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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 31 October 2009; 3:00pm
 Aston Villa
 Bilyaletdinov (45')
Half Time: 1-0
Carew (46') 
Attendance: 36,648
Fixture 10
Referee: Lee Probert

Matchday Summary

A few of the walking wounded returned to the Everton line-up, Yobo, Baines Bilyaletdinov and Yakubu in; Hibbert, Gosling, Saha and Jo out.

Early exchanges were fairly bright, Everton getting most of the possession trying to play up at the Park End and pressurize Freidel's goal, Yakubu looking bright, but Villa's defence was pretty solid and Everton's penetration in the final third was lacking, with few real attempts on goal coming from it.  Fellaini did take a pop from outside the area but it was easily dealt with by Freidel.

Warnock was booked after bundling into Yakubu.  Meanwhile, Heitinga was giving away silly free-kicks and arguing pointlessly with the officials, allowing Villa to get back into the game.  A good move after half an hour involving Baines and a great cross from Heitinga saw Yakubu head just wide. Heitinga was walking the line with more fouls.

A session of head tennis in the Everton area nearly ended badly when the ball bobbled just wide of Howard's post.  But midfield stalemate and defensive stranglehold was really the story of most of the first half. 

But in added time, a speculative hoof from the back down Everton's right gave Cahill something to chase and he did well to control the ball then hook over a cross that Yakubu half-controlled but somewhat luckily clipped backwards behind him off his left heel, where it fell nicely for Bilyaletdinov to place his shot low toward the corner of the goal, where Friedel could not stop it from entering the net for the opening goal, much to the relief of a packed Goodison Park.

After the break, Carew came on for Milner and scored inside30 seconds, a blocked shot coming back off Howard, and Carew had the easiest of tasks slotting home the equalizer.

Cahill went into the book for a late scissors challenge. A tremendous shot from Pretrov would have troubled Howard but for a vital header by Cahill that lifted it over instead of under the bar as Everton lived dangerously around the hour mark.  The game was poised on a knife-edge as each side surged, end to end, he next goal clearly crucial.

Saha came on for Fellaini with 20 mins to go, Everton switching to 4-4-2 and a perhaps more attacking demeanour for the final push. Rodwell had a pop from 25 yards, but was sandwiched after the strike flew over the bar, and needed treatment.

Carew came close with a deft flick that Howard needed to save and Everton staged something of a break in which Yakubu won a free-kick but again the final ball failed to materialise. Heitinga was very lucky not to get a yellow for yet another poor tackle. Heitinga then fell awkwardly, but magically recovered. From a throw, Yakubu tried a great bicycle kick but failed to connect as Everton piled on the pressure. 

A great cross by Baines looked perfect for Cahill to score but Warnock incredibly got up in front of him. Saha created a yard and fired just wide as Everton poured on the pressure, but it seemed destined never to happen, especially as Bilyaletdinov was perhaps harsly sent off for going on with his studs on Petrov's ankle with 3 mins left.

Cuellar followed Bily off, a second yellow, despite getting something of the ball off Yakubu.  Lots of late drama as Goodison turned into a bear-pit, Reo-Coker coming on for Petrov, who was nailed by Bily,  and Jo for Yakubu with 4 mins added on, 10 v 10!!!

In the heat, Carew got booked when it looked like it should have been Heitinga, and both sides continued to push but it ended 1-1, a bit of a humdinger near the end.  

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

In the context of the last two seasons, a Premier League match-up between Everton and Aston Villa should be a clash between two clubs running hard on the coat-tails of the Sky Four. Of course, with the Blues' season working out anything but the way fans might have envisaged back in May, only one of the two teams is even in right of the table going into this weekend's game at Goodison Park.

David Moyes's hopes of righting the ship and gaining ground on the top six are being severely impacted by a burgeoning injury list, making the visit of Villa, currently in seventh place and six points better off, pretty important in the grand scheme of the Blues' campaign. It also makes it a fairly daunting one for a side that is now a run of five games without a win with only four goals scored.

