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Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
Premier League
Saturday 18 September 2021; 5:30pm
Aston Villa
3 0
Cash 66'
Digne (o.g.) 69'
Bailey 75'
Half Time: 0 - 0 
Attendance: 41,888
Fixture 5
Referee: Craig Pawson

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Match Summary
Match Report
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  Cash (Traore 86')
  Targett (Bailey 61' booked (Young 82'))
  McGinn (Nakamba 40')
  Subs not used
  El Ghazi

  Godfrey booked (Kenny 80')
  Allan (Gordon 72')
  Iwobi (Davies 81')
  Rondon (Gomes 63')
  Subs not used
  Calvert-Lewin (injured)
  Coleman injured)
  Delph (injured)
  Gbamin (injured)
  Pickford (injured)
  Richarlison (injured)
  Rodriguez (injured)
  Tosun (injured)
  Simms (injured)
  Broadhead (loan)
  Gibson (loan)
  Kean (loan)
  Nkounkou (loan)
  Virginia (loan)

Match Stats

Shots on target

Premier League Scores
Newcastle 1-1 Leeds
Aston Villa 3-0 Everton
Burnley 0-1 Arsenal
Liverpool 3-0 C Palace
Man City 0-0 Southampton
Norwich 1-3 Watford
Wolves 0-2 Brentford
Brighton 2-1 Leicester
Tottenham 0-3 Chelsea
West Ham 1-2 Man United

1 Chelsea 13
1 Liverpool 13
3 Manchester United 13
4 Brighton & Hove Albion 12
5 Manchester City 10
6 Everton 10
7 Tottenham Hotspur 9
8 West Ham United 8
9 Brentford 8
10 Aston Villa 7
11 Watford 6
12 Leicester City 6
13 Arsenal 6
14 Crystal Palace 5
15 Southampton 4
16 Wolverhampton Wanderers 3
17 Leeds United 3
18 Newcastle United 2
19 Burnley 1
20 Norwich City 0

Match Report

Deep down, most Evertonians knew that a result like this was coming and it would only take the first spate of injuries to usher it in. The numbers of players unavailable to Rafael Benitez might not have reached “crisis” level yet but there is no question that his side was always going to struggle without both of its first-choice forwards and captain Seamus Coleman, for whom there is inadequate cover.

The seeds of this defeat were sown, then, in a summer transfer window that left key positions in the squad short on depth — some of them, unforgivably so — and a number of top transfer targets unsigned by the club. One of those, of course, was Leon Bailey, a player Marcel Brands and his scouts had tracked closely for more than two years and would have been prepared to move for during the close season had they had any wiggle room with their budget. As we know, there was almost no room at all in that budget and Everton’s loss was Aston Villa’s gain.

The Toffees were already a goal down when the Jamaican delivered on his rich promise by prompting Lucas Digne into his second decisive error of the match and then smashed home his first goal in English football before departing the fray again having tweaked his thigh muscle in the process of delivering the Toffees the coup de grace with 15 minutes to go. That strike made it 3-0 and it ensured that Benitez would suffer his first loss as Everton manager.

And yet, the margins in this match were a lot finer than the final score suggests and there’s an argument to be made that the contest pivoted on a couple of incidents midway through the second half. At one end, Demarai Gray, once again the Blues’ best player going forward, just missed with an attempt to curl the ball around Emiliano Martinez and inside the far post. At the other, Matty Cash made no mistake a minute later when he powered in behind the flat-footed Digne to slam home his first ever goal for the Villans.

Benitez had barely put André Gomes on in place of the flagging Salomon Rondon than Villa doubled their lead through Bailey’s corner before the winger set the seal on a home win that, again, looked more flattering than perhaps it was. Nevertheless, the fact that Dean Smith could turn to £100m worth of talent on his bench and didn’t even need to use Emiliano Buendia was another indication of the deficit at which his opposite number was operating in terms of personnel.

Rondon made a decent early impression, going close to scoring inside five minutes but his lack of fitness quickly told and he couldn’t offer either the aerial dominance of Dominic Calvert-Lewin or the pace and movement of Richarlison, both of whom could be out until after the next international break with their respective injuries.

The right-back position also under-scored how weak Everton are in certain positions when Coleman was ruled out with the hamstring issue that kept him out of Ireland’s third match of the last round of World Cup qualifiers.

Ben Godfrey deployed as an emergency full-back and while he gave a decent account of himself in the first half, he was caught out of position badly for the third goal. More worrying, perhaps, was his uncharacteristic lethargy in trying to recover for a player who usually exhibits terrific pace and determination.

