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Venue: Villa Park, Birmingham
Premier League
 Sunday 29 August; 4:00pm
ASTON VILLA
1 0
 EVERTON
L Young (9')
Half Time: 1-0
Attendance: 34,725
Fixture 3
Referee: Mike Jones

Matchday Summary

A couple of somewhat promising changes that could be construed as modestly adventurous by David Moyes: Osman and Saha benched in favour of Rodwell and Beckford... Rodwell playing in right-side forward attacking role, with Arteta dropping strangely deep, almost alongside Fellaini in front of the back four.

Everton started very brightly, dominating possession, and it looked that they might score when Baines burst in from the left but he could not pull the ball back effectively and nothing came of the corner. Fellaini was majestic in the middle, the ball coming his way almost magnetically.

Richard Dunne fouled Beckford somewhat cynically, earning an early card, and Arteta's free-kick was a bit better than usual, at least on target, but did not fool Freidel at all.

But it was a silly slip by the Big Fella on the first Villa attack that saw the ball end up in the back of the Everton net all too easily, when Ashley Young slipped a pass nonchalantly past Jagielka and into space owned by the advanceing Luke Yonug, who curled a scoring shot past Howard with simply far too much ease. So... an up hill climb yet again.

Beckford and Baines combined well for Pienaar to put in a superb curler that pinged off the angle, a top-class attempt, Freidel well beaten. Beckford was getting involved but his touch, passing and accuracy were all way below the standard required.

Forward moves from Everton were looking better but breaking down far too often at the edge of the Villa penalty area. [Described in classic terms by David Hallwood on our Live Forum as "watching eunuch porn all foreplay and no penetration!] They won a handful of corners as they cranked up the pressure, but the final ball, as ever, was just not good enough. Fellaini was getting closer and closer to a card, penalised mainly for his own physical presence.

Villa weathered the Everton storm, such as it was, and mounted their own not unimpressive attacks, one good cross needing a strong defensive header from Distin.

Rodwell, who had started wide right, popped up on the left and tried a chipped cross that just drifted wide. At the other end, the youngster Albrighton was doing a pretty good Coleman impression, causing havoc, winning corners, and getting screams for a penalty just before the break when Pienaar was thought to have clipped him as he tried to shoot...

No changes at half-time, of course, despite the scoreline. First real action was Albrighton delivering an excellent cross that Carew headed wide!!! Eveton attacked but it broke down again 0and Ashley Young was on a one-man break against Distin, thankfully shooting wide. While Everton attacked at walking pace again but produced nothing of merit as Pienaar grimaced toward the bench, clutching his knee.

Almost an hour gone... nothing happening... What to do? Inject a burst of life in the form of Coleman, perhaps? Er... no: King Louis: tried and trusted, on for the consistently poor Beckford. Pienaar produced a horrible pass under no pressure that led to a Carew attack and shot. At the other end, something for the scrapbooks, a superb cross from Hibbert on the run, under pressure... but no-ne there. A great corner from Cahill was defended away as Everton applied some pressure. A shooting chance for Fellaini and/or Saha that they contrived to miss, getting in eachother's way.

The impetus swung again as Carew looked to have set up Young but his shot did not connect well and Howard just about pawed it away to safety. Then a good shot from Saha forced a great save from Freidel, then a nice cross found Fellaini but his looping header lacked power. Albrighton went in the book for fouling Baines, and a fantastic delivery from the free kick glanced in dangerously by Rodwell, flew just inches past the post.

The game had a really competitive bite for a spell, with some pulsating stuff end to end, both sides looking like they could score... that was until Everton resorted to hoofing it, courtesy of Distin. But playing it on the ground was no better, Jagielka mystifytingly passing the ball straight to Ashley Young... Lordy lordy! Warnock, with a clear tackle from behind on Rodwell, should have gotten a yellow card but didn't, Rodwell eventually hobbling off.

Cahill looked to dive and won a free-kick in a great position. Coleman came on for Rodwell as Atreta blasted the free-kick at the wall and Saha went for the careeneing ball but got called wrongly for a foul on the defender. Coleman and Hibbert contrived to win a corner that did not beat the first defender but Coleman and Fellaini then tried to walk the ball in through a massed defence. That failed and the Villains were off again Jagielka almost slipping up, conceding a corner.

