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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
 Saturday 18 October 2014; 3:00pm
3 0
 Aston Villa
 Jagielka (18'), Lukaku (48')
 Coleman (76')
Half Time: 1 - 0
Attendance: 39,505
Fixture 8
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Match Report

The last time Everton won at Goodison Park in the Premier League prior to this weekend, the Grim Reaper was taunting David Moyes from the stands behind the visitors' dug out back in April.

Even allowing for the fact that title-chasing Chelsea and perennial Champions League qualifiers Arsenal made up two of the opponents the Blues had faced at home before Aston Villa came to town, that statistic is still hard to believe given how good we were in front of our fans under Roberto Martinez last season.

Of course, our the season hasn't really gone according to hope or expectation at home or away, but the impact of three returning first-choice players this afternoon offered a hint as to why, and one in particular showed how much he has been missed with first 65 minutes' worth of action in 2014-15.

Few Evertonians expected Ross Barkley to be back in the squad so soon after suffering a medial knee ligament tear two months ago and perhaps even fewer still would have predicted he would be in the starting XI this weekend. Many thought a substitute's appearance at Burnley next weekend would the beginning of his being eased back but Martinez sprung a surprise when he named Ross along with James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman on today's team sheet.

The 20 year-old has a directness and single-minded confidence about his play that is hard to replace and it was a joy to see him slot back into the No.10 role behind Romelu Lukaku as if his season thus far hadn't been wrecked by ill-timed injury. He betrayed some ring-rustiness on a couple of occasions during his 65 minutes on the field, as you would expect, but it only took a couple of lovely flourishes to confirm that he's lost none of his prodigious touch on the ball.

Lukaku has missed him, too; so no surprise then that the Belgian scored a goal served up by Barkley early in the second half. It owed a large debt to fortune given that on most other days a goalkeeper of Brad Guzan's calibre doesn't allow his low shot to squirm under his body in the manner that it did... but then you make your own luck and Rom perhaps needs some to help rekindle his best form.

Lukaku's third goal of the season was just one positive on an afternoon littered with them. From Antolin Alcaraz's assured display alongside Phil Jagielka in the absence of John Stones and Tim Howard's first clean sheet in a month to a pair of superb performances from the central defensive axis of McCarthy and Gareth Barry and Leighton Baines' twin assists ? one from either flank ? this was a team performance pleasingly reminiscent of the Everton of 2013-14.

They ran out comfortable 3-0 winners and yet you were still left with the feeing that the Blues held back from really taking Villa to the cleaners. Perhaps had the extra potency of Kevin Mirallas been available they might have done but it was a handsome win nonetheless.

Just as they did against Crystal Palace the last time they were on home turf almost a month ago, Martinez's side started in purposeful and dominant fashion and pressed home that dominance by taking the lead. This time, though, they maintained the intensity and composure that they lacked in that 3-2 defeat and never really allowed Villa a sniff of getting back into the contest.

They were aided by the fact that Paul Lambert's men were unable to translate their assured passing in the middle of the park into any consistent threat in the final third, although much of that was due to the near-constant tenacity of Messers McCarthy and Barry as well as tireless work from Steven Naismith in assisting Coleman to prevent any threatening balls from coming in from the Villa left. The Scot was forced to step aside from the central role in which he has been thriving in Barkley's absence but his contributions were no less important. And with more seflessness from Lukaku on a couple of occasions, he might have scored anyway.

Everton's impotence at corners under Martinez has been something of a mystery so it was heartening to see the opening goal come from a set-piece routine after Nathan Baker had put the ball behind and Baines then worked a short corner to Barkley at the edge of the box. The returning forward hammered an audacious shot towards the top corner from the angle of the box that the diving Guzan parried behind and Baines repeated the move from the second corner.

