Lack of cutting edge costs spirited Toffees against Villa

25/02/2023 comments  |  Jump to last
Everton 0 - 2 Villa

Both Vitalii Mykolenko and Dwight McNeil might have had assists but Alex Iwobi's early shot was saved and Emiliano Martinez pulled off an excellent save to deny Amadou Onana

Everton fell to their first home defeat under Sean Dyche as Aston Villa’s superior quality told in the second half of a match that the Blues tried valiantly to win but were found desperately wanting in front of goal.

Alex Iwobi failed to make an excellent early chance tell, Neal Maupay headed wide and had an effort cleared off the goal line, while both goalkeepers made stunning saves to keep matters goalless but a clumsy foul by Idrissa Gueye handed Ollie Watkins the chance to give the visitors the lead with an hour gone.

With Everton’s lack of cutting edge up top, that was effectively that and Emiliano Buendia scored in this fixture yet again to wrap things up and halt Unai Emery’s three-game losing streak in charge of the Villans.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin still ruled out, Dyche named an unchanged line-up from the side that beat Leeds last weekend and they set about their task with tempo and intensity despite a curious early yellow card shown by abysmal referee Anthony Taylor to Amadou Onana, seemingly following consultation with VAR Chris Kavanagh.

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Everton’s tactic of getting the ball down the left flank to provide service to the centre almost paid dividends in the eighth minute when Iwobi arrived to meet Dwight McNeil’s cross but his shot from close range lacked conviction and Emiliano Martinez was able to make a fairly comfortable save.

Two minutes later, Watkins underlined the threat he posed as he latched onto a ball over the top that left the lead-footed Conor Coady for dead but Jordan Pickford came off his line quickly to make an important block.

Former Everton man, Lucas Digne, swept a direct free-kick over the crossbar in the 13th minute but as the volume and anger from the home crowd grew with every horrendous decision from Taylor and his assistants, the hosts started to build some pressure on Villa’s back line.

Maupay should have hit the target from a corner won by Iwobi but glanced his header wide in the 29th minute and then Martinez had to pull off a magnificent save to deny Onana when the Belgian met Vitalii Mykolenko’s cross and the Argentinian tipped his header over.

On the stroke of half-time, Everton opened Villa up superbly when Iwobi clipped a well-weighted ball behind the defence for McNeil but he elected not to hit it early with his weaker right foot and instead laid up Maupay who could only curl a shot tamely into the keeper’s arms.

10 minutes into the second half, the Toffees thought they had broken the deadlock when Iwobi’s miscued shot ricocheted back off the prone Ezri Konsa and when the ball was played back into the six-yard box, Maupay lunged at the loose ball but didn’t make sufficient contact to force it home and Tyrone Mings hacked it off the line.

Four minutes later, it was James Tarkowki’s turn to hook it clear from under his own crossbar after Digne had got in behind Iwobi and Seamus Coleman, crossed for the unmarked Watkins to head goal-wards but Pickford did brilliantly to claw it onto the post.

Less than two minutes later, however, Buendia’s first contribution after coming off the bench was to prod the ball to John McGinn in the area where Gueye felled him and left referee Taylor with no option but to point to the spot. Watkins made no mistake, rifling his penalty into the roof of Pickford’s net.

Dyche eventually responded by withdrawing one of his most creative players in the form of Iwobi in favour of Demarai Gray and then replaced Maupay with Ellis Simms as the young substitute had a decent effort at equalising when he connected with Abdoulaye Doucouré’s cross but couldn’t keep his volley down.

Villa, meanwhile, looked to try and capitalise on Everton’s need to push forward and Douglas Luiz drove over from distance before Buendia killed the contest with Villa’s second.

The midfielder twisted, turned and then easily evaded Coady in the box before rifling a shot inside the near post that gave Pickford no chance.

Tarkowski had a late chance off a corner but headed a couple of feet over and Martinez smothered a free-kick from Gray down by his post but it wasn’t to be for Everton.

The defeat, coupled with results elsewhere, drops the Blues back into the relegation zone with back-to-back away fixtures to come at Arsenal and fellow strugglers, Nottingham Forest in the next nine days.


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