Young looked to score again, but forced an absolutely brilliant save by Howard, Albrighton fluffing the rebound badly when it looked like he must score. A simply scintillating run by Coleman to the byeline deserved more but no-one really showed for the brilliant cut-back. More good attacking football from Everton, Saha powering in from the right. A fantastic corner headed on by Jagielka, right across the goalmouth! A trendous spell of pressure by the Blues once again delivered nothing.

10 mins left and Hibbert was replaced by Heitinga, final role of the dice but his first contribution was poor although Petrov then fouled Baines to set up another golden free-kick chance but Arteta again hit the wall. Jagielka then headed over from a much better Arteta corner, should have done far better, a glorious chance really. More attacking verve down the left, grate work betweeen Fellaini and Pienaar to get Saha in but his shot blocked for another corner... and another, and another, and another!

The onlslaught Everton mounted in the last 20-30 mins was really very impressive, but the ball just would not get close enough to the Villa net. Injuries to Villa players contrived to ease the pressure and break their momentum approaching the 90-minute mark, as Baines resorted to Route One for Saha but he didn't control it, and 5 mins were added as another perfect-looking ball fell for Saha but he let it bounce rather than taking ownership.

A fantastic move down the left and Saha lashed in the winner... only for it to hit Dunne's knee!! Unbelievable stuff. Saha made another chance but his ground shot was hit just a fraction too slow and Freidel got a desperate fingertip to it. The whistle blew and The Blues had stolen an incredible defeat from the jaws of victory. What was that about Everton lacking goal threat?

Michael Kenrick

Match Report

Everton came to Villa Park hoping to compound the misery of Aston Villa and their ex-Liverpool manager, Kevin McDonald, by coming away with their first win on this ground since 2005. Instead, they made the return journey up the M6 having failed to register their first victory of the season against a team hammered 6-0 last week and dumped out of Europe on Thursday and were forced to reflect on just one point gained in nine, not to mention a place in the bottom three of the Premier League table.

Once more, they conceded a sloppy goal and couldn't recover, and though they threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Villa defence, they found Brad Friedel in stubborn mood and couldn't find either the equaliser or the winner they deserved on the balance of play.

This wasn't like the pedestrian attempts to break Blackburn down on the opening day or the lacklustre showing against Wolves, however. Though David Moyes's men took some time to find their rhythm, once they were in the groove they dominated this match in a way a neutral observer would assume only the home side could. Villa spent long stretches of this match on the defensive and increasingly relied on the pace of Ashley Young and then substitute Gaby Agbonlahor as a means to relieve the pressure on their over-worked defence.

But, despite a valiant effort — and it really was not for want of effort or midfield dominance — and what was easily their best performance of the fledgeling season, Everton could not find a way past a reslient rearguard, leaving Moyes to rue a lack of guile in the final third, as he would put it after the game.

The manager made changes to the line-up that had started against Wolves, handing striking responsibilities to Jermaine Beckford and deploying Jack Rodwell played as an unorthodox right midfielder, but the Blues got off to a bitty start, managing to give the ball away three times in the first 40 seconds. And though the were the first of the two sides to threaten in the last third of the field when Leighton Baines danced his way to the byline in the fifth minute, it was Villa who scored with just eight minutes on the clock.

Marouane Fellaini, the chief culprit of profligacy with the ball on those early moments, fluffed his lines on the edge of his own area, allowing Young to slip the ball square to his namesake Luke and the fullback beat Tim Howard with aplomb on his weaker foot to make it 1-0.

Beckford sought to respond almost immediately, sprinting through the centre of the Villa defence on a bee-line for goal but he was cynically blocked off by Richard Dunne, who was rightfully booked, and Friedel was able to comfortably catch Mikel Arteta's 30-yard free kick.

Six minutes later, Baines and Steven Pienaar combined in typical fashion down the left — demonstrating Moyes's folly in breaking up their partnership against Wolves last weekend —the former sliding the ball inside for the latter, who looked up before curling a beautiful shot off the face of crossbar as the 'keeper looked on helplessly. Had that effort by the South African gone in, you feel the Blues might really have been able to kick on and have a go at winning the game but they were in for a frustrating afternoon.

