Villa’s bad run ends with a win at Everton. Dave Woodhall watches.
What you really don’t want when you’re in a run of bad form that’s seeing you starting to look at who’s below you in the table rather than above is to be playing a team fighting relegation who’ve started putting some results together. What you really do want when you’re fighting relegation is to be playing Aston Villa.
But enough of the pre-match pessimism. We’re always told now that this is the most-played etc… and in all that time there have been some classics, and some absolute stinkers of a performance. This one was neither; Villa didn’t play too well but after looking promising last week to no avail, three just-about deserved points balanced things out and made the world, as well as the league table, look a better place. Jacob Ramsey and Leon Bailey started in a horses for courses line-up that was presumably meant to match Everton’s ‘crowd the midfield and kick anything’ approach. If by any chance you’d missed the appointment of Everton’s new manager you wouldn’t have to watch much of them to know the job went to Sean Dyche.
Villa started brightly and Ollie Watkins could have scored the goal that would have given him a club Premier League record early on, then Emiliano Martinez made a world-class reflex save as Everton started to get on top. Goalless at half-time and when the second half got underway Tyrone Mings somehow kept the ball from crossing the line with an acrobatic clearance. Lucas Digne then broke and his cross found Watkins, whose header was even more miraculously kept out.
Emiliano Buendia and Alex Moreno came on for Digne and the yet