Barkley returned it to the fullback this time and with a neat body feint and knock forward giving him an extra yard to work with, Baines curled a dangerous right-footed ball across the face of the opposition goal where Jagielka, in the centre-forward's position, stooped to head it home. Added to his Exocet in the Anfield derby and a strike on international duty for England, it was his third goal in five appearances for club and country and, hopefully, a sign of more goal product coming from the centre-halves.

Naismith fired a Coleman cut-back wide, Alan Hutton went very close for Villa at the other end after Leon Osman had allowed him to glide past him and try a curling left-footer from 25 yards, and McCarthy executed a superb saving tackle on Tim Cleverley in his own area as the Blues kept the Midlanders contained and tried to break down their rigid shape again down the other end.

Coleman came closest six minutes before half time when Barkley picked out his run on the overlap into the penalty area but Guzan was equal to his attempt to bend a shot around him into the far corner and pushed it away to safety from Villa's perspective. The Blues went into the interval 1-0 up following an impressively patient and discplined first-half performance.

The second half was less than three minutes old when they struck again to make it 2-0. McCarthy started the move with a great interception midway inside the Villa half, he fed Barkley wide on the left who in turn knocked it on to Lukaku to gather, hold off his marker and fire low and hard enough that Guzan couldn't get enough on it to prevent it from spinning over the line almost in slow motion.

Not surprisingly, given the scoreline and the propensity Everton have already shown this season to sit back a little at 2-0 up, the visitors had their best spell of the half after that but they had precious little show for it. Christian Benteke would prod the ball into the net after his own header had come off the crossbar but referee Anthony Taylor, who seemed to get a high percentage of the niggly decisions wrong but most of the major ones right, chalked it off for a visible push on Alcaraz.

Naismith had a penalty claim turned down when he was muscled off the ball chasing substitute Steven Pienaar's deft ball over the top and Lukaku fired a direct free kick into the defensive wall before Everton made sure of the points with a killer third goal 14 minutes from time. Pienaar was fouled not far outside the Villa box and with the Villa defence still retreating, Osman played a quick free kick to Baines who fired a pin-point ball across the face where Coleman was lurking with striker's intent to convert from a couple of yards out.

That left the Blues to play out the remaining quarter of an hour in relative comfort. Howard was called into action once more to make a good save to deny Gabriel Agbonlahor and there was a late cameo for Samuel Eto'o where he almost served up a goal for the third sub, Darron Gibson, but his first-time shot was blocked before referee Taylor called time on three well-earned points.

There have many knee-jerk reactions to Everton's iffy start to the season but if this game is any indication of what is to follow in the next few weeks, then Martinez should have put a lid on the criticism because this was much more akin to what we became accustomed to last season – calm and unflappable in possession, potent from the fullbacks and with Lukaku feeding off Barkley up front. It's only one game, of course, and they will have to prove they can do it consistently but there is no question that the Blues are looking much more like themselves with some of those key players back in the side.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Summary

Ross Barkley was a surprise starter alongside Coleman and McCarthy, all hopefully fit enough to put in a shift against Aston Villa, who were without Fabian Delph but Benteke returned for his first game since March. A strong-looking bench for Everton but without the commanding figure of Sylvain Distin.

The game started in bright October sunshine, Everton kicking off toward the Park End with slow possession and passing across the back, probing down the left until Osman was adjudged to have handled. Naismith showed some good desire to get the ball back when lost, and Osman did get a shot in that was blocked, Barkley's afters a little rusty. Better movement down the right ended with an overhit cross from Naismith.

Barkley was chopped down in what looked to be a heavy foul as he surged forward on an excellent Lukaku lay-off, but he could only fire the ball deep into the wall after Richardson was shown the yellow card. Baines then picked out Lukaku with a peach of a ball that the big man tried to take on his shoulder as Everton were attacking with more life and pace, as was required.

