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Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
Premier League
 Saturday 26 October 2013; 3:00pm
0 2
Half Time: 0-0
Lukaku (68')
Osman (81')
Attendance: 35,154
Fixture 9
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Match Report

There was a Spanish flag adorned with the Everton crest in the away contingent as the fans' infectious, new, Anglo-French* victory chant rang around Villa Park while it emptied of demoralised home supporters, but the inspiration for an important away victory was all English.

At the age of 32, Leon Osman's capacity to influence a game for 90 minutes may have diminished but he proved how decisive he can be coming off the substitute's bench with a game-changing intervention that helped lift the Blues over Villa and continue Roberto Martinez's impressive start to life at the Everton helm.

Initially providing the experience and level-headed influence to help check the momentum Villa had been building since half time, Osman then served up the goal that broke the deadlock between these two historic adversaries and, finally, sealed the three points with a lovely placed finish with 10 minutes to go.

The result marked Everton's first clean sheet in 11 years in a fixture that has, in recent seasons, become something of a back-and-forth battle often ending with numerous goals but honours even. It was also important in the context of the Blues' bid to crack the top four this season Tottenham Hotspur, next weekend's visitors to Goodison, had won here last weekend by the same scoreline and if a Champions League berth is going to be even a possibility for Martinez' side this term, it's games like these that need to be won.

Though the scoreline was convincing, it was made possible by heroic work from Tim Howard in keeping the score goalless at half time. The American had a huge game in goal, foiling both Christian Benteke and Andreas Weimann in one-on-one situations in the first 25 minutes as Everton's defence buckled under Villa's direct and fleet-footed approach.

Howard's best moment, however, came after just eight minutes when Seamus Coleman, who did not enjoy one of his better afternoons, clipped the heels of Benteke as the striker cut across him in the penalty area and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot. While the intent from the Irishman had been missing, the official had little option than to award a penalty but Howard came up big against Benteke, palming his well-struck shot behind in world-class fashion.

Paul Lambert's men were happy to cede the bulk of possession to Everton in the opening 45 minutes and try to find Benteke with balls launched forward from the back or hit the visitiors on the quick counter-attack with men flooding forward through midfield. The Blues, meanwhile, struggled to get their possession-based game into second gear, with Kevin Mirallas hugging the right touchline and largely on the fringe of the action and Romelu Lukaku receiving little service beyond the first-minute cross from his Belgian teammate that he couldn't steer goalwards.

Things started to click a little more as the half progressed, though, and a rare attacking foray on the overlap by Coleman in the 26th minute ended with the Irishman whipping a cross to Lukaku but his header was thwarted by a reflex stop from Guzan. It was Everton's best move of the game thus far and was followed almost immediately by a wonderful shot by Ross Barkley but a slight a deflection saw it bounce agonisingly off the top of the crossbar.

Lukaku then embarked on a now-typical rampaging run but the ball got caught under his feet a little at the crucial moment and a clear chance evaporated, while Mirallas ended a quick break by twisting and turning past his marker and firing goalwards, only for his shot to deflect behind.

If the Blues appeared to be building up a head of steam going into the half-time interval, it appeared to have dissipated to a large degree as the second half started. What purpose they had going forward was wasted somewhat by a poor final ball, both from the wide areas and from set-pieces.

Giving up more and more possession to the home side and generally unable to match their hosts' quick-fire passing exchanges down the centre of the field, the Blues were looking a little ragged in the first quarter of an hour after the restart. Barkley's initial threat had subsided as some questionable decision-making crept into his play, not least when he ignored the better placed Mirallas to his right in the 51st minute and went for an ambitious shot from the angle that he blazed into the stands behind Guzan's goal.

Martinez responded, though, by replacing the youngester with Osman on the hour mark and Everton looked a lot more settled in attacking midfield as a result of the veteran's more considered distribution. With Gareth Barry and James McCarthy carrying out their typically industrious and unsung duties of breaking things up in central midfield and Benteke tiring up front for Villa, the Blues now had the platform on which to go and win the game.

The crucial first goal arrived eight minutes after Osman's introduction. A well-worked move against the left touchline saw Leighton Baines find his fellow England international with a first-time pass infield and Osman knocked on into the penalty area to meet Lukaku's run where the Belgian striker swept the ball past the 'keeper before charging over to the massed ranks of celebrating Evertonians.

Lukaku almost earned Everton a penalty of their own just two minutes later, referee Taylor ignoring calls for handball on Ron Vlaar, but an unconvincing close-range snap-shot from Gabriel Agbonlahor in the 75th minute that, thankfully, ended up in Howard's arms was the last whimper from a Villa side whose belief had visibly been choked out of them by the goal. It had come at a time when Lambert's men were in the ascendency and, conversely, it gave Martinez's men the shot in the arm they needed to take decisive control of the game.

