Match Report Evertonians had envisaged this going differently. Duncan Ferguson was back on the touchline in a caretaker capacity and an expectant, hopeful Goodison Park crowd was ready to back him and the players to the hilt for 90 raucous minutes. Meanwhile, with Farhad Moshiri’s long-overdue communication with supporters via email yesterday, the Everton hierarchy no doubt felt that they had blunted one of the 27 Years Campaign’s chief gripes ahead of a more unified atmosphere around the club.By the end, the most feared outcome had occurred and the post-match protests by supporters aiming their ire at the owner and the Board of Directors felt as justified and as urgent as ever. Not that any immediate change off the pitch will address the very real near-term threat of relegation; the Blues find themselves in a mess created by many, many years of mis-management but those in charge’s next act — the appointment of a successor to Rafael Benitez — will have a huge bearing on whether this famous old club remains in the Premier League after this season.You had to feel for Ferguson at the final whistle. There isn’t a soul who doubted how badly he would have wanted to lift the gloom around Goodison a little by seeing Everton to a badly-needed win. That “lightning in a bottle” first match as caretaker boss against Chelsea a little over two years ago is hard to replicate but the Scot clearly felt that a repeat of the passion and the high-octane, more direct football that delivered that famous win would be enough again today.That was evidenced by his team sheet which put its faith in local pride in the form of Jonjoe Kenny at right-back and the grit of Ben Godfrey on the other side of defence and which was, perhaps, predicated on that determination and fire overcoming the well-established deficiencies of a two-man midfield. Unfortunately, Ferguson came up against an Aston Villa team that is reaping the benefits of making their managerial change early this season and of savvy recruitment in a squad that balances silk with steel. Everton had plenty of the hard stuff themselves but little of it was constructive and when the intensity of their spirited start inevitably abated, they didn’t have sufficient guile to fashion a vital goal.And it was supremely ironic that one of Benitez’s most controversial acts (sanctioned, of course, by the club), namely the sale of Lucas Digne to Villa just nine days ago having taken the Frenchman off set-piece duty at the start of the campaign, should come back to haunt the Blues. It was Digne who provided the assist for the game’s only goal by Emiliano Buendia from a corner in first-half stoppage time.Everton started in hectic fashion, with the aggression and tenacity normally associated with the Merseyside derby, but Steven Gerrard had clearly prepped his side for the febrile atmosphere they would face in the stadium and the burst of energy expected from Ferguson’s men. Villa were more confident and accomplished with the ball and with Buendia, John McGinn and Philippe Coutinho up against Abdoulaye Doucouré and André Gomes in midfield, they used possession to quell the Blues’ fire.Doucouré was not short on effort but he did not have one of his better days, epitomised by his wayward ball for Richarlison that ruined a really promising two-on-two counter-attack in the 28th minute. Gomes, meanwhile, without the assurance of someone like Allan alongside him, was a massive disappointment once again and was deservedly substituted six minutes into the second half. Making his way back from a Covid-19 infection, the Brazilian hadn’t been deemed strong enough to start but he offered much more in the Portuguese’s stead.Employing a less refined, more direct approach than the visitors, Everton hoped to make the most of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s aerial prowess and Richarlison’s own physical attributes but the pair got little change from Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa, particularly in a first half where the Toffees failed to register a shot on target. For Villa, Buendia had a couple of sights of goal from distance, one of which required intervention from Jordan Pickford to palm the ball to the side while the other fizzed wide. Ollie Watkins had the best chance of the half from open play when he latched onto a ball over Yerry Mina's head but Pickford did enough to put him off and the striker stabbed it wide before the England keeper pushed Coutinho's header over his crossbar.It was from that corner that Villa scored. Buendia beat Richarlison to Digne’s near-post delivery and looped a header towards the far corner of the goal off Pickford's despairing fingertips. Ugly scenes followed as bottles and other projectiles were thrown from the stands as the opposition players celebrated in front of them and there was word afterwards that one fan was arrested as a result.Demarai Gray had shown flashes of his talent in the first period and he took charge of a direct free-kick opportunity early in the second but his shot deflected