Dave Woodhall watches Villa beat Everton 2-1.
It’s thirty years since the Premier League started and to mark the occasion I caught the bus to the match for the first time in probably that long. They haven’t got any better, and I can’t pretend to be fifteen to get half-fare anymore.
Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa against Frank Lampard’s Everton, and we all know what historic significance is attached to this one. Tyrone Mings and Ollie Watkins were back in the side, with Leon Bailey on the bench to take advantage of the blisteringly hot conditions as the match wore on. The match didn’t need to wear very much on after kick-off when it became clear that Everton have started this season much as they played most of the last one. Villa were much brighter than during the debacle at Bournemouth, with Watkins and Danny Ings working hard to create openings although Everton looked to have taken the lead midway through the first half with a header that was ruled out for offside.
Villa pressed on and opened the scoring after half an hour when Watkins laid on a chance to Ings, who seemed to have lost the ball but recovered well and took advantage of some extremely loose marking. Right on half time there was some even looser marking at the other end but fortunately the final touch was missing and Villa went in at the break a goal up.
The team improved in the second half, and particularly when Emiliano Buendia replaced Philipe Coutinho, who like Everton has carried over last season’s form, and that’s not a particularly good thing. Buendia immediately gave Villa’s attacking more impetus, Bailey’s arrival brought another pair of fresh legs on an afternoon when even watching was exhausting and the Argentinian’s goal with eight minutes to go, when he first sliced open the Everton defence and then found room to tap the ball home, should have seen the match won with ease.
This, though, is Aston Villa. Everton went straight up the pitch, Lucas Digne got into a bit of a tangle, to put it mildly, and the final minutes promised to be frantic ones. They were, as the visitors piled forward but Tyrone Mings in particular coped admirably with everything thrown at him. Unfortunately, Diego Carlos went down with what looked like a nasty injury to sour a welcome three points.
It was by no means a classic but it was a game where the result was more important than the performance. Mings showed that he can do the simple things as well as anyone, Boubacar Kamara has settled in already, the front two worked hard and should have got more than one goal between them while Buendia has to start at Palace next Saturday.
We should have made it more comfortable for ourselves given the quality of the opposition, and at times the ball went through Villa’s midfield far too easily. Still, it’s three points and crisis over. On the basis of the first two games we need a couple of extra players if we’re to rise much above mid-table, although Everton need a lot more even to get that far. On this showing that most-played game record is going to be in jeopardy again.
There isn’t a convoy of elevens waiting at Witton Island after the match anymore. When did that stop?