Villa's first counter-attack saw Howard punch out as Agbonlahor and Benteke tried to combine. Cleverly was next to shoot low and hard at Howard, with Everton then winning a corner that Barkley created a wonderful shot from nothing, and another corner, taken short, saw Baines cross in a perfectly placed ball that Phil Jagielka did very well to head home from close range under pressure just what the Blues needed!

The Blues tried to build on their lead but the flow was interrupted by an injury to Baker who was replaced by Clark. Hutton put in a good curling shot that flew wide of Howard's post. While Lukaku moved out to the wing and lost the ball after Naismith stole a shot off him and drove it well wide.

Some good football from Villa put Everton under pressure, Alcaraz making a vital headed interception to deny Benteke. Everton looked much more determined going forward, with Baines playing some tremendous passes that were let down by poor work from Osman. Villa then really ran at Everton and it needed good work covering by McCarthy but the corner caused havoc as the ball bounced high and needed punching by Howard.

Patient build-up play almost broke for Osman who wanted an extra touch before the ball was fizzed in with much more vim and vigour, Coleman forcing a good save off Guzman and Baines crossing well but just behind Naismith, and the chance was gone. After an interminable spell of backwards and sideways tikka-takka, Barkley threaded the needle to Osman but the response of those 'clever feet' was sadly lacking, possession lost again.

Everton went further ahead soon after the break in their first real attack down the left as McCarthy got Barkley moving and he played the ball over to Lukaku who had a lot to do but dug out a firm shot that Guzan seemed to have covered, but the ball spun off his elbow and behind him, over the line.

Villa changed their tactics, coming out to pressure the Blues passing across the back, and it gave more space for the sharper forward ball. Osman was given a chance wide left and he ran in to a good position only to fire his shot straight at Guzan, when a far better shot was warranted. Pienaar replaced Barkley on 65 mins.

Pienaar clipped up a very clever ball for Naismith and it looked like he was only denied by a foul for his determined running. Lukaku was till not 100% but doing what he could to get into the game, winning a good free-kick on the corner of the penalty area that Lukaku slugged straight into the wall.

Naismith was a little too strong, bringing down Cissokho and earning a booking, as the Villians pushed hard to get back in the match, putting Howard under some pressure. Lukaku was still coming deep to get ball, but his feed out to Pienaar was overhit, much to the big man's frustration.

A quick free-kick from Osman, Baines danced down to the bye-line and crossed in a flash for Coleman to clip home a very nice goal that would surely seal this as a contest. But Howard had to be smart himself to block a shot from Agbonlahor. Eto'o came on for the last few minutes in place of Naismith, then Gibson on in place of Lukaku right at the death for all of 4 seconds!

A good solid performance by the Blues, fully deserving of the 3-0 scoreline, as they had played with more intent to get the ball forward, with few players squandering possession cheaply and a very welcome clean sheet with a very competent performance by Antolin Alcaraz in for John Stones. The first home win of the season, and the first win at Goodison Park since they defeated Manchester United back in April.

Michael Kenrick


Match Preview

No one easily forgets what it's like to visit or play at Goodison Park but Everton's supporters and players could be forgiven if they were starting to. By the time Aston Villa roll into town this weekend for the latest chapter in English football's most-played fixture, it will be almost a month since the Blues last played on home turf and it will be November before they complete a seven-game sequence in which six were away.

It's the kind of schedule that is pregnant with opportunity – pick up valuable wins on the road before returning to home to build on those results – but the reality is that Everton will return hoping to find solace and inspiration in the comforts of more familiar surroundings as they look for what would be only their second Premier League win in eight this season.

A valuable point from Krasnodar and the avoidance of derby misery at Anfield thanks to Phil Jagielka's stunning equaliser were the bright spots from those four successive away matches, but a sorry loss at Swansea signalled another premature exit from the League Cup while injury was added to the insult of defeat against Manchester United when John Stones suffered a serious ankle injury that looks likely to keep him out until at least Christmas.

