Having began the day at the launch of Dave Hickson's autobiography (The Cannonball Kid by James Corbett), I split a taxi to Goodison Park with Richard, a good bloke I've gotten to know from attending various media events. It was a glorious day for football with the sun shining and the temperature unseasonally warm.

Gaz usually drives us over to the match and as we sit in the Lower Gwladys, I rarely see the Park End 'Fanzone' and all the fanfare which accompanies it. I was impressed. There's plenty of things going on and it seems a great place for families pre-match. It was 'Retro Day' at Goodison Park and the exquisite "The Holy Trinity" mural adorning the side of the Main Stand was something else.

I had to collect some tickets for the Lille match but, other than that, I had nothing else to do and so was in the pub in good time, watching Manchester City vs Tottenham Hotspur before the rest of the guys arrived. Everyone was pretty excited with the news that Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and � most significantly � Ross Barkley were all in the team and returning from their respective injuries. Interestingly Distin was not even included on what was a very strong substitutes bench. Benteke led the line in attack for Aston Villa with Charles N'Zogbia deputising for the injured Fabian Delph.

We marched on to the stadium and into our seats in good time. The sun shining, the atmosphere brimming with a sell-out crowd, the away end packed. There is no finer sight than a full Goodison Park, particularly significant on this our 100th home game with Aston Villa in the most played top flight fixture of all time. Anthony Taylor got proceedings underway...

I've been moaning a lot lately of Everton not taking the game to teams enough from the start and so I was pleased to see the team begin with fire in their bellies and taking the game to Aston Villa. Unfortunately we didn't quite sustain it and after an initially promising opening 10 minutes we let Aston Villa back in and the Villans had a good little spell of their own. We survived and were creating a bit more around their box again in what was a lively game. Ross Barkley showed excellent footwork to move away from his marker and shoot at goal but Guzan saved well. I'm not sure if it was from the resulting corner or not but Everton were soon ahead. I was bemoaning our short corner when the ball was played back to Baines. There didn't seem a lot on for him but he moved the ball onto his right foot and dangerously whipped the ball around the defender for captain Phil Jagielka to duck and nod the ball in. 1-0 to the Blues and on the balance it was just about deserved.

Aston Villa rallied back into the game and Alan Hutton was a little unlucky not to level the scores when his fierce drive at goal whistled just wide of the post. A quite brilliant tackle on Tom Cleverley from James McCarthy also saved our bacon as the Manchester United loanee threatened to shoot. Villa were in the ascendancy and were well backed by their crowd. Key incidents can really change the shape of games and I think the bad tackle by Gabriel Agbonlahor on Leighton Baines really riled the crowd and got Everton up for the game. Towards the end of the half, Aston Villa were all over the place as Everton sought to convert their dominance into a second goal, though they were thwarted by an excellent Guzan save from a Coleman shot. Aston Villa survived for now and we went into half-time a goal ahead.

Everton continued in this rhythm at the restart and doubled our advantage on just 48 minutes. Lukaku, who had by far his best game yet this season, drove into the box from a Barkley pass and caught Brad Guzan a little off guard with his shot across him. Guzan got a good hand to it but couldn't keep it out and the ball trickled into the net. 2-0 Everton. Get in! James McCarthy's role in the goal cannot be overstated as it was his tackle and subsequent pass to Ross Barkley which ultimately created the opportunity for Lukaku.

Aston Villa weren't quite finished and had a short spell of pressure. At 2-0 you couldn't quite relax. Benteke had a goal (rightly) disallowed due to a push on Alcaraz but otherwise Everton withstood Aston Villa's threat. However the third goal was a relief when it went in. A quick Leon Osman free kick was whipped across the penalty box by Baines for Seamus Coleman to steam in at the back post and thrash the ball past Guzan. Brilliant. Just brilliant from our two full backs.

With the game won, it was now important we kept a clean sheet and this was guaranteed when Tim Howard did well to stop Gabriel Agbonlahor's effort. A 3-0 win against Aston Villa when I was seriously expecting a frustrating draw or worse. What a satisfactory afternoon, especially with the return of some of our key players and at last an excellent performance from our record buy Romelu Lukaku.

Onward now to Lille and heaven knows how many Blues will be making the short trip to France. Have fun out there Blues... do our club proud!

Player Ratings:

Howard: Punched rather than caught a few crosses but that's fine with me. If your keeper doesn't feel right catching the ball, I'd rather he got rid of it than spill it... spillages are often fatal. Otherwise, he did fine... hopefully the clean sheet can help get his confidence back up after a few recent errors. 6

Baines: Terrific stuff from Leighton. You won't really find a better full back anywhere really. So consistent and his combination of attack and defence is pitch perfect. Two assists and one on his right foot. Quite outstanding. 8

Alcaraz: Did well. Lost many headers to Benteke which Distin might have won but his positional play was decent. He was always tight to Benteke and didn't give him much opportunity to turn on him. Was quite impressed. 7

Jagielka: Good header to set us off and steady at the back. Good going Phil! 7

Coleman: Great to have him back in the side and he capped it off with the final goal. Excellent from Coleman. 7

Barry: Decent performance against his former club. 6

McCarthy: Had a very good game. Dominant and aggressive in the tackle and busy as a bee all afternoon. A great effort. 8

Osman: Was busy all game. Not outstanding but a steady performance throughout. 6

Naismith: Had a few different roles in the afternoon and worked tirelessly throughout. An exemplary effort as always. 7

Barkley: Fantastic to see him back and he settled in swiftly. He still disappears from the game at times but always has the opposition back-peddling when he has the ball. Lets hope he can get back to fitness and put his injury problems behind him. 6

