Aston Villa 3 - 0 Everton
Deep down, most Evertonians knew that a result like this was coming and it would only take the first spate of injuries to usher it in. The numbers of players unavailable to Rafael Benitez might not have reached “crisis” level yet but there is no question that his side was always going to struggle without both of its first-choice forwards and captain Seamus Coleman, for whom there is inadequate cover.
The seeds of this defeat were sown, then, in a summer transfer window that left key positions in the squad short on depth — some of them, unforgivably so — and a number of top transfer targets unsigned by the club. One of those, of course, was Leon Bailey, a player Marcel Brands and his scouts had tracked closely for more than two years and would have been prepared to move for during the close season had they had any wiggle room with their budget. As we know, there was almost no room at all in that budget and Everton’s loss was Aston Villa’s gain.
The Toffees were already a goal down when the Jamaican delivered on his rich promise by prompting Lucas Digne into his second decisive error of the match and then smashed home his first goal in English football before departing the fray again having tweaked his thigh muscle in the process of delivering the Toffees the coup de grace with 15 minutes to go. That strike made it 3-0 and it ensured that Benitez would suffer his first loss as Everton manager.
And yet, the margins in this match were a lot finer than the final score suggests and there’s an argument to be made that the contest pivoted on a couple of incidents midway through the second half. At one end, Demarai Gray, once again the Blues’ best player going forward, just missed with an attempt to curl the ball around Emiliano Martinez and inside the far post. At the other, Matty Cash made no mistake a minute later when he powered in behind the flat-footed Digne to slam home his first ever goal for the Villans.
Benitez had barely put André Gomes on in place of the flagging Salomon Rondon than Villa doubled their lead through Bailey’s corner before the winger set the seal on a home win that, again, looked more flattering than perhaps it was. Nevertheless, the fact that Dean Smith could turn to £100m worth of talent on his bench and didn’t even need to use Emiliano Buendia was another indication of the deficit at which his opposite number was operating in terms of personnel.
Rondon made a decent early impression, going close to scoring inside five minutes but his lack of fitness quickly told and he couldn’t offer either the aerial dominance of Dominic Calvert-Lewin or the pace and movement of Richarlison, both of whom could be out until after the next international break with their respective injuries.
The right-back position also under-scored how weak Everton are in certain positions when Coleman was ruled out with the hamstring issue that kept him out of Ireland’s third match of the last round of World Cup qualifiers.
Ben Godfrey deployed as an emergency full-back and while he gave a decent account of himself in the first half, he was caught out of position badly for the third goal. More worrying, perhaps, was his uncharacteristic lethargy in trying to recover for a player who usually exhibits terrific pace and determination.
Despite their depleted number and the continued absence of James Rodriguez from the matchday squad, Everton more than matched their hosts in the first 45 minutes and they had the first real chance of the game when Rondon touched the ball around his marker from Godfrey's low cross but saw his toe-poke deflected past the post.
The Venezuelan then headed narrowly over at one end before Jordan Pickford's deputy, Asmir Begovic, pulled off a brilliant save at the other when he stopped Tryone Mings's header off a corner with a firm glove.
Danny Ings volleyed an ambitious effort over the bar following another Villa set-piece while Michael Keane's header dropped just wide following an Everton corner and Gray's cross just eluded a lunge by Rondon trying to meet the ball with an out-stretched boot as the Toffees continued to threaten.
Later in the half, an effort by Gray himself was charged down, Cash dragged a shot wide of Begovic's goal from the edge of the box and Andros Townsend tried to repeat his heroics against Burnley last week but belted his shot straight at Emiliano Martinez.
The first 20 minutes of the second half continued to show promise for Benitez's men and there were strong appeals for a foul by Ezri Konsa on Gray that were ignored by referee Craig Pawson despite the defender visibly dragging the winger back with his arms.
Townsend then had a chance with a direct free-kick that he fired disappointingly into the wall before Gray did really well to draw his marker towards him before trying to bend a 65th minute shot around Martinez and inside the far post but his shot skidded agonisingly wide.
A minute later, it was 1-0 to Villa as Digne lost track of Cash and allowed him to run in behind where the former Nottingham Forest full-back collected a pass, cut inside and smashed a rising shot high into Begovic's goal.
Two minutes later, Digne's match went from bad to worse when Bailey, on as a substitute, swung a wicked corner into the six-yard box and the Frenchman could only glance a header past his own keeper to make it 2-0.
Three minutes after that, it was game over as Godfrey was caught out of position as the ball was knocked over the top for the speedy Bailey and he advanced on goal before unleashing a powerful half-volley that flew past Begovic before the Bosnian had had a chance to properly react.