Despite their depleted number and the continued absence of James Rodriguez from the matchday squad, Everton more than matched their hosts in the first 45 minutes and they had the first real chance of the game when Rondon touched the ball around his marker from Godfrey's low cross but saw his toe-poke deflected past the post.

The Venezuelan then headed narrowly over at one end before Jordan Pickford's deputy, Asmir Begovic, pulled off a brilliant save at the other when he stopped Tryone Mings's header off a corner with a firm glove.

Danny Ings volleyed an ambitious effort over the bar following another Villa set-piece while Michael Keane's header dropped just wide following an Everton corner and Gray's cross just eluded a lunge by Rondon trying to meet the ball with an out-stretched boot as the Toffees continued to threaten.

Later in the half, an effort by Gray himself was charged down, Cash dragged a shot wide of Begovic's goal from the edge of the box and Andros Townsend tried to repeat his heroics against Burnley last week but belted his shot straight at Emiliano Martinez.

The first 20 minutes of the second half continued to show promise for Benitez's men and there were strong appeals for a foul by Ezri Konsa on Gray that were ignored by referee Craig Pawson despite the defender visibly dragging the winger back with his arms.

Townsend then had a chance with a direct free-kick that he fired disappointingly into the wall before Gray did really well to draw his marker towards him before trying to bend a 65th minute shot around Martinez and inside the far post but his shot skidded agonisingly wide.

A minute later, it was 1-0 to Villa as Digne lost track of Cash and allowed him to run in behind where the former Nottingham Forest full-back collected a pass, cut inside and smashed a rising shot high into Begovic's goal.

Two minutes later, Digne's match went from bad to worse when Bailey, on as a substitute, swung a wicked corner into the six-yard box and the Frenchman could only glance a header past his own keeper to make it 2-0.

Three minutes after that, it was game over as Godfrey was caught out of position as the ball was knocked over the top for the speedy Bailey and he advanced on goal before unleashing a powerful half-volley that flew past Begovic before the Bosnian had had a chance to properly react.

Jacob Ramsey almost made it 4-0 but missed the target while Benitez made three changes, bringing on Anthony Gordon for Allan, Jonjoe Kenny for Godfrey and Tom Davies for Alex Iwobi as Keane had a late chance for a consolation goal but planted a free header wide off a free-kick.

Benitez will want to consign this result to history as quickly as possible and turn his attention to Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Queens Park Rangers and the home game in the Premier League against struggling Norwich City beyond before the daunting prospect of a trip to Old Trafford looms.

Many of the players who might have been handed minutes at Loftus Road were involved today, however, but the manager should at least be confident that he has enough among the group of players who are fit to play to navigate another Championship side and make it through to the next round while his first-choice stars recover.

It won’t be lost on him, though, that this defeat was a portent of future matches that will be equally as difficult while the squad is so thin. The packed winter schedule, in particular, does not look to be an attractive proposition from this vantage point but Benitez and his team have no option but to get on with it.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

Everton take their unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez to Villa Park for the late Saturday afternoon kick-off with a side that is devastated by further unexpected injuries but still with no James Rodriguez.

Surprise absentees are Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman and Ricarlison, allowing Begovic and Iwobi to start. Pickford has suffered a shoulder strain, Richarlison has a knee problem, while it is believed Coleman has a hamstring complaint.

And there is no Dominic Calvert-Lewin again, with the England striker still missing due to a quadriceps injury. This means a full debut for Salomon Rondon to deputise for Calvert-Lewin without Richarlison, but with Gray and Townsend in support.

Despite these absences, there is no place again for James Rodriguez who faces a battle to get into the team, despite there being a spare seat on the bench, with Benitez only naming 8 substitutes. One good sign at least is that Ellis Simms must be fit again after his bizarre hip injury sustained for Blackpool while on loan at the end of last season, practising penalties for a Wembley appearance he would then miss.

The home side got things going and pushed up into Everton's half without getting close to Asmir Begovic. In Everton's first attack it looked like Rondon should have scored but he won a corner, Townsend firing in a brilliant one that Rondon needed to glance in but he got too much contact and headed over.

Villa worked it forward again, getting a corner for themselves and Ings headed a great delivery goalward at point-blank range, Begovic stopping it with a tremendous reaction save, leading to a head-tennis scramble to eventually get it bekhind. Everton broke from the second corner but the attack stalled. Villa tried to go wide but crossed too deep for a goal-kick.