It was fitting, therefore, that Osman was the one to deliver the hammer blow in the 81st minute. Mirallas played a corner short to Baines who, his inexplicable shackles off, was causing all sorts of problems on Villa's right and he fed it back to Barry in an ocean of space in the penalty area. He had time to play it back to the beckoning Osman on the edge of the box and he stroked the ball inside the post with aplomb.

With the home fans heading for the exits, Everton had chances to pour more misery on Villa but Steven Naismith, on as a substitute for Pienaar, just missed finding the same spot as had Osman with a good effort from 18 yards and Baines raked an effort of his own wide from a similar distance in injury time.

In the final reckoning, a terrific three points from precisely the kind of game Everton should be winning, although Martinez will feel indebted to his goalkeeper for a fine game between the sticks. Ultimately, the Blues found the quality they needed in the final third when it mattered and they were good value for the three points on the whole.

Furthermore, though he somehow failed to book Tomev for a late, high-footed tackle on Baines in the first half but then correctly yellow-carded McCarthy for an ugly challenge on Westwood in the second, it was nice not to have to talk about controversial referee Taylor, though Lambert will no doubt feel as though some of the marginal decisions went Everton's way.

Most importantly, this Everton side looks like it knows how to win games and then close them out at the moment and Martinez has made two match-turning substitutions in the last two games that are a credit to his reading of his side's performances. That makes five Premier League wins in the last six matches; now to make a statement against rivals Spurs back at Goodison on Sunday...

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Summary

Aston Villa 0 - 2 Everton

Steven Pienaar was fit enough to start, Osman stepping down to the bench. Everton started brightly, Mirallas firing in a sharp cross for Lukaku that went off the defender but onlya goal kick awarded. Mirallas got forward again but twice fired the ball at his marker.

On Villa's first real attack, Benteke appeared to stumble but Coleman was adjudged to have caught his heel... penalty to Villa. But Tim Howard had no intention of letting this one in from the Belgian and he produced a superb one-handed save to push the well-stuck spot-kick around the post!

A horrible late challenge by Tonev on Baines went unpunished with a card but Baines curled in a nice free-kick that the keeper read well. The game became really competitive with Villa pressing Everton hard and marking tight, so Blues possession was not straight-forward by any means. Everton tried pushing through the middle until a ball out to Coleman drew a foul in a dangerous spot on the corner of the Villa area, but it was delivered by Baines straight to Guzan.

More attacking play ensued but the pace was too slow and it was overworked until possession was lost. Benteke seemed to be miles offside when he got behind the Everton defence for a pass from Tonev. The Big Belgian once again steadied and fired goalwards but Howard was again well matched and saved brilliantly. Vieman was then through in a similar position, miles offside when the ball was played to him, and again it needed some miraculous footwork from Howard to save the day.

A faster move down the right and a great ball whipped in for Lukaku saw Everton's Belgian striker head on target but Guzan this time made the save. A fantastic shot by Barkley was deflected off a villa foot and flew over Guzan to smack off the bar and over for a corner. Lukaku then tried to power his way goalward and got close with another strike that Gizan saved.

Mirallas in loads of space, tried to do it all himself, but his final shot was deflected out for a corner that was again played a little deep, Distin's header in was blocked by the crowd of defenders. Villa's corners were more dangerous, one right under the bar that Howard had to parry across goal.

More laboured buildups through the middle rather than fast play down the flanks ended in predictable turnovers or longer balls played forward, with Luna overstretching for one and being replaced by Clark just before half-time.

Better play after break saw Coleman and Mirallas linking up well on the flank but his cross led to a corner that was headed over by Lukaku. Barkley did well to fight off Villa defenders but he chose to shoot when pushed wide and was never going to score with his off-balance slice.

Villa responded with pressure from another deflected shot and corner dealt with well by Lukaku, but Everton were still looking less than composed at the back at times. A shot from Delf was deflected off Jagielka for another corner that Lukaku headed away. On the hour mark, Barkley was replaced by Osman.

Poor play by McCarthy? allowed Westwood to release Benteke but Jagielka was faster to the ball. McCarthy then went straight in on Westwood's ankle and picked up the first yellow of the game..., could have been a straight red, a very poor late challenge. Villa had been the stronger since the break, and had limited Everton's advances up the pitch.

Some much sharper passing down the left saw Osman pick out Lukaku with a gift of a setup and the Belgian did the business brilliantly to finally make the breakthrough, powering the ball superbly into the Villa net past a despairing dive from Guzan to send the tremendously vocal Everton contingent into rapturous appreciation.