Lukaku: By far his best game so far this season and hopefully that signals he's back on track. Was a real menace for Aston Villa all afternoon and the goal will do him the world of good. If we can get that application from him every week and with Samuel Eto'o available off the substitutes bench we will be a handful for most teams. That's a big 'if' though. My man of the match. 8

Pienaar (for Barkley): Did very well. With his injuries you wonder if he could become a really useful substitute player as he can really make an impact on a short-term period. Interesting food for thought...7

Eto'o (for Naismith): Was lively. Nearly set up fellow substitute Darron Gibson with a goal. May get more game time on Thursday. 6

Gibson (for Lukaku): Nearly scored with his drive having been set up by Eto'o. 6

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Reader Comments (18)

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Steve Hogan
1 Posted 19/10/2014 at 22:00:29
I really enjoy your uncomplicated reports of going the match Paul, but I get a little puzzled by your MotM ratings. I know we all see the game differently, but to only give Barry a 6, alongside Osman a 6!!!!!

Staggering when most observers had Barry as the gameÂ’s outstanding performer.

Mike Childs
2 Posted 19/10/2014 at 23:53:59
Great report, Paul... not sure I agree with your ratings but I respect your opinion. My Man of the Match was Barkley due to the obvious confidence he brought to the rest of the team.

So excited to see that one of my channels FOX1 will carry the game against Lille here in The States.

Almost a perfect weekend as QPR embarrassed the RS on the pitch but gave up two own goals to the Shites to loose 3-2. Wish we had this Vargas from Chile that QPR have.

Andy Crooks
3 Posted 20/10/2014 at 01:07:13
Great stuff, Paul, your reports take me back to when I could go to lots of games. An account of the match experience that compliments the other reports.

For those not able to get to a game the varied reporting and analysis on this site is superb.

Tony Draper
4 Posted 20/10/2014 at 01:14:19
Barkleys return had me stunned, genuinely so, and happily so. With Coleman and McCarthy also back, I was more positive before the kickoff than I had been before I left for the match.

Bloody Coleman is a monster of a player, and for me is rapidly putting himself in contention for my ALL time first choice Right Back (and I know that the free scoring Hibbert fans will dispute this).

McCarthy's return was the key for me, Roberto "wasted not a single brass button" when he brought him in from Wigan. Tireless and intelligent.

Barkley did things with the ball that were "worth the ticket price" alone. He also looked like he was loving playing and for me players of his rare level really do need to love playing.

We looked a well balanced side again, and that restores confidence. I know we were playing Villa, so it's not an indication that silverware is imminent, but it was a clear 3-0 win. We did deserve everything, all of it.

More to follow, all season.

Tamhas Woods
5 Posted 20/10/2014 at 02:57:50
Lukaku MotM? Seriously?

For me it was McCarthy. The lad has come in for some stick recently, but that vital block he made was the point at which Villa knew they were getting nothing.

Also, you have under-rated Barkley, Coleman and Naismith.

Still.... glad the debate is about a winning team.

Harold Matthews
6 Posted 20/10/2014 at 03:32:55
Enjoyable report, Paul. Respect your opinion of certain players but we all see thing differently.

Personally, I wouldn't be so generous towards Howard who had little to do but still gave me the jitters. Their disallowed goal would never have happened if he had come off his line and collected the slow, high forward punt. Like Arsenal and one or two other teams, we need a top class keeper.

I thought you were a bit unkind to Alcaraz who won plenty of headers including one brilliant goal saving effort which he put out for a corner. Also, I thought you under-rated Barry.

Mike. Agreed. When Vargas came on, I instantly thought of McGeady and Atsu and hoped Martinez was taking note.

Anto Byrne
8 Posted 20/10/2014 at 07:31:16
Sometimes you have to watch what is going on off the ball as sometimes players have a role to keep other opposing players quiet by close marking. I know Ossie looked a bit quiet but he laid on the pass for Baines to cross for Coleman. Sometimes his work goes under the radar but overall a 6/10 is good work.
Phil Walling
10 Posted 20/10/2014 at 09:41:17
Lukaku Man of the Match? You're havig a laff, Paul. Blinded by the fee.
Derek Knox
11 Posted 20/10/2014 at 10:03:26
Thanks Paul, enjoyed reading your report and I, like all fellow TW'ers, hope this will be the game to kickstart our season, and boost confidence in the players too.
Tony J Williams
12 Posted 20/10/2014 at 10:31:40
Full team performance with not a one having an off day, like so many of our previous games.

Villa were awful, worst team by a mile to visit Goodison so far this season.

Snidely little over the hill Agpongthewhore trying to injure both of our full backs, should have been off.

Dave Abrahams
13 Posted 20/10/2014 at 11:27:58
I enjoyed your report, Paul, as usual but please leave the Players Ratings out.

Also glad you were invited to DavieÂ’s book opening review... jealous of that. Everton have had many great players, a lot of them better than Davie, but he is the only idol I have ever had in football.

Sam Morrison
14 Posted 20/10/2014 at 14:48:01
Paul thanks for the report. Please keep giving your ratings though - they produce some lively debate!
Harold Matthews
15 Posted 20/10/2014 at 17:46:45
Tony J. So true. After a promising start, Villa have completely lost their momentum.
Trevor Lynes
17 Posted 20/10/2014 at 23:18:53
Plenty of fans tend to belittle Osman but he is still a clever player and it was his quick free kick that set up the killer 3rd goal. He does struggle in very physical games but is a great impact sub as has been proved in the past season.

Your ratings are always open to debate but then so are everyone's. Very interesting and entertaining report!

Harold Matthews
18 Posted 21/10/2014 at 11:45:17
Nice post Trevor. Spot on as usual.

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