Aston Villa 1 - 3 Everton
It's been apparent for some time now that Aston Villa will be relegated this season and as those of you who have been to Villa Park will testify, it's a belter of a stadium which combines the perfect mix of traditional values with enough modernisation to still stand as one of the top stadiums in the country. I was therefore made up to get a ticket for this one, our last trip to Villa Park in who knows how long? "The most played fixture in top flight football" said Gary as we purchased our matchday programmes from the vendor, "and after tonight it's all over".
It was just as well we went out with a bang then on a good away trip. I got out of work at about 4pm and made straight for Bromborough to pick up Gary and Sue. With the game kicking off at 7.45pm and with M6 rush hour to encounter, I anticipated arriving at about 7pm at the earliest, and so couldn't believe what a clear run we had as we parked up near the ground at about 6pm. We went straight into the second pub we saw, the Aston Tavern, and I was overjoyed when I enquired about if they sell food and was told that you get a free pork baguette on entry! It was no lame pork baguette either, complete with trimmings of stuffing and apple sauce. It was nice to sit back and wash it down with a beer or two before heading on to the Doug Ellis Stand.
On-route I picked up a flyer off a gentleman. "Support us, let's get our club back" he was yelling. Reading the flyer, it was apparant that a 74th minute walk-out was planned from the Aston Villa fans. The 74th minute representing their formation in 1874 in case you were wondering.
Into Villa Park then and Kevin Mirallas replaced Tom Cleverley in the only change form our win at Bournemouth. Niasse started from the substitutes bench. The Aston Villa team, though far from littered with talent, had Guzan, Clarke, Lescott, Hutton, Westwood, Ayew and Agbonlahor in their ranks. Surely enough experience in their to help them at least fight for their safety with more pride than they are doing. A sparse crowd of 29,755 shows how little faith their support now have also. "It's so empty how will we even know when they walk-out" quipped the on-form Gary.
On to proceedings on the pitch and we looked smart in white attacking the Holte End. We began brightly and were ahead in no time at all when an early corner from Kevin Mirallas was headed in by Funes Mori for his third league goal of the season. The marking was so neglected it was an easy header from our Argentine centre back who made no mistake.
Aston Villa rallied somewhat and Joel Robles had to be alert to make a couple of saves from distance, and just as they were beginning to get plucky, we put a dagger through their hearts with a breakaway goal. When Ross Barkley played the ball to Mirallas I thought there was too much on the pass, though the Belgian did well to take the ball on and cut it back for Aaron Lennon who finished well. Thirty minutes played and Everton 2-0 ahead. Aston Villa just going through the motions. "We're fucking rich" was sung by the travelling support. Nobody even bothered to sing "going down", far too desperate their situation is.
At 2-0 ahead Everton seemed content in sitting back and conserving their energy as Aston Villa had nothing to give. Romelu Lukaku, who looked more menacing than he has done for some time, came close with a header from an Aaron Lennon centre which Brad Guzan did well to save. You sensed a goal wasn't far away for Lukaku and it arrived moments later when ultimately from the resulting corner, Funes Mori put the ball back across the box for Lukaku to stab home from close range. 3-0 and it was a joy to see Lukaku pound the Everton badge on his chest as he celebrated in front of us.
With half an hour remaining the Aston Villa fans then found their voice and the team finally had a go. On 74 minutes several thousand did indeed walk out in protest against Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner. They missed a goal for their team in doing so when substitute Gestede out-jumped the lackadaisical substitute John Stones to grab a consolation for Aston Villa.
The hosts rallied from here and Phil Jagielka in particular remained resolute at the back whilst many of his team mates were sloppy with possession. Thankfully we withstood Villa's late efforts and in the end got over the line fairly comfortably...Niasse even afforded a few minutes on the pitch late on.
It took a little while to get away from the ground after the game, but once away, the M6 was plain-sailing and we got back home hassle free.
So hardly a vintage Everton performance though I'm pretty sure we took our foot off the gas at 2-0. I felt that if we really went for it we might have scored a few more but the three points are what matters, and it'll be interesting to see where we are in the league if we can overcome another team in claret and blue this coming Saturday.
Aston Villa a sorry sight though. I'll be sad to see them go.
Robles: Pretty helpless with the goal and saved what he had to. Suspect at crosses though in my opinion. He doesn't come for much at all. 6
Oviedo: Battled well. His ability isn't really in question but he's always prone to an injury, and it cost us when he went down injured and Villa scored whilst he was on the sideline getting treatment... with a cross from our left. Leighton Baines is far more consistent both in performance and availability. 6
Funes Mori: My man of the match. Did his job defensively and contributed in attack with a goal and an assist. 8
Jagielka: Kept them out and was particularly important as we dealt with some late, unexpected, pressure. 8
Coleman: Had a decent game getting forward until he was rested on 73 minutes. 7
Barry: Typically excellent against his former club. Perhaps his last performance at Villa Park. 8
McCarthy: Got about the pitch well. 7
Mirallas: Contributed well with two assists and also dug in with his defensive work. Has he done enough to stay in the team. 7
Lennon: Also contributed with great industry and another goal. Will surely remain in the team for the weekend. 7
Barkley: Had quite a positive game but when Ross switches off mentally...he REALLY switches off mentally. The last 10 minutes he was a total disaster. Luckily it didn't effect the outcome. 6
Lukaku: Looked the most up for it he has been for ages and he's now our record Premier League goalscorer in one season, and it's only just March. With six goals already against West Ham United in his Everton career, you wouldn't bet against him adding to that tally again this weekend. 7
Stones (for Coleman): At fault for the goal but hopefully some minutes on the pitch will do him some good. 5
Baines (for Oviedo): Looked a little rusty. 5
Niasse (for Mirallas): Got involved. 6