That's in stark contrast to the five-match winning streak that preceded it when Everton racked up 13 goals and seemed to have erased their early-season jitters. At the heart of that impressive run was the form of Steven Pienaar and it's no surprise that the Blues have struggled after he suffered a knee injury at Portsmouth 5 weeks ago and has been sidelined every since.

The lack of energy and creativity in midfield due to his loss and that of Mikel Arteta lies at the heart of the team's recent struggles and while they were battling through without both players with draws against Stoke and Wolves, a crisis in defence brought on by the absence of Joseph Yobo has been the primary factor behind three consecutive defeats.

The Nigerian is again listed as doubtful this weekend a full two weeks now after supposedly picking up a head injury against Wolves and given the fact that John Heitinga had a poor game by all accounts in the Carling Cup loss at Spurs, it won'e inspire confidence if the Dutchman is asked to partner Sylvain Distin again against Villa.

Pienaar and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov are also doubts. Worse, so is top scorer Louis Saha who has a calf injury, but there is better news regarding Leighton Baines — the one player for whom there is no natural back-up.

match photo
Yobo and Saha: both are doubts for this weekend

Villa, hoping to win on Merseyside for the second time this season, have a fairly fit squad, certainly in contrast to Moyes's selection nightmares. Stephen Warnock is Martin O'Neill's only fresh doubt with an ankle injury.

Everton's form makes them ripe for all sorts of Halloween-related quips, cliches and analogies but perhaps the scariest thought going into this one is the fact that they are twice as close to the relegation places as they are to the top six. In terms of the potential psychological effects, defeat to Villa this weekend is unthinkable but the Blues are going to have to dig deep for what would be an important win.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Report

Everton arrested a three-game losing streak with their third consecutive 1-1 draw at home in the Premier League in a keenly-contested enounter that threatened to boil over in the closing stages as both teams finished with only 10 men.

Hoping to close the gap on Aston Villa with a vital win, the Blues' hopes were bolstered before kick-off by the return to action of Joseph Yobo, Leighton Baines and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and when the Russian slotted home his second goal since joined Everton from Lokomotiv Moscow, Everton seemed to be on their way.

Unfortunately, more lax defending amid a sloppy start to the second half allowed John Carew to level the scores less than a minute after coming on as a half-time substitute and a crucial winner proved beyond both sides in what became an increasingly tight and tetchy affair.

After five matches without a win, David Moyes was no doubt looking for a stron reaction from this players and he got it in the form of a strong start to the match. The Blues were almost completely dominant in the opening 10-15 minutes but, again, without the invention and inspiration from an Arteta or a Pienaar, they found clear-cut chances very hard to come by.

Yakubu prompted the first real intervention from Brad Friedel when his awkward cross sailed towards his crossbar and the American, making his 200th consecutive League appearances, had to bat it behind for a corner in the ninth minute.

Six minutes later, Marouane Fellaini tried his luck with a decent effort from 25+ yards but Friedel was able to make a routine catch and just before the half hour mark, John Heitinga's clipped ball over the top set up a chance for the Yak but he could only steer his header a yard wide.

Villa, for their part, had been largely contained in the first period and Tim Howard's goal was only really threatened once before the break when Stephen Warnock despatched a volley wide after 32 minutes.

The first half was drifting towards a goalless conclusion when Tim Cahill chased a hoisted a clearance by Yobo down the line. The Australian's tenacity was rewarded when, with space on the right he belted the ball towards the centre-circle. Yakubu's touch to tame the pace on the ball teed it up perfectly for the advancing Bilyaletdinov and the Russian winger calmly side-footed home via Friedel's palm.

1-0 on the stroke of half time and the Blues just needed to gather themselves during the interval and put the emphasis on not making any silly mistakes at the start of the second half.