wide off the defensive wall.It took the introduction of Gordon, a surprise omission from the starting XI, for Everton to carve out their first genuine goalscoring opportunity of the contest just a couple of minutes on the field when he whipped a ball in from the right that Richarlison could only steer high and wide of goal.Three minutes later on the hour mark, a Richarlison effort was also blocked behind and when Calvert-Lewin headed the ball back across goal and Godfrey sent a brave header goal-wards, it took Tyrone Mings to head off the line.That was as close as Everton would come to scoring, although Mina should have done better with a raking Allan cross after he had stayed forward following a set-piece but, unfortunately, he couldn't keep his header down.Gordon, the most likely source of a Toffees goal, saw a late free-kick break through the wall but saved low by Emiliano Martinez and though five minutes were added due to Villa's time-wasting, Everton were out of ideas and out of energy.Norwich City’s victory at Watford yesterday and the three points Newcastle would pick up later this afternoon mean that Everton are now very much in the thick of a battle to avoid relegation, a notion that was unthinkable just a year ago when they had Carlo Ancelotti at the helm and were sitting in fifth place.The belief that this team is too good to go down isn’t misplaced. It’s been stripped of its most creative elements over the past few months but there is still talent there if it can be harnessed under the right system and they remain as motivated as they were today. Not every team they face this season will be as organised and hard to beat as Aston Villa were today.Things will likely hinge on the Blues’ best players remaining fit, however — Doucouré’s departure after 65 minutes of today’s game with a thigh injury doesn’t bode well on that front — the club hopefully making a move to bolster central midfield before the transfer deadline, and, more than anything, the hierarchy making one of the most important decisions they’ve ever had to make in terms of a new manager. This is a team crying out for a fresh approach from new eyes but it’s an appointment we can’t get wrong.Harrowing times to be a Blue and a hugely important month in the history of the football club lies ahead. Lyndon Lloyd top Matchday Updates Duncan Ferguson's return to the dugout as caretaker manager got Everton playing a bit better but they were ultimately outplayed by a more tenacious Aston Villa at Goodison Park.For his first line-up, Ferguson picks a strong and sensible team, five changes to the one that began last weekend's defeat at Norwich City. Jonjoe Kenny, Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina, Andros Townsend and Richarlison come into the starting line-up.Keane, Allan, Coleman, and Gordon were perhaps surprisingly dropped to the bench with youngsters Dobbin and Onyango named. No Branthwaite, Mylenko or Patterson in the squad. Delph and Davies are out injured. And as a loan player, El Ghazi is ineligible for selection against his parent club.For the visitors, Lucas Digne starts along with Coutinho.As the stadium filled before kick-off, a plane flew over trailing a banner that read: "22 YEARS OF FAILURE BILL @TIME2GOBILL".A fine entrance for Duncan Ferguson, unfortunately drowned out by the tannoy playing Forever Everton far too loud! Aston Villa kicked off and soon lost possession, Richarlison drawing the first free-kick.Watkins almost beat Mina and Pickford to a long hoofball. Gomes won the ball well and started a run but then lost it. Holgate did well defending down the left but Everton's forward balls were erratic, with little to get the crowd going, other than Mina blocking Digne and winning a free-kick. It was the aggression of Villa, however, that really got the crowd going as the visitors tackled like tigers and forced a free-kick in the middle that Luiz fired inches over Pickford's bar. The tempo of the game was high but it was causing plenty of errors on both sides. Everton did get into the Villa area but it was very messy and too easily thwarted. Most of Villa's attacks were coming down their left, through Digne. Buendia got sight of goal and fired low, forcing a save from Pickford. Everton responded with an attack but no strike on goal. A much better passing move saw Doucouré play the final pass just too far away from Calvert-Lewin, who was struggling to get into the game. Kenny put in a good pass that Townsend flicked on to Calvert-Lewin but he couldn't control the ball. Gray went on a good run but finished with a misstep-over that fooled himself and ended up over the byeline. Buendia wriggled free again but shot well wide this time. Everton won the first corner but it spun away from goal off Mina. At the other end, Villa broke ahead with an advantage, 3 on 2, but Mina stood firm to deny Coutinho, a critical moment. Townsend looked to make a penetrating run down the right wing but ended up beating himself as things were just not quite working for the boys in Blue. Cash