Everton 4 - 0 Aston Villa
That pesky international break out of the way saw us congregating once more in the Room of Nonsense prior to our 201st meeting with the Villa – the most played fixture in footy history. Man U v Watford was on the screens and to all intents and purposes no one was watching with any conviction except for a roar for the Watford equaliser on the death and then an almighty groan as United snatched in time added.
They were the only two interruptions to our discussion regarding team selection where the only surprise was a place for Galloway who only yesterday had been deemed not yet recovered from injury but none the less most were happy with the selection. It was interesting to hear most assembled being in agreement with our present manager in his view that the only way we will keep hold of our diamonds is to enter the champion’s league. Although we are all desperate for a cup win that place in the top four seems to outweigh everything. Mind you if we do build the squad to get top four spot then a cup may come along as well.
Time for the walk up and although it was retro day most fans I saw were wearing up to six layers against the cold and retro shirts were I am sure worn, just not on view. The fan zone seemed to have been a hit with the youngsters as many were sporting blue and white face painting and making a right din with the old fashioned rattles. It was feeding time at the fat van and the need for something warm and substantial was outweighing any healthy eating concerns – and if the fat van didn’t get you then who could resist the chippy’s on route to a turnstile.
Into the ground and Z cars had a false start as whoever was in charge of music was thrown into a mild panic as the normal matchday routine was altered to have the players shake hands and then mingle together in a show of solidarity before the French National anthem was played and sung whilst fans had a moment to reflect on the deadly attacks that took place in Paris this last week.
The game was started by our match referee Mr Oliver and by ten minutes in it was clear that Villa, having shut out Man City in their last match, were on the same tack again. However Everton appeared prepared for this and were happy to play the long game and build patiently with some crisp passing and not shy of pressing until avenues closed but still kept hold of the ball and came out again to start another venture forward. The Villa tactic was most blatant as they almost refused to commit anyone forward to help out the totally isolated Ayew.
Past the fifteen minute mark and after Deulofeu had proved his dominance over his marker Richardson, Coleman had sensed an overlapping run spooked them we put a move together that started deep in our half. Stones, stepping forward, found Barkley who executed a sublime flick into the path of Lukaku who fed McCarthy who quickly passed it on to Deulofeu who sensed Richardson posed little threat to him, so he powered in from the right and shot,. The keeper got something on it but could only parry away and there was Barkley who, after making up ground quickly, was at the far post sniffing for spills, got one and slid home. Goodison erupted, yes, but until that point had been quiet and considering we were so much on top and playing good joined up stuff was puzzling.
Then I was left puzzled again as I thought that us taking the lead would ensure Villa being more attack-minded leaving us with chances on the break as we have some speedy lads in our team now but no they carried on as though our goal hadn’t happened and were content to defend in numbers and commit to very little if anything going forward, a most strange state of affairs.
Everton sensing this pushed harder with more bodies and apart from a Villa corner we were in and around their box in surges. From one of these the immaculate Barry, orchestrating from a defensive midfield position set us in motion and Deulofeu set off like a robber's dog down the right, looked up and crossed beautifully and accurately to Kone’s head and with ‘GOAL’ on our lips Guzan made a very good reflex save. Hell of a save that.
Villa made a few token forays forward but never with any great conviction as I thought any reward for them would be via a terrible mistake from us. But as the clock ticked to the thirty minute mark, Deulofeu popped up on the left and threaded a pass that almost got Lukaku clear and received a clap for his passing nous whilst Coleman got on to the loose ball and put in a cross that lit up the eyes of Lukaku. He powered on to it and planted a laser guided header just out of the reach of Guzan and wallowed in the adoration of the fans before slowly making his way back for the restart, clapping and waving as his very own song was aired.
Still it was a quiet Goodison, although two up and playing some good stuff with Barry a master in organisation and play directing – what a pity he is not 22. Lukaku, Kone and Deulofeu were a real handful going forward and Coleman and Galloway bombing on when appropriate leaving Stones and Mori looking like a seasoned central defensive partnership, not forgetting McCarthy with his closing down and harrying along with Barkley who was picking up loose balls and directing traffic.
Howard was almost redundant but sound when called upon. This ensured some excellent joined up stuff that used the width of the pitch and had Villa chasing shadows so it was no surprise when just a couple of minutes to the break Barry orchestrated another move that saw Kone tangle with Guzan over a loose ball, the Ivorian somehow got it loose and squirted the ball away from Guzan and there was today’s predator Barkley to slot home. I think all assembled knew it was game over as we went into the break 3-0 up from a one sided first half that for some reason Villa did not seem to want to take part in.
Second half and you just knew it would be an anti-climax and I wasn’t disappointed. Villa started with Sanchez replacing Gueye and adding a bit of huff and puff, but the most threatening they were was when our man Mori got the pace of his back-pass to Howard wrong leaving it short but it was Howard to the rescue when, from a good starting position, he charged out and kicked away. No excitement for a while as the whole place was flat as Everton seemed not perturbed by anything Villa could offer and, as far as our lads were concerned, they were happy to knock it about and if the chance came for a swift break and another goal, well ok. What surprised me was that the Villa fans did their best to lift their team through song and chant yet their players just seemed to accept the inevitable. If I was a Villa fan I would be a tad worried.
Micah Richards did have a trip to near the edge of our box and hit one but straight at Howard who held comfortably. Richards seemed to have set a trend as shortly after Villa had two more shots from what looked like good positions but again straight at Howard and he gathered easily.
The hour mark was upon us and as I was wondering if Roberto would give some of the subs a run out Deulofeu from deep in our half played a crisp pass to Barkley who with just the weight and timing passed on to Lukaku who after taking it in his stride hammered home and the reception he got and the singing of his song was the noisiest the crowd had been all game and he milked it. 4-0 up and some great stuff played at times yet the ‘Old Lady’ was far from rocking.
The manager went another fifteen minutes before making subs and then introduced Mirallas and Osman for Barkley and Deulofeu who both got a good round of applause from the faithful. Mirallas started like a man possessed and intent on catching the manager’s eye. He ran in from the left at pace and then fed the ball out to the marauding Galloway who lashed a shot that was goal bound but from my seat I could not quite tell what happened as Mirallas seemed to mid-air and Guzan dive out, the upshot being the ball didn’t trouble the net but how I am not sure.
Mirallas than took a free kick near the edge of the box and hit it with venom but alas it curled just wide but Guzan did get something on it as we got a corner that didn’t deliver anything. Gibson replaced McCarthy. The ground went even quieter as Lukaku and Guzan collided in what looked a nasty one. Both thankfully recovered after treatment. A strange thing their as Lukaku did not have to go off after the treatment is this because the keeper was involved or did the ref just not notice. I have not seen before.
Just before the end Gibson sent a superb pass to Mirallas that he acrobatically tried a mid-air volley that had it been six inches to the right it would have been a goal of the season contender. Still the Belgian playing with something to prove had a twisting run at pace and his shot although strong was gathered by Guzan.
MotM – Deulofeu/Barry joint.
Overall a strange game to watch as it was so one-sided however the standard of football from Everton was a joy to watch and there now seems to be partnerships forming throughout the team which is always a good sign. Coming off the ground tonight confirmed winter is almost upon us as it was cold and dark but the chat was bright and cheery as fans debated the game and individual performances. It’s great to catch the snatches of conversations as it reinforces the diversity of opinion regarding a game we have all just seen but perhaps slightly differently.
Bournemouth next and with a bit of luck and a clean bill of health we can take the points so long as we don’t expect them to be as accommodating the Villa.
Winter draws on.
UP THE BLUES