Villa off the mark on a night to remember

Dave Woodhall enjoys Villa’s 2-0 win over Everton.

I really should have learned by now. I know nothing about football and should keep quiet about it forever.

After twenty minutes of Friday night’s festivities I turned to the bloke next to me and said “We’re going to get beat here”. Except I didn’t use the word ‘beat’ although the principle was the same.

About thirty seconds later we were both on our feet celebrating what might prove to be the most important goal the Villa have scored for a long while. Not only did it get Wesley off the mark and silence his critics but it also paved the way for a memorable victory on an even more memorable night.

Until then Villa had struggled a bit, giving Everton far too much space and forgetting that this isn’t the Championship anymore and when you lose the ball in midfield you can’t expect to get it back five seconds later. Then Jack Grealish took a quick free kick, Jota’s inch-perfect ball was found by a run from Wesley that was equally perfectly timed and all was forgiven.

And with that, Villa grew in stature. Wesley looked better as the game went on, Frederic Guilbert had a debut to remember, Jota was a threat throughout. And that’s just the new players; Grealish and John McGinn did everything that’s come to be expected of them while Tyrone Mings must have some sort of tracker device fitted, given the ball’s unerring accuracy to be attracted to his head.

Then there was the crowd. I’ve said before that Villa Park on form is a match for anywhere but I can’t remember many, if any, occasions when both ends were so loud for so long as tonight – and the two sides weren’t exactly silent either.

There were a couple of times during the second half when Villa’s luck was in, not least in the dying minutes when Everton wasted a couple of good chances before Wesley picked the ball up and broke away. I’m screaming at him to go for the corner, wisely he ignored my advice and laid the ball off to McGinn, whose ball was intended for Grealish but instead found Anwar El Ghazi. Two-nil and the points were wrapped up.

Given the level of opposition this was the best performance since the 2015 FA Cup semi-final, and in the league for a few more years before that. The team kicked off still looking like a Championship side; those mistakes were only too apparent. Maybe the nerves were starting to creep in – Villa played well in the two previous games but lost them both and we’re moving into the stage of the season where one club often finds themselves cast adrift at the bottom of the table.

Then after the opening goal they grew in stature until at the final whistle they’d shown they belonged in the top flight. Not only were the performances memorable both on and off the pitch, the significance of the evening can’t be underestimated. There’s still a long way to go, but this might turn out to be the night when Villa started to punch their weight again.

And as I clearly know nothing I’ll leave the last words to a few Everton supporters I spoke to after the match. “Proper football ground”“best atmosphere I’ve been in for about three years”“You can tell the togetherness here”.