burst forward and caused havoc, Godfrey across well to deny him at the expense of a corner that needed clearing and that set up Doucouré for a fantastic 2-on-1 chance but his ball to Richarlison was atrociously bad, meat and drink for Martinez to advance and clear.Mings threw Richarlison to the ground off the ball, but nothing in it, said Pawson, Richarlison then winning a corner. Buendia and Mina had a set-to that needed a long lecture from Pawson. Townsend finally delivered it well but not to an Everton head and they had to work hard to win a second phase. Another cross in by Townsend was met by Mings. Richarlison tried to up the pace by winning the ball off Luiz but his shirt was pulled by the Everton man. McGinn then ran into Godfrey's elbow, and came off worst. A brilliant Villa ball over the top was taken well by Watkins and his shot forced just wide by Pickford's flailing body-save. Things got a bit more antsy between McGinn and Richarlison but it wasn't really helping the football. A mistake by Mings gave Everton another corner, with Watkins heading it away. At the other end, the best move from Villa, Watkins with an open header (yards offside though!) but Pickford made a fantastic save with his foot showing brilliant anticipation. Gomes fouled Ramsey for the first yellow card of the game, and a dangerous free-kick in added time. Villa worked it well, Pickford having to tip over Coutinho's header before the corner which was superbly delivered by Digne and finished off by Buendia, a looping header with Pickford stretching to fingertip it over Townsend's head on the line and into the Everton net. Bottles thrown from the crowd hit the Villa players as they celebrated.Everton had been lacking in confidence in almost everything they did and there was a sad inevitability about the goal when it finally came, while the Blues, despite plenty of bluster, had mustered not one single attempt on the Villa goal throughout the entire half.The game restarted with Everton kicking off but they were soon exposed and Watkins crossed into space when it could easily have been the second goal. But Everton won a free kick 25 yards out, Gray clipping it off the wall. Townsend's corner looped over to Calvert-Lewin who could not do anything with his header. Calvert-Lewin got a card for hardly touching Watkins as they jumped for an aerial ball. Gomes went off for Allan. Then Gordon came on for Townsend. But the workrate of the Villa players was denying Everton space at every turn. Gordon's first contribution was an excellent first-time cross that Richarlison should have got on target at least. Ramsey ran at the Everton defence, Gordon pushing him into Mina who was penalized for the free-kick and shown an unnecessary yellow card. Ages later, Coutinho curled the free-kick over the bar.Richarlison almost got behind the Villa defence but Cash was there to block. Gordon's corner was headed to the far post by Godfrey then back across by Calvert-Lewin and finally at goal by Godfrey, but blocked on the line by Mings. Everton were at least finally pressing into the Villa area, and the crowd responded.Duncan's final change: Onyango on for Doucouré, who may have been crocked. A brilliant cross in by Gordon should have been buried by Calvert-Lewin but he waited to watch the defender miss the ball and his attempted finish was poor in the circumstances. From the corner, Mina's header flew inches wide. Martinez was booked for time-wasting. The tall Onyango got his head to a cross and won a corner but it was very congested in front of Villa's goal. Mina should have done better with a header at the far post but it was well off target. Martinez was booked for timewasting as the crowd went ballistic at his antics.Cash was booked for holding back Richarlison but Gordon's ball in wasn't good enough. A long throw won a corner that a Gordon again launched into the Villa area, cleared to Gray but his shot was launched skywards. Allan was next in Pawson's bulging book after trying to take a quick free-kick, then giving the referee a piece of his mind when his efforts were countered. Godfrey then clattered Luiz and he also went in the book.Everton were given another chance to strike from a dangerous free-kick near the D, Gordon firing it in low through the crowd but Martinez has the measure of it. Another aglimmer from a late corner deep into 5 minutes of added time but Everton's record from set-pieces is abysmal and this does not change, despite Pickford coming up to attend. Gordon hits it long. Mina heads the ball back across the face of goal, but Calvert-Lewin is once again AWOL and that was pretty much it. Everton had tried everything but could still not get very close to troubling Martinez in the Villa goal. Where Everton were supposed to come out and play like tigers, it was Steven Gerrard's Villa players who had showed them how to do it.Scorer: Buendia (45+3')Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Holgate, Mina [Y:58'], Godfrey [Y:83'], Townsend (56' Gordon), Gomes [Y:45+2'] (51' Allan [Y:82']), Doucoure (65' Onyango), Gray, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin [Y:50']. Subs not Used: Begovic, Keane, Coleman, Gbamin, Rondon, Dobbin.Aston Villa: Martinez [Y:69'], Cash [Y:75'], Konsa, Mings [Y:85'], Digne, McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Ramsey, Buendia (90+1' Hause), Watkins (79' Ings [Y:90+3']), Coutinho (74' Chukwuemeka).Subs not Used: Olsen, Targett, Sanson, Young, Kesler, Iroegbunam.Referee: Craig PawsonVAR: John BrooksAttendance: 38,203 Michael Kenrick top Match Preview Updated Duncan Ferguson is back in the home dugout as caretaker manager on Saturday as Everton face Aston Villa in a vital Premier League match layered with narratives and sub-plots. The Scot is hoping for a repeat of the unforgettable afternoon at Goodison Park in December 2019 when he led the Blues to an adrenaline-fuelled 3-1 win over highly-fancied Chelsea that swept away the anxiety that had built up during the final weeks of Marco Silva's tenure. This time, he will be steps away from two former Liverpool foes in the form of Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister while Lucas Digne, still an Everton player less than 10 days ago, will be lining up for the opposition following his £25m move down the M6. Without a win in over a month and with just one Premier League victory since late September, the Toffees desperately need to start picking up points and, as he explained in his interview with evertontv on Wednesday, Ferguson will be counting on another raucous Goodison crowd to help push the lads over the line. Just as was the case a little over two years ago, Ferguson will be able to call upon a twin strike-force of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison as both players should now be fit enough to start after the Brazilian was only named on the bench by Rafael Benitez at Norwich last Saturday, the Spaniard's ill-fated last game in charge. This time, however, the interim head coach looks likely to have Yerry Mina in the line-up — the Colombian missed that famous win over Chelsea with a hamstring injury — and though there have been calls for Nathan Patterson to come in for the faltering Seamus Coleman, Ferguson could err on the side of experience and keep the skipper in the line-up. In the interests of making the Blues as hard to beat as possible, it would not be a surprise to see Ben Godfrey reinstated at left-back in place of raw new signing Vitalii Mykolenko and if that is the case, the question becomes whether to retain Michael Keane, a player visibly low on confidence, or use Mason Holgate, in whom Ferguson has placed his trust before, or Jarrad Branthwaite at centre-half. The wide positions have been picking themselves these days with Demarai Gray and Anthony Gordon in impressive form of late but it's central midfield that has been the biggest issue and it is there where Ferguson will have to make some decisions. Allan looked likely to miss out after Ferguson rated him doubtful in midweek but he could be fit enough to play but Fabian Delph is ruled out with another long-term injury. With Tom Davies sidelined as he recovers from surgery on a hamstring tendon problem, it leaves just Abdoulaye Doucouré, André Gomes and, at a push, Jean-Philippe Gbamin as an option for a third central midfielder or Andros Townsend playing a more narrow role. Much will depend on whether the boss feels he needs to play three across the middle and sacrifice one of his wide men or rely on a more attacking but committed display across the side to counter what looks likely to be a Villa trio of Emiliano Buendia, John McGinn and Coutinho. Gerrard will be without winger Leon Bailey who continues to battle a thigh issue and Marvelous Nakamba who is out until next month with a knee injury while he will have to assess Ezri Konsa who is significant doubt with a hip complaint. Like Everton's Alex Iwobi, Bertrand Traoré, is unavailable because of his involvement at the Africa Cup of Nations. Villa come into the game on something of a barren run themselves having not won a match since beating Norwich at Carrow Road in mid-December. However, with Coutinho and Digne making their debuts, they demonstrated how difficult they can. be to beat by coming back from 2-0 down grab a draw against Manchester United last weekend. They will indeed be a difficult proposition but as they proved against Arsenal a month ago, this Everton side has the talent and the ability to respond to the urging of a passionate Goodison crowd to turn in a powerhouse performance and take the points. How much would we give for a repeat of Dunc's first game in temporary charge and lift the clouds following Benitez's departure? Kick-off: 12:30 pm, Saturday 22 January 2022Referee: Craig PawsonVAR: John BrooksLast Time: Aston Villa 0 - 0 Everton Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Mina, Holgate, Godfrey, Doucouré, Gomes, Gordon, Gray, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin Lyndon Lloyd top * Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.