the ball away and allowed the home side to get shots away. Thankfully for Konsa and Co. all the shots were shanked wide. The game then became a scrappy midfield battle, without a great deal of final third quality from either side. Carlo Ancelotti’s men had the pick of the chances, but they certainly didn’t have their shooting boots on.
From out of nowhere, as the game had seemingly died, a shot opened up for Anwar El Ghazi. The Dutchman sent a sweet shot flying past Pickford, and Villa had the lead. Everton attempted to force their way back into the game, but bar a Josh King dragged strike, there wasn’t a great deal of threat to Martinez’s net.
The first-half was much more like what fans have come to expect from this Villa side earlier in the season. Deano was frustratingly slow to make a substitution, when it looked like one was needed. However, they got the job done, and showed that the Villa aren’t on the beach just yet.
Emiliano Martinez – 7
Emi Martinez was helped by Everton’s poor shooting throughout the game. Most shots were skewed well wide, and so the Argentine hardly had to break a sweat. He did make a fantastic save shortly after Calvert-Lewin drew the scores level. The powerful striker lunged forward and met the ball well with his head, but Martinez got a strong hand to the ball, to prevent an Everton lead.
Matty Cash – 7
One delightful cross from Matty Cash showed exactly what Smith was missing down the right against the Albion. Matty Cash was a useful outlet down the right, constantly making overlapping runs and causing havoc for Lucas Digne. Defensively he wasn’t bad either. The times Richarlison got in on goal were when others practically gifted him the chance.
Ezri Konsa – 6
Ezri Konsa made some impressive blocks, but his general play and passing were far below par. On several occasions the 23-year-old played an inaccurate pass in a dangerous position, or fumbled the ball at his feet. The past couple of games haven’t been Konsa’s best, but it’s nothing to be worried about, as when it really mattered this season, he stepped up.
Tyrone Mings © – 6
Positionally, at times, Tyrone Mings was all over the place. The Villa skipper came charging out of defence, was dragged out wide and towards Konsa. His defensive clearances left a lot to be desired also, with headers misplaced, and one aimless hoof launched into orbit before landing a few yards away. Some of his long passing to Watkins was good though, and gave Villa an outlet when they needed to push out. The defensive system for corners needs sorting too, as it really should be someone like Mings on Calvert-Lewin, not having a blocker like Barkley or McGinn in a zonal formation.
Matt Targett – 7
There was a worrying moment when Matt Targett went down after an innocuous incident in the first-half. The improvement Targett has made in the past season makes him one of the most improved players at the club. The absence of James Rodriguez for the home side made matters a lot easier for him, but he defended well nonetheless.
Douglas Luiz – 6
Douglas Luiz tried to put himself about in midfield, but he ended up making more fouls than tackles. His passing was also a little off his usual accurate best. He did attempt to drive forward from midfield once or twice, adding to the Villa counter, but his decision making in the final third left a lot to be desired.
John McGinn – 7
This was a good performance from John McGinn. Yes, he had his trademark inaccurate long shot, but at least he got it out of the way early this time. The Scot’s five tackles was the most of anyone on the pitch, and his long passing was more often than not on the money. While Douglas struggled at times, McGinn did his best to help out his midfield partner, and he did brilliantly. Super John may have been a bit on and off this season, but he was definitely on in this game.
Bertrand Traore – 7
When Bertrand Traore is flying on the break, and has space to run into and men to take on, he’s such an entertaining player to watch. His touch to beat Allan deserved more than the one replay it got, and whenever he gets the ball it feels like something could happen out of nothing. His attempt to curl the ball over Jordan Pickford would have been one of the goals of the season if the Everton ‘keeper hadn’t been so quick to get back. His influence did peter out in the second half, but Traore can be a delight to watch.
Ross Barkley – 8
Ross Barkley really turned up against his former club. It’s a good job because the Villans have to play Everton again soon. There was little of the sloppy control, inaccurate passing, or lack of effort from the Chelsea-loanee. From minute one he was playing nice interchanges with Watkins and Traore, and dropping deep when he needed to collect the ball. Maybe this is the start of an end of season return to form?
Anwar El Ghazi – 6
After scoring the winning goal in the ‘Cazoo Derby’, maybe Anwar El Ghazi can expect a second hand Fiat Panda to be arriving at his door in the next few days. His finish was excellent, but it was to be said that the rest of his game was frustrating. The winger was dispossessed the most times and had the most unsuccessful touches of any Villa player. Often promising attacks would break down as they got to El Ghazi, as he passed backwards or ran into traffic. With all that said, it can’t be denied that he turned up with a goal when it was needed, which is very valuable indeed.
Ollie Watkins – 8 MOTM
The only thing missing from Ollie Watkins’ performance was another goal. He certainly had the opportunities to grab a second, but one goal had to suffice in the end. His work rate was immense, and this caused Holgate and Godfrey all kinds of problems. The obvious problem it caused was the goal, but time after time, Watkins runs were dragging the centre-backs to and fro. What a performance to put in with Gareth Southgate watching.
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Off the Bench
Jacob Ramsey (87) – N/A
The substitution committee had been huddled round for about half an hour before they decided to bring on Jacob Ramsey in the 87th minute. It’s another run out for the youngster but it served more as time-wasting.
Keinan Davis (91) – N/A
Another time-wasting substitution. It wouldn’t be surprising if Keinan Davis was feeling a little brassed off. The game had died a little around the 60th minute, and the stage looked set for Davis to mix things up. Smith isn’t so quick to make changes, so he had to settle for a two-minute cameo.
Dean Smith – 7
The quality of football on display from Villa has no doubt improved over the past two games. Something seems to have clicked, at least a little, to get the team playing a bit more like earlier in the season. The frustration comes when the tempo drops and sloppy play starts to gift the opposition chances. There’s never an immediate change to mix things up when the game appears to be slipping away from Villa and Smith. It may have worked to stick with the players on the pitch this time round, but so often the substitutes have had an impossible task, to make a huge impact in the last five minutes or so.
It’s Manchester United up next, so the referee’s will have their whistle’s to their lips in preparation for a soft penalty. In reality it’s a complete free hit for Deano’s men, so why not have a go and try and play some football? The best thing Smith can do now is give the fans some good football to watch.