Naismith came on and came close to scoring with a thoroughly demoralized Villa side and crowd well outsung by a raucous travelling contingent, who had not seen too many wins on the road for the Blues. It was Ole football played in the yellow second kit, with Deulofeu coming on for an added-time cameo as Everton wrapped up three excellent points to breifly go third in the table a massive boost for Roberto Martinez as he continues to produce some splendid results for Everton.

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Beaten just once in the Premier League so far this season, Everton's victory over Hull City last weekend was their fourth in five matches and yet they sit in seventh place in the table, four points off the summit. It's testament to the challenge that Roberto Martinez faces this season in trying to better his predecessor's sixth-place finish last season and, even better, to crack the top four come May.

In addition to the usual moneyed suspects, those clubs who filled the four places between Champions Manchester United and Everton last season and who all strengthened their already impressive squads to varying degrees over the summer, there are wildcard teams like Liverpool and Southampton who have made strong starts to the 2013-14 campaign and who look capable of pushing the Blues all the way in the race for the European places.

That increases the pressure on Martinez to keep churning out results and accumulating points, particularly in away matches like this weekend's trip to Aston Villa which have already been won by rival teams, like Spurs who came away from Villa Park with a convincing 2-0 victory last Sunday.

On paper, the Villains looked better prepared to challenge in the top half of the Premier League season than they did last season and that may yet prove to be the case but they've made a chequered start. A stunning 3-1 win at Arsenal on the opening day was as poor an indication of the situation at the Emirates as it has proved to be for Paul Lambert's Villa.

The Gunners responded by embarking on a jaw-dropping run of results that has established them as the clear pacesetters, dropping just two points in the League since. Villa, on the other hand have managed to win just twice more since, although one of those wins came against Manchester City recently.

Lambert will also have potent marksman, Christian Benteke, back in the side who will face off against his countryman, Romelu Lukaku, for the first time since the latter's loan switch to Goodison. That makes them unpredictable foes for an Everton side still finding its way to a degree under Martinez's preferred playing style.

The Blues come into this one with a momentum that doesn't appear to have been unduly disturbed by the defeat at the Etihad Stadium. The win over Hull City was well deserved and if the team can carry through that level of possession-hogging football and chance creation while tightening up a little at the back, then they should be in good shape to take all three points. Should they do so, they stand to make up some ground on at least one of the teams above them – Chelsea and Manchester City play each other on Sunday.

Their chances should be enhanced by the return of Steven Pienaar; that's if Martinez elects to displace regular starter Leon Osman in favour of the South African who marked his return from injury last Saturday with an excellent goal. Certainly, the reestablishment of the Pienaar-Leighton Baines partnership down the left flank will provide more attacking threat than has been the case during the former's absence.

Late training-ground injuries notwithstanding, it's hard to envision any other changes to the XI that started against the Tigers.

Lyndon Lloyd

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
Key Links
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2013-14 Reports Index
< Hull City (H) Tottenham (H) >
 Everton fans' reports
 Lyndon Lloyd Report
 Paul Traill Report
  Luna (46' Clark)
  Tonev (77' Helenius)
  Subs not used
  El Ahmadi

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard booked:87'
  McCarthy booked:62'
  Pienaar (80' Naismith)
  Mirallas (90' Deulofeu)
  Barkley (60' Osman)
  Subs not used
  Alcaraz (injured)
  Gibson (injured)
  Heitinga (injured)
  Kone (injured)
  McAleny (injured)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Junior (loan)
  Duffy (loan)

Premier League Scores
Aston Villa 0 - 2 Everton
C Palace 0 - 2 Arsenal
Liverpool 4 - 1 West Brom
Man United 3 - 2 Stoke City
Norwich 0 - 0 Cardiff
So'hampton 2 - 0 Fulham
Chelsea 2 - 1 Man City
Sunderland 2 - 1 Newcastle
Swansea 0 - 0 West Ham
Tottenham 1 - 0 Hull City

Team Pts
1 Arsenal 22
2 Chelsea 20
3 Liverpool 20
4 Tottenham Hotspur 19
5 Southampton 18
6 Everton 18
7 Manchester City 16
8 Manchester United 14
9 Swansea City 11
10 Hull City 11
11 Newcastle United 11
12 West Bromwich Albion 10
13 Aston Villa 10
14 Fulham 10
15 Cardiff City 10
16 West Ham United 9
17 Stoke City 8
17 Norwich City 8
19 Sunderland 4
20 Crystal Palace 3


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