It means that Roberto Martinez will again need to draw on what squad depth he has this weekend, particularly in defence. Stones' absence, of course, necessitates a change at centre half where Sylvain Distin is back in contention after his hiatus following the Swansea game while Antolin Alcaraz, his partner at the Liberty Stadium where the Blues went down 3-0 four weeks ago, offers another option alongside captain Phil Jagielka.

The international break has afforded Tony Hibbert some rest after the veteran was called upon to start four successive games in Coleman's absence but should the Irishman miss out again, there is scope for blooding young Tyias Browning following two impressive cameos as a substitute in the cauldrons of Anfield and Old Trafford recently.

In midfield, much will depend on the fitness of three players who will undergo late fitness tests before the manager names his team to face Paul Lambert's Villains. James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman have both been battling muscle injuries in recent weeks but are close to being ready for selection, while Steven Pienaar aggravated the thigh problem that has dogged him for most of the season at Old Trafford. Martinez indicated in his press conference that all three should be fit for the trip to Lille next Thursday but remain slight doubts for this weekend.

Muhamed Besic or Darron Gibson are the obvious deputies for McCarthy should he miss out, while Leon Osman would be the most likely choice to come in for Pienaar given that Aiden McGeady has filled the void left by Kevin Mirallas.

Of course, there is the possibility that Ross Barkley could make an early return to the first team for his first appearance of 2014/15 following a medial knee ligament injury, but you'd think it would be as a substitute rather than as a starter given the length of his layoff and his lack of match fitness.

Up front, Romelu Lukaku's quest for full fitness makes him a likely starter and Steven Naismith's goalscoring form has made him an almost automatic choice in the starting XI when Martinez isn't employing his player-rotation policy, one that seems less necessary now that Everton have one less competition to worry about.

After making a terrific start to the season, one that earned Lambert an extended contract, Aston Villa have gone off the boil somewhat in recent weeks and have now lost three straight since their last visit to Merseyside, a 1-0 win at Liverpool on 13th September. Nevertheless, they are four points and seven places better off than the Toffees coming into this fixture and could be boosted by a first start since March for Christian Benteke, the Midlanders' own Belgian hotshot who has now recovered from a ruptured Achilles.

They will be without Fabian Delph and Philippe Senderos could be deprived of a return to Goodison by a thigh injury but the much-improved Ron Vlaar returns following a calf problem thereby ensuring that Villa will be a tough nut to crack for an Everton side that has found goals and creativity hard to come by recently. Hopefully, the intensity that has been lacking in that string of away matches will return now that the boys are back on home turf where they can dictate proceedings more readily.

The next four Premier League matchups against Burnley, Swansea, West Ham and Sunderland – two of them at home – offer the chance for Martinez's side to build up a head of steam and start accumulating points before the next tough trip at White Hart Lane at the end of next month. Though they currently sit 17th in the table, the Blues are only five points off the top four and a run of good results could markedly improve the outlook on what has been a disappointing campaign so far.

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Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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Match Reports
2014-15 Reports Index
< Man Utd (A) Lille (A) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Jagielka {c}
  Barkley (Pienaar 65')
  Naismith (Eto'o 87')
  Lukaku (Gibson 90' + 2')
  Subs not used
  Kone (injured)
  Mirallas (injured)
  Stones (injured)
  Hope (loan)
  Kennedy (loan)
  Lundstram (loan)
  Baker (Clark 26')
  N'Zogbia (Weimann 63')
  Benteke (Cole 81')
  Subs not used

Premier League Scores
Arsenal 2-2 Hull City
Burnley 1-3 West Ham
C Palace 0-2 Chelsea
Everton 3-0 Aston Villa
Man City 4-1 Tottenham
Newcastle 1-0 Leicester
So'hampton 8-0 Sunderland
QPR 2-3 Liverpool
Stoke 2-1 Swansea
West Brom 2-2 Man United

  • Possession
  • Shots on target
  • Shots off target
  • Corners

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

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