Everton continued to improve, enjoying more and more of the ball in forward areas, but nothing was breaking for them where it mattered and a chipped cross by Rodwell that drifted inches away from the angle of crossbar and post was close as they came for the remainder of the first half.

A sluggish start to the second half almost saw Moyes's side 2-0 down and they surely would have been with better finishing by Villa. First, John Carew glanced Albrighton's deep cross wide and then Ashley Young capitalised when Beckford's first touch deserted him and the winger raced clear for a one-on-one opportunity with Tim Howard but fired past the goal.

Beckford, who had tried manfully but struggled to get into the game, was withdrawn 10 minutes after the break in favour of Louis Saha and Everton looked more threatening almost immediately, the Frenchman forcing a save from Friedel with a low shot that might have been affected by the fact that Fellaini had got in Saha's way.

Straight down the other end, Carew muscled his way past Sylvain Distin all too easily and when Howard blocked his shot from the angle and it fell invitingly to Young, the American recovered superbly and clawed the winger's shot to safety when a second goal looked almost inevitable.

A minute later, Fellaini brought a high ball down in the Villa box to howls of handball claims from the home fans and hooked it back across goal to Saha whose first-time side-foot shot was destined for the far corner before Friedel palmed it away. Then, two free kick chances went begging, the first glanced agonisingly wide by Rodwell, the second, a direct effort from 20-odd yards, deflected off the wall and behind for a corner.

With 20 minutes left, Moyes finally bowed to common sense and threw Seamus Coleman on in the wide right position at Rodwell's expense. Though the young England midfielder had provided more muscle and composure than had Leon Osman in that role in the two previous games, it was clear that the Blues needed something different down that flank and Coleman very quickly proved to be it.

With 15 minutes left, after Ashley Young had again been foiled by Howard, the Irishman jinked his way smartly to the byline and cut it back to the six-yard box but there was no one there to tuck home his inviting pass and the ball was cleared. Then, after Baines was tripped in full flight by Stilian Petrov and the Bulgarian was finally shown a yellow card for persistent fouling, Arteta despathed another free kick off the top of the defensive wall.

Time was ticking away now and though Everton were bombarding the Villa defence with set-pieces, their tall defence was able to cope admirably and nullify what was proving to be Tim Cahill's only real threat in this match. The Australian barely got a look-in — the one gilt-edged chance that might have come his way was headed over by Fellaini, much to Cahill's very visible annoyance.

In injury time, Saha was twice foiled by Friedel, the second time a fingertip save to turn the French international's right-footed shot past the far post, and after five minutes of injury time, the referee blew the whistle to signal a second successive away defeat for Moyes's outfit.

In terms of where the Blues go from here, it's clear that there are issues in three key areas: Firstly, up front, where the lone striker is proving to be a significant handicap without the goalscoring support from midfield. With his aerial threat canceled out, Cahill was a passenger, neither able to help build attacks with intelligent link-play nor possessing the skill to take defenders on or to open up space to bring in blue shirts around him.

Secondly, the lack of pace on the right flank again hobbled the attacking efforts on that side of the pitch and none of Rodwell, Osman or Bilyaletdinov have shown that they are a long-term answer there but Coleman demonstrated in just a few short minutes, until he dropped back to right back when John Heitinga came on for Tony Hibbert in the closing stages, that he is the best weapon among the current squad that Moyes possesses in that position.

And, finally, the central defensive pairing of Jagielka and Distin has not inspired confidence in any of the three games so far, suggesting that Moyes should consider restoring the Heitinga-Distin partnership with immediate effect because the way the former duo were carved open for the Villa goal portends disaster against Manchester United next week.

Player Ratings:
Howard 7, Hibbert 6 (Heitinga 6), Baines 7, Jagielka 6, Distin 6, Fellaini 7, Arteta 7, Rodwell 7 (Coleman 7), Pienaar 7, Cahill 5, Beckford 6 (Saha 8)

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

The League Cup can be a bit of a distraction in the early rounds, particularly when you're forced, as Everton were, to enter at the Second Round stage because of your lack of involvement in Europe.  For David Moyes and his teaqm, though, the hammering of Huddersfield Town in the Carling Cup on Wednesday may have provided just the tonic to kickstart their massively disappointing start to the Premier League campaign.

