Depleted Blues suffer nine-minute meltdown at Villa Park

Saturday, 18 September, 2021 0comments  |  Jump to last
Aston Villa 3 - 0 Everton

Salomon Rondon made his full debut in the absence of the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin and came close to opening his account for Everton early on before departing in the second half

Everton's unbeaten start to the season was shredded in nine second-half minutes as poor defending and a lack of squad depth were ruthlessly exposed by Aston Villa.

The Blues had enjoyed the better of a relatively open and entertaining match in the first half and went close to opening the scoring in the second through Demarai Gray just moments before the floodgates opened at the other end.

Matty Cash rifled home his first goal for Aston Villa before a Lucas Digne own goal and a first Premier League strike for Leon Bailey put Everton on the ropes in a devastating nine-minute spell.

With Dominic Calvert-Lewin already ruled out with thigh and toe injuries and Richarlison, Seamus Coleman and Jordan Pickford picking up injuries over the past week, Rafael Benitez was forced to name a patched-up starting XI with Salomon Rondon handed his full debut up front and Ben Godfrey deployed as an emergency full-back.

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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 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.

All in all, a painful dose of reality for Everton who experienced the bite of injuries to a squad lacking in sufficient numbers, even as the mystery over Rodriguez's continuing absence even from the bench drags on amid silence from the club, and the kind of rapid defensive meltdown that Burnley experienced at Goodison just a few days ago.

It was Benitez's first defeat as the Blues' boss but he must now regroup his charges for the trip to QPR on Tuesday before struggling Norwich come to Merseyside next weekend.


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