Jacob Ramsey almost made it 4-0 but missed the target while Benitez made three changes, bringing on Anthony Gordon for Allan, Jonjoe Kenny for Godfrey and Tom Davies for Alex Iwobi as Keane had a late chance for a consolation goal but planted a free header wide off a free-kick.
Benitez will want to consign this result to history as quickly as possible and turn his attention to Tuesday’s Carabao Cup tie against Queens Park Rangers and the home game in the Premier League against struggling Norwich City beyond before the daunting prospect of a trip to Old Trafford looms.
Many of the players who might have been handed minutes at Loftus Road were involved today, however, but the manager should at least be confident that he has enough among the group of players who are fit to play to navigate another Championship side and make it through to the next round while his first-choice stars recover.
It won’t be lost on him, though, that this defeat was a portent of future matches that will be equally as difficult while the squad is so thin. The packed winter schedule, in particular, does not look to be an attractive proposition from this vantage point but Benitez and his team have no option but to get on with it.
Reader Comments (39)
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1 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:26:26
Think it speaks volumes that under the circumstances the opposition Manager thought 3 0 flattered his Team and it was a game on a knife edge until their breakthrough.
The weak refereeing at a critical point was the turning point.
Thought we had acquitted ourselves very well until their first goal.
People are picking out individuals for harsh treatment for their performances. I think it was very difficult for the Team and Manager yesterday and they mostly did a great job.
2 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:26:36
That lack of commitment is the Everton disease. I don't think it has much to do with the manager, or whom he selects - it affects every manager and all the players. I can only suggest that there is something very wrong at Finch Farm.
3 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:40:19
In my opinion, we are a side transformed under Rafa, in terms of our energy and commitment levels. We were a shade unlucky yesterday, but to say that our defeat was not in some part down to the absentees is bewildering. Not only were we without DCL, Richarlison, Pickford and Coleman, but also without Siggi and James. All six of those could make a claim to be starters not just in our team but in many PL teams.
Good report Lyndon, I think you saw the same game as most of us.
4 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:46:49
I agree with you to a degree, outside of the oft-cited subjects, there is a paucity of quality in the Premier League, and the games that Everton has been involved in, show that to be the case. I also agree that in previous matches Everton got the breaks in order to earn points, yesterday they didn't.
I disagree that the Everton team hasn't been fully committed in most of their games this season, lacking in quality on occasions, yes, but they have mostly worked their socks off, which is testament to the lack of quality within the squad, as good sides don't need to work as hard for so long in games because they can retain the ball for large spells, which Everton patently can't do.
Fact is, this current bunch of Everton players isn't good enough to be anything but mid-table, without working hard they are likely to be considered lower than that, which is why I get annoyed when people bang on about Everton haven't played anyone of note, as every point is earned not awarded and almost every game is a lottery, hence the term small-margins being bandied about so often.
We can't alter the skill-sets of the current crop of players we can only ask them to work hard and give their all, which on the whole is what they have done so far this season, if they stop doing that as a basic requirement then that should terrify us all - boardroom included.
5 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:50:29
Our first team isn't that special so replacing 4 with "lesser" isn't going to end well.
The reason domestic cup competitions have become a farce is managers whip out half the team trying to be clever and end up losing at Harlepool etc.
Don't change a winning team is a much repeated truism for good reason unfortunately we had no choice.
6 Posted 19/09/2021 at 10:53:40
7 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:03:10
This performance reinforced what we already knew: square pegs in round holes and substandard understudies cost you moments in matches, which invariably leads to dropped points.
8 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:09:37
9 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:15:07
Even the most optimistic Kopite wouldn't have predicted how poor this Everton squad would be after so much expenditure on fees and wages. It's not merely the money spent it's also the failure of younger players to develop to a high enough standard to challenge for a place in the team, such as Holgate, Kenny, and Davies, and in the cases of the emerging talent, there isn't any player who looks as if they can progress to being a first-team regular in the near future.
10 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:15:43
Rondon and Godfrey did quite well up to a point. I was disappointed that Rondons feet didn't seem to leave the floor when he jumped.
Also disappointed Digne got outmuscled for the first and his starting position for the corner meant he couldn't attack the ball. Have we done away with having a man on the near post?
All in all l thought we did quite well. Mainly though Allan and Doucoure got overrun in midfield and neither looked comfortable. Our manager should have seen that. And lwobi is so much better through the middle.
Now the test comes to not go on any kind of losing run like we did last season. Positive signs that heads didn't drop and l thought the players worked hard. Next.
