A first half to forget for Everton as they conceded two goals, three yellow cards and lost DCL to what looked a very painful right cheekbone injury. And it got worse very early in the second half as Bailey put the result beyond question, Iwobi pulled a hamstring… and worse still when Duran added a fourth with almost his first kick of the ball.
And I repeat what I said last week that the utter and disgraceful failure of all those within the club responsible for identifying and securing the services of a proven goalscorer is beyond excuse… we have never replaced Lukaku, never mind Richarlison, and it’s time the fans made our disgust at this utter ineptitude clear for all to see !!!
In terms of relevance, this Premier League fixture between Aston Villa and Everton – the most played in top-flight football – was a tad overshadowed by the Lionesses disappointingly unsuccessful appearance in the World Cup down under and particularly the marvellous efforts of both sets of supporters, united in their commitment to pay respect to Michael Jones, the young Evertonian who lost his life in an unfortunate incident whilst working on the construction of the new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock.
Villa under Unai Emery had a tremendous second half to last season and came into this new season with high hopes of continuing that progress to threaten the so-called ‘big six’ or is it now ‘seven’? However, their opening day dreams were shattered as they suffered a heavy defeat away at Newcastle and in the process lost the services of captain Tyrone Mings to what is being reported as a serious and potentially long-term knee injury.
Elsewhere in the Villa squad there were other fitness and availability issues ahead of the clash with the Blues as Leon Bailey was looking to return after a lower back strain that saw him an early substitution at St.James’s Park and whilst forwards Jhon Duran and Bertrand Traore returned to training this week, seats on the bench was the best they could expect.
Speaking on Friday, Villa manager Emery reflected on his sides loss at Newcastle when he noted, “We analysed the match deeply with the players. We have to improve some things that we did really bad. But playing the first match away, against Newcastle with a wish to win the first three points, one of our analyses is that, now, Newcastle are better than us overall. We have to continue finding our way and finding our objective. And now we can face only the match we are playing against Everton.”
And he recognised that todays opponents will be equally as focussed when he added, “They played very well against Fulham at home, but they lost. We understand the need [to win] for them and for us. We need to use all our best wishes and have all our supporters being with us in the stadium. We will try to get a good atmosphere being together.”
Looking to get their home season off to a good start, the Spaniard named his starting line-up thus: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne, Bailey, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn (c), Diaby and Watkins.
For Sean Dyche and Everton, the on-going struggle is to find a way and perhaps additional personnel to convert chances created into goals. As his opposite number alluded to, Everton out chanced Fulham last weekend by some margin but, the frailty in the finishing department was apparent for all to see as chance after chance went begging, and the cause wasn’t helped by a contentious decision to cancel out a finish from Michael Keane.
With (not unsurprisingly) no further transfer activity having been completed in the past week, Dyche called on his players to be aggressive and take the challenge head-on when he told his media assembly, “Villa showed that they are a very good side last season, and you’d expect there’ll be a reaction [to the defeat at Newcastle], so we have to safeguard against that. It was Joe Royle who used to say ‘Get your retaliation in first, don’t wait for them to step forward first’. We have to play on the front foot and take the game on. Both home and away. That’s our mentality this season, take every challenge as it comes and take every game on with a real positive attitude.”
The manager is also painfully aware that in recent years, the Blues form away from Goodison has been patchy at best as Everton finished last term having lost just one of their last seven road trips but, having recorded only one win in that spell. He duly commented, “There were a number of close [away] games that we played well in. The Forest game jumps off the page from the last season. I thought we dominated large parts and played well. It was as good as an away performance as you will get, other than the result. Others we didn’t perform well, but that was one we did. Leicester was another one. Then a really big performance against a top side in Brighton. So you are never a million miles away.” He closed adding, “Adding the idea of the mental side of the game [is key], adding the approach away from home and the belief factor, because our fans always travel well away from home and support us.”
With the need for goals imperative, Dyche updated the media by advising that, “Dominic Calvert-Lewin is fit, in good shape and comes straight back into the thinking (for Sunday).” The manager advised that Arnaut Danjuma and Vitalii Mykolenko “still have a bit to do” and that Andre Gomes was doubtful with a tight calf. Seamus Coleman, Dele Alli and Dwight McNeil are all still some way from a return to squad inclusion, while Youssef Chermiti will “be given time to adjust to the demands of the English game.”
Needing a positive result he considered his options to achieve that and named his starting eleven: Jordan Pickford, Nathan Patterson, Michael Keane, James Tarkowski (c), Ashley Young, James Garner, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Amadou Onana, Alex Iwobi and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
On a pleasant afternoon in the West Midlands, the ref likely to spoil the occasion was Anthony Taylor.
Villa attacked the Holte End in the first half and won the first corner inside 15 seconds and that produced a second as a McGinn shot was deflected behind. Everton defended it and a fine cross field ball from Garner picked out Iwobi, his cross being cleared by Villa.
Everton employing an early high press posed Villa a problem they looked unsure of how to deal with, certainly in the opening exchanges but when Everton lost possession, McGinn got forward and combined with Watkins to set up Diaby who hoisted his shot high over the crossbar.