A lacklustre opening-day defeat at Blackburn, followed by an eerily familiar afternoon of frustration at Gooidson Park against Wolves that ended in a 1-1 draw, has put huge question marks over the Blues' top-four credentials... but, if expectations among supporters have been lowered, then perhaps an easing of any perceived pressure will help the players re-find their feet.

Certainly, they looked nothing like the team that surged through the latter half of last season on a run of Champions League-qualifying form, but hopes that Moyes's boys haven't lost their attacking mojo were raised in midweek with the 5-1 demolition of Huddersfield Town.

And they'll take heart from the fact that, though this league fixture is away from Goodison Park, the opposition are in a state of turmoil following the abrupt departure from Villa Park of Martin O'Neill on the eve of the new campaign.

An opening day win for Aston Villa over West Ham has been followed up by a 6-0 drubbing by newly-promoted Newcastle and a swift exit from the Europa League in Thursday at the hands of Rapid Vienna.  If ever a team were low on confidence, the team overseen by interim boss, Kevin McDonald, surely are.  Whether Everton can capitalise on a ground they've almost always struggled is another question...

Though his side were more attacking and adventurous in the Carling Cup on Wednesday, Moyes has reiterated his defensive outlook and dampened the fervour around Seamus Coleman by publicly pointing out his error that led to the Terriers' solitary goal.

Magaye Gueye, a player who seems to have a gift for lethal crosses if his pre-season form and his display against Huddersfield is any indication, may also have to be content with a place on the bench as the manager's infamous 'pragmatism' makes its expected return in the League this weekend.

Moyes will likely be without his captain, Phil Neville, whose foot injury looks likely to rule him out again.  Based on the gaffer's comments regarding Coleman, Tony Hibbert would be the favourite to deputise again.


Phil Neville: A doubt once more after missing two previous games

Victor Anichebe's mystery knee injury will keep him sidelined and his Nigerian compatriots, Joseph Yobo and Yakubu, are also missing with apparent injuries and illness respectively.

If Everton are the top-four material most fans thought they were before the season kicked off, then this is a game in which they should go out and prove it by putting a team in chaos to the sword.  It will take far more attacking imagination and incisiveness than they've shown thus far, though.  Time for Moyes and his charges to deliver in what is still a fledgeling campaign.

Lyndon Lloyd

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ASTON VILLA (4-4-2)
  Friedel
  L Young
  Warnock
  Dunne :12'
  Collins :60'
  Downing
  A Young
  Albrighton :62'
  Petrov :80'
  Reo-Coker
  Carew (68' Agbonlahor)
  Subs not used
  Lichaj
  Delfouneso
  Guzan
  Cuellar
  Bannan
  Heskey

EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Hibbert (81' Heitinga)
  Jagielka
  Distin
  Baines
  Fellaini
  Arteta
  Rodwell (70' Coleman)
  Pienaar
  Cahill
  Beckford (56' Saha)
  Subs not used
  Mucha
  Osman
  Bilyaletdinov
  Gueye
  Unavailable
  Anichebe (injured)
  Neville (injured)
  Yakubu (illness)
  Yobo (injured)
  Turner (on loan)

Premier League Scores
Saturday
Blackburn 1-2 Arsenal
Blackpool 2-2 Fulham
Chelsea 2-0 Stoke
Man Utd - West Ham
Tottenham 0-1 Wigan
Wolves 1-1 Newcastle
Sunday
Aston Villa 1-0 Everton
Bolton 2-2 Birmingham
Liverpool 1-0 West Brom
Sunderland 1-0 Man City

Team Pts
1 Chelsea 9
2 Arsenal 7
3 Manchester United 7
4 Aston Villa 6
5 Bolton Wanderers 5
6 Birmingham City 5
7 Wolverhampton Wanderers 5
8 Newcastle 4
9 Manchester City 4
10 Sunderland 4
11 Tottenham Hotspur 4
12 Blackpool 4
13 Liverpool 4
14 Fulham 3
15 Blackburn Rovers 3
16 West Brom 3
17 Wigan Athletic 3
18 Everton 1
19 Stoke City 0
20 West Ham United 0
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