11 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:32:33
In their absence we are left with Gray and Townsend to offer an attacking threat. Stop those two and very likely you will stop Everton. Even so, had Gray been able to hit the target a minute before Villa took the lead, the outcome might have been very different. Until that point we had held our own.
12 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:33:26
You mean we spent £500 mil over those years and up front we have Rondon, Gray, lwobi and Townsend? What are you getting at?
13 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:53:37
A lot don't realise the importance of Richarlison in particular. Teams are bothered by him and focus their attention on him; target him. It's why he gets fouled a lot. Even if that means he is taken out the game, it frees up others.
If he was an English starlet, he'd get the same level of protection from Referees that Grealish gets. But he's considered a South American diver always looking for the free kick apparently. Like when he almost had his leg snapped against Burnley. No foul. If that's Grealish, it's probably a red card to the other player.
We were missing half a team yesterday, depending on everyone's views on who should start.
And yes, if that shot from Gray is 2 inches to the left, we're 1 - 0 up in what, until then, had been a pretty even encounter. Villa upper hand? Possibly, but that's home team v away team.
Flattering scoreline for Villa, harsh on Everton in my opinion.
Having a Villa supporting wife, I do hate these fixtures. Either way, it creates an atmosphere!! Roll on Tuesday night and Shepherd's Bush.
14 Posted 19/09/2021 at 11:57:31
15 Posted 19/09/2021 at 12:04:49
You are spot on about how important Richarlison is to this team, his work rate is as good as any striker in the league, and he is a constant threat to the opposition. I think when he and Gray and DCL are fit we may see a different Everton. The tackle by the Burnley player was a red card all day long irrispective on who would have been on the end of that challenge. The intent was clearly to hurt Richarlison and it looks like he may be out for a few weeks.
I sometimes think he goes down a little easy and that's why some refs don't give him the protection he deserves.
I think the reason why Pawson didn't award Gray a free kick for him being pulled back was because if he had then because the defender was the last man he would have had to send him off thats also the reason the VAR ref didnt intervene but if that had been against one of the top 6 Villa would have played the rest of the game with 10 men.
16 Posted 19/09/2021 at 12:25:53
No when a team has 4 players (almost half their outfield lineup) surrounding 1, that means there is space elsewhere and they are bothered by him.
17 Posted 19/09/2021 at 12:52:41
18 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:02:33
But is that because that's what they have available at their disposal and is better than whatever else they have available or because they have genuinely rated him?
I never like to judge young players too early as there are many factors that can determine their development and eventual progression or level they achieve. Very few are a Rooney, a Foden, Gerrard or a Grealish. Right now, Gordon isn't ready for Premier League standard, even in a paper-thin Everton squad. It doesn't mean he won't be, but just not now.
19 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:16:22
The most disappointing thing about our squad is how few youngsters have come through. Having a third of our squad out injured (or sitting at home waiting for a trial date) should mean a host of U23s or even U18s getting a place on the bench at the very least, but where are they? Where is the exciting young talent banging on the door to get their opportunity?
20 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:18:12
But goals are the key. The first goal, really. At first, I was blaming Digne, but Cash is the full back, and he can't mark two people, even if he was outmuscled. And the second goal is just rank bad luck.
The third is poor positioning, but let's be fair, Godfrey is much better at left-back than right-back for some reason, and has also mainly played at centre-back and midfield. He just didn't instinctively know where he needed to be.
I was really worried about our centre-backs yesterday, but actually I think they played quite well. In fact, other than the goals, we handled Villa very well on their own patch.
And lastly, if the referee had a brain, we'd have been playing against 10 men after Gray was hauled back, at nil-nil, cos that was a goal-scoring chance.
21 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:27:57
"I am puzzled about Gordon. He was so highly rated by many on here who watch the younger teams play and yet he seems lightweight and incapable of getting clear of his man."
I'm one who enthused about Gordon when playing for the U23s. I think it's a signal to those who say "Throw in this or that U23s player," and saying "It can't be any worse". It can – it can possibly destroy a player's confidence if it's a dire failure.
I've been enthusing about Dobbin but his marker against Sheffield United on Friday had him in his pocket – okay, you can have an off-game, but...
"Is it that he needs a proper run of games or can he not perform at this level?"
Yes, maybe it is a proper run of games. Or would that just show the fans what the coaches (Carlo and Rafa) already knew / know?
22 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:39:09
23 Posted 19/09/2021 at 13:44:27
Everton were playing well yesterday, and were close to scoring, and I think it was the 2nd goal that deflated them.