Cash tried his specialist long throw-in — straight to Begovic. And Villa continued to dominate possession, further testing the Everton defence. Keane fouled Watkins in midfield, which was worked around and Ings fired just over the angle.

Everton worked a nice move that saw Digne cross well above Martinez to the far post but that was not where Rondon was. It won a corner but nothing came of it. A very dangerous Villa attack was thwarted and Gray had a great run forward, the cross just too far in front of Rondon steaming in at the far post.

The end-to-end pattern of play was interrupted by an injury to McGinn and the game went through a bit of a scrappy lull with numerous throw-ins. Cash looked to profit from a slack pass but Digne managed to win a free-kick with his challenge on the Villa player. Townsend was played in but his heavy touch ended the chance. Digne and Iwobi weren't quite on the same wavelength either. Villa advanced Godfry slipping on the turn and McGinn fired his shot wide of Begovic and the goal.

Doucouré tried to meet his new job description in attack but failed on both attempts. A strong attack by Everton saw a couple of decent crossing attempts, one Godfrey tried to finish, clattering Mings.

Mings tried some retribution, taking out Gray but the ref played advantage and then reprimanded him. It allowed Villa to attack again, Cash firing wide. OIwobi went for a run and actually won a corner, taken by Gray but too deep, however, winning another corner, played short and almost on a plate for Mina, but for the defender in front of him.

Everton attacked next but Iwobi was too easily dispossessed, as McGinn was forced off with concussion, replaced by Nakamba, entitling Everton to an additional substitution also. That could have been James Rodriguez, who should surely have found plenty of space and not too much physical intimidation in this game... but Benitez had decided against bringing him along.

A Villa free-kick was swung in and effectively defended as half-time approached. Doucoure wasted a crossing opportunity but made up for it with a good intervention and that eventually saw Townsend firing goalward but too close to Martinez — Everton's first shot on target.

Allan sent in a glorious ball for Gray but he could not control it. And after 2 added minutes, it was half-time in a decent reasonably entertaining game that was lacking in end-product.

Allan kicked off the second half for Everton, but Villa won an early corner that was dangerous but was defended away... temporarily until Luiz sent his cross beyond the far post. In their next attack, Ramsey came up against Godfrey and Cash tried another long throw... that he took short! Everton were standing off a little and needing to defend without breaking out.

Iwobi committed a foul that allowed Villa another set piece, but Mina got his head to the cross first; however, a lame boot upfield was returned and Mina needed to be alert to get the ball away. A nice ball over the top to Gray saw him clearly manhandled — a clear and obvious miss by the referee, not seen by VAR either. Townsend then gets clipped and he does earn a potentially dangerous set-piece, but he drove the free-kick poorly straight into the Villa wall.

Deamarai Gray was again manhandled and this time he did get a free-kick. But Townsend's cross back in was launched to the far corner post. Everton were getting forward finally but the build-up was laboured, although Iwobi got in close but did not hit it cleanly.

Godfrey fouled and Bailey came on, firing in a decent free-kick but Ings puts it harmlessly behind. Gomes then replaced Rondon, who must have been tiring, Iwobi moving central. ut the first attempt with this new formation looked disorganised at best. Although Townsend played in Gray who seemed to pick his spot but shot lamely beyond the far post.

At the other end, Cash got through, brushing off Digne, and fairly lashed a fine finish into the roof of the Everton net. Hmmm... Time to bring on James Rodriguez? Err... sorry, no can do, as the impetus now swung totally behind Villa. And Everton gave away a corner that Bailey swung in brilliantly, off the top of Digne's head and in at the far post. Oh deary me...

Ings was then allowed through and seemed to have an easy one-on-one but shot wide from distance. Everton were totally shell-shocked, Godfrey yellow-carded for fouling Bailey, whose introduction had completely changed this game. For Everton, Gordon replaced Allan as the Villa free-kick was wasted.

Bailey broke wide left in acres of space and the £30M man lashed in another superb finish that flashed straight through Begovic. No answer for this now as Everton were well beaten. Thankfully, Leon Bailey was forced off with 10 minutes of this torture left.

Gordon was too tentative when he had a chance and allowed the Villa defender to dominate him. Digne swung in a decent free-kick that Keane should have scored from but headed wide. Everton would have no answer after Rondon's misses had failed to give them a lead to protect.