DCL and Villa keeper Martinez collided going for a cross from Doucoure with the Blues striker seemingly coming off the worse and needing treatment before picking himself up and rejoining the play. Villa wasted a decent move by playing too many passes looking for the perfect opening and when Young tried to burst through the Villa midfield, Luiz picked up the first yellow card of the game for a clumsy challenge on his former team mate. The free kick saw Onana stray offside and through the opening quarter hour, the honours were even.
And of course, having typed that, Villa opened the scoring with their next attack, Diaby finding Bailey on the right and his cross into the area easily converted by McGinn from the edge of the six-yard area.
Boosted by the 18th minute goal, Villa got forward again to win a third corner, Garner clearing a cross from Digne, the ball came back into the area and Pickford was assessed a penalty for a swipe at Watkins. VAR reviewed it, agreed with the referee and Luiz stepped forward to 2-0 after the Everton goalie had been yellow carded for time-wasting – 24 minutes played and a mountain to climb.
Everton won their first corner and Martinez claimed it comfortably and the banners in respect of Michael Jones were unfurled and greeted with applause from all around Villa Park. Pickford held a shot from Diaby on a quick counter by the home side. Digne went down under pressure from Patterson, the home fans yelling for a penalty that the referee waved away.
Lucas Digne was the games third booking for a pull back on Garner who had turned him very easily but, on the next Villa raid, a cross from the former Blues defender picked out Diaby for a volley that Pickford did very well to keep out, and keep Everton in the game, at the expense of a corner that Villa wasted.
DCL went down on 36 minutes, the swelling on the right side of his face following that earlier collision with Martinez clear to see and very obviously troubling him, and he was rightly replaced by Arnaut Danjuma who had been warming up for the past five minutes.
Into the final five minutes of the first half and Villa were passing the ball around crisply and confidently having built their lead and in the fairly safe knowledge that it might not be seriously threatened by the depleted and increasingly toothless visitors.
Nine added minutes were announced and finally, Everton recorded a shot on target as Danjuma got to a long ball, held up the play to exchange passes with Patterson and bring a near post save out of Martinez and win a corner that failed to produce. Garner found Patterson in behind Digne but, his wild cross was far too strong and sailed out of play on the left for a throw-in to Villa. Keane was the games fourth booking for a pull on Watkins as he looked to try and break into the Everton half, and the half finally came to a conclusion with the home side comfortably ahead, after Idrissa Gana Gueye put the Blues ahead on the yellow card scoreboard for a foul on McGinn.
Half Time: 2-0
Lewis Dobbin was a half time change for Gana Gueye to start the second half as Sean Dyche accepted that the need for additional goal threat was immediate from the kick off and Dobbin made an early chance for Garner who shot wide under pressure from Cash. Barely three minutes had been played when Alex Iwobi went down holding his left hamstring and him limped off to the dressing room while another change in the shape of Neal Maupay was made.
Villa wasted a corner but, from a throw-in the ball came into the Everton area, Keane failed to make a meaningful contact on the ball and Bailey swivelled to blast home the result insuring third goal.
It was fast becoming damage limitation time as Villa looked capable of slicing through the team in blue like a hot knife through hot butter – Watkins getting an effort beyond Pickford and thankfully, the far post too.
Danjuma crossed from the left and Patterson saw a cross deflected behind for a corner that was played deep for Maupay only for Martinez to block his short range effort. An hour gone and maybe, just maybe, the first sign of a bit of fight from the Blues.
A Villa corner saw Tarkowski with a solid tackle stop Bailey in his tracks while play continued and Villa won another corner and while Bailey got some treatment, Villa made a triple change with Coutinho, Carlos and Tielemans replacing Luix, Diaby and Bailey respectively on 63 minutes and the corner was defended.
Villa began to knock the ball around as if it was a training session, the three goal lead a more than ample cushion for them to defend and we passed the 70-minute mark with Watkins running into Keans and Digne fouling Onana. Danjuma got back well to help out the defence as Villa broke quickly and a fourth Villa change saw Duran replace Watkins on 73 minutes… and his first involvement was to capitalise on a dreadful back pass from Young to beat Keane to the ball and coolly slot beyond Pickford.
Into the final ten minutes of a game every Evertonian will want to try and forget as quickly as the last debacle they witnessed and Everton won a corner on the right as a Danjuma shot was deflected behind, that ended with Dobbin crossing tamely straight into the waiting arms of Martinez. Coutinho went down holding his left hamstring and appeared to be in genuine discomfort, and was helped off the pitch to be replaced by Cameron Archer for the last five minutes plus added-on time.
Patterson was booked for a poor challenge on Digne, making him the fourth Everton booking of the game and a sign of the frustration growing within some in blue. Archer was booked for his first challenge, on Danjuma, as the game had become very staccato as clearly both sides just wanted it to be over… only for a further nine additional minutes to be announced.
Everton won another corner that failed to trouble the Villa defence and a free kick from the wide left from Garner was easily claimed by Martinez. No offence to Tyler Onyango but, quite why he was sent on for the last two minutes of added on time to replace Doucoure is beyond me.
And finally, finally, Anthony Taylor called time on this latest failure of Everton… when oh when is this purgatory going to end?