Yes, we have a weak squad, with a strong first 12, but we are not strong enough to cover multiple injuries like yesterday, along with a couple of players playing below their expected standards.
24 Posted 19/09/2021 at 14:56:41
The only player that I could attribute to the malaise you suggest is Digne, but I do think in both games work and effort was evident from the team. Michael #3 and Barry #4 give truer reflections of the team.
28 Posted 19/09/2021 at 19:06:56
The Preston loan wasn't a good experience because, I think, the manager got sacked and replaced by someone much more direct – and Gordon's ability on the ball wasn't valued. I'm not sure the Championship is the best loan destination for kids who can really play.
29 Posted 19/09/2021 at 19:45:38
The other squad players who came on last night, Kenny, Gordon and Davies, made no impact at all. Particularly Gordon, who appears always to look around when he comes on as a late sub, waiting for other players to make an impact, instead of him wanting to get hold of the ball and do something positive with it.
Part of the problem with not having a large enough, good enough squad, there is a lack of younger players not playing alongside with and against more experienced players in a reserve team playing against other reserve teams.
The old Central League used to provide far more players for the first team than the Everton Under-23s do. The best they can hope for is to be loaned out to a League One team, which does not really serve the needs of the Everton first team, which is desperate for some younger players to go knocking on Benitez's office asking for a first-team game after convincing themselves of their skill.
I could not imagine a 17-year-old Rooney hanging around the Under-23 team waiting for a call for a first team opportunity. He would have been telling the manager "Give me a game or I am off somewhere else." He did go off, but for different reasons. Not because of questions over his skill, but Everton received a large amount of money to let him play somewhere else.
30 Posted 19/09/2021 at 21:13:52
I would regard Rondon as a mid-second half replacement for a tiring Richarlison or DCL or perhaps someone to get stuck into a violent defence (i.e. Burnley as reffed by Atkinson), not as a fully fit solo up front performer.
Richarlison is an absolutely essential part of this team with his defensive performances often as critical to a good result as anything he does in front of goal.
I believe Benitez has already shown his credentials as a tactician with the introduction of Gomes last week. I sat and watched a toothless Everton attack transformed by replacing a failing back line defender with a fairly slow midfielder who's never been the same since he was attacked from behind by Son.
I'm sure Benitez will be working his socks off to get the team back into a coherent unit, albeit without most of his best players, and I regard yesterday as a horrible result resulting from the disgusting refereeing vs Burnley, which caused half the team to miss several matches. The next time Atkinson turns up at Goodison, Dunc should put him in intensive care before the kickoff.
31 Posted 19/09/2021 at 22:01:30
32 Posted 19/09/2021 at 22:24:27
33 Posted 20/09/2021 at 00:08:54
34 Posted 20/09/2021 at 14:39:39
I don't think he is as good as many here claim or that he thinks he is. He is fast in open spaces but is extremely selfish, always going for his own goal rather than passing to a teammate in a better position.
35 Posted 20/09/2021 at 15:24:19
Gordon looked out of place when he came on, but if these youngsters don't get a chance we will never know. We played 3 different options up top in one game a recipe for disaster if ever there was one.
Dave Pearl - give a call about Saturday mate.
36 Posted 20/09/2021 at 16:49:08
The VAR ref decided it wasnt a clear and obvious mistake by the referee.
I cant understand the logic or reasoning behind that decision, very disappointing interpretation.
He was clearly and obviously being held back. I think in reality was the capacity home crowd impairing the referees decision making and the VAR ref just taking the easiest way out.
37 Posted 20/09/2021 at 17:23:57
Perhaps we can bring in one or two in January, but next summers transfer will be pivotal for both ins and outs.
38 Posted 20/09/2021 at 18:57:46
If it was the RS, United, City olaying then no doubt Konya would have been punished by the referee.
How the hell Pawson done nothing is beyond contempt and the VAR referee, cant have been watching the game.
QPR and a tough away game.
Hopefully the squad will show character and bounce back from the Villa defeat.
39 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:07:48
40 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:19:13
On the plus side we have 10 points on the board and I always thought 10-12 points from the first 6 games would be a solid if not spectacular start. We'll have to manage with plasters for the next two weeks and Man U away will be tough.
It's a long season so both DCL and Richarlison need to be given proper time to recover and not rushed back. If that means losing to Norwich and Man U, then so be it. Would hope however we can get something against Norwich. These two players are absolutely vital and we need a full season from them.
We must get Rodriquez off the books so we can finally sign a RB. It's beyond a joke we still don't have a replacement for Coleman, its been obvious we need one for about 3 years!
41 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:30:46
42 Posted 20/09/2021 at 19:41:25
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