Sadly, Everton were on the backfoot from the whistle and after a couple of Villa attacks were repelled, the ball was crossed in from the left to the back post where Stilyan Petrov was in space to knock it back to Gabriel Agbonlahor. Howard got a hand to his shot but could only present it on a plate to Carew and the big Norwegian slotted home from close range.

That might have been the catalyst for a rip-roaring second half but the two sides canceled each other out for long periods leaving chances at a high premium. It wasn't until 61 minutes had elapsed that the next chance arrived, a goal-bound piledriver by Petrov that Cahill deflected over his own bar.

It was another 17 minutes until either goal was meaningfully threatened again, this time when Carew's enterprising flick was gathered low by Howard before Louis Saha, on for the ineffective Fellaini, expertly found space for fizzing left-footer that flew a yard wide of Friedel's right post.

By that point, the temperature of proceedings had risen considerably after a series of poor and baffling decisions by referee Lee Probert had incensed the home crowd. And after Emile Heskey had escaped censure for an elbow to Heitinga's head, Bilyaletdinov was flashed a straight red for an untinentionally ugly challenge on Petrov.

It was a two-footed tackle that was considerably worse than it seemed the Russian intended. Video replays seemed to suggest his standing foot slipped as he went in for the challenge and he ended up catching the Bulgarian on the ankle. Regardless, Bilyaletdinov will miss three games at a time when Everton can ill-afford to lose him again.

Referee Probert wasn't done either and he showed his second red card of the game in the 90th minute when Cuellar committed a second bookable offense when he scythed Yakubu down.

The grandstand finish didn't really materialise and both sides had to settle for a point.

Considering how this could have gone given Everton's recent fragility, a draw wasn't a bad result but it does represent another lost opportunity to gain ground on the clubs currently occupying the European places.

Yobo's return was a welcome one and the defence did look stronger for it but questions will be asked about the marking for Carew's goal.

Again, though, it was a lack of incision and creativity going forward that lay behind a sixth successive failure to win. Fellaini was again a let-down in that regard and Bilyaletdinov was again under-utilized. Where last season Joleon Lescott would feed Baines and Pienaar down the left Sylvain Distin almost exlcusively hammers it downfield to the lone striker.

And with Lucas Neill having to stay back to nullify the threat posed by Ashley Young, he very rarely ventured into the last third. So there was precious little width from the home team and the Villa defence was too strong down the centre.

It was enough to lift Everton a place higher and with the likes of Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester City also dropping points, the Europa League places remain in reach for now.

Lyndon Lloyd

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EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Cahill :53'
  Fellaini (72' Saha)
  Bilyaletdinov :88'
  Yakubu (91' Jo)
  Subs not used
  Anichebe (injured)
  Arteta (injured)
  Jagielka (injured)
  Neville (injured)
  Osman (injured)
  Pienaar (injured)
  Vaughan (injured)
  Hibbert (injured)
  Jutkeiwicsz (on loan)
  Ruddy (on loan)
  Cuellar :24' :90'
  Warnock :31'
  Milner (46'Carew )
  Petrov (91' Reo-Coker)
  Subs not used
Premier League Scores
Saturday 31 October 2009
Arsenal 3-0 Tottenham
Bolton 0-4 Chelsea
Burnley 2-0 Hull
Everton 1-1 Aston Villa
Fulham 3-1 Liverpool
Portsmouth 4-0 Wigan
Stoke 2-2 Wolves
Sunderland 2-2 West Ham
Man Utd 2-0 Blackburn
Sunday 1 November 2009
Birmingham 0-0 Man City
Premier League Table
Pos Team Pts
1 Chelsea 27
2 Arsenal 22
3 Man Utd 22
4 Man City 19
5 Tottenham 19
6 Liverpool 18
7 Aston Villa 18
8 Sunderland 17
9 Stoke 16
10 Burnley 15
11 Fulham 14
12 Wigan 13
13 Everton 12
14 Birmingham 11
15 Bolton 11
16 Wolves 10
17 Blackburn 10
18 Hull 8
19 West Ham 7
20 Portsmouth 7
After 1 Nov 2009


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