Scorers: Cash (66'), Digne (og:69'), Bailey (75')

Aston Villa: Martinez; Konsa, Tuanzebe, Mings; Cash (86' Traore), McGinn (39' Nakamba), Douglas Luiz, Ramsey, Targett (61' Bailey (82' Young)); Ings, Watkins.
Subs: Steer, Hause, Buendia, El Ghazi, Archer.

Everton: Begovic, Godfrey [Y:72'] (80' ​Kenny), Mina, Keane, Digne (c), Allan (73' Gordon), Doucoure, Iwobi (81' Davies), Gray, Townsend, Rondón (63' Gomes).
Subs: Lonergan, Holgate, Branthwaite, Simms.

Referee: Craig Pawson
VAR: Paul Tierney

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Everton take their unbeaten start under Rafael Benitez to Villa Park for the late Saturday afternoon kick-off where they will face another potentially tricky away assignment following the 2-2 draw at Leeds last month.

The Blues have won three and drawn one under the Spaniard and come into the weekend level on points with the three other clubs leading the Premier League table having found an early groove and a pleasing ability to bounce back from what adversity they have faced.

Their opponents this weekend, Aston Villa, sit in 12th place with four points but it's a start that perhaps belies the quality of the squad they have assembled under Dean Smith even if it's one that no longer boasts Jack Grealish.

The fledgeling England star made a huge-money switch to Manchester City over the summer but the Villans signed Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City; perennial thorn in Everton's side, Danny Ings, from Southampton; and a player who was very high on Marcel Brands's shopping list in the form of Leon Bailey.

When added to a side that looked very impressive at times last season before they fell away somewhat in the second half of the campaign, on paper it makes Villa a formidable outfit to face, particularly at home in front of their passionate fans.

They had an iffy start away at Watford where an injury-time Ings penalty put a more flattering gloss on the 3-2 scoreline that might otherwise have been the case after they had fallen behind by three goals. A routine home win over Newcastle and 6-0 demolition of Barrow in the Carabao Cup followed before they were held at Villa Park by Brentford.

Last weekend they were soundly beaten by Chelsea, all of which suggests that while Villa have invested wisely, they have yet to put all the pieces together to consistently win games. And that could leave the door open for Everton who are growing in confidence and have scored at least two goals in each of their fixtures so far.

It's not clear whether either of the two Emilianos — Beundia and Martinez — will be fully ready to play in this one as both for Smith as they will be flying back to the UK from training in a “green zone” country just hours before kick-off. Both players travelled to Argentina to play in the aborted World Cup qualifier against Brazil and were required to remain outside the UK for 10 days.

As a goalkeeper, not an outfield player, Martinez may be the more likely of the two to start but Villa will definitely be without injured pair Mahmoud Ibrahim Hassan and Keinan Davis who both have knee injuries.

For Everton, Benitez reiterated in his pre-match press conference that Dominic Calvert-Lewin is not expected to return for two to three weeks and, depending on what formation the Spaniard employs, it could mean a full debut for Salomon Rondon.

The Venezuelan made a cameo off the bench at the end of last week's win over Burnley and if his manager opts for a more conventional 4-4-2 system over the 3-4-3 he went for against the Tykes, it will likely call for Rondon to deputise for Calvert-Lewin alongside Richarlison.

In that instance, the rest of the side would be expected to remain the same; indeed, it would be a surprise if Benitez deviated much at all from last weekend's starting XI even if he were to persist with three centre-halves.

Regardless, it's unlikely that there will be a place for James Rodriguez who faces a battle to get into the team that he might not even get a chance to commence until Tuesday's trip to Queens Park Rangers in the cup.

Benitez explained in his press conference that James was training “normally” with the squad but gave no hint as to whether he was any close to getting game time:

“He's training, and these kind of weeks when you're playing, and you have a day off in between is not easy to see how much in the first training session. We will see tomorrow, but he's training normally with the team."

With such a strong start behind them, Everton will travel, down the M6 knowing they have the template, belief, and fire-power to not only extend their unbeaten start to the season but also come away with another victory.

Villa's relatively expansive approach means that there should be ample space for the Toffees to exploit in transition and on the counter while they have the talent at the back to keep things tight in defence if everyone is on their game, particularly at set-pieces.

Kick-off: 5:30pm, Saturday 18 September, 2021
Referee: Craig Pawson
VAR: Paul Tierney
Last Time: Aston Villa 0 - 0 Everton

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Mina, Keane, Digne, Allan, Doucouré, Townsend, Gray, Richarlison, Rondon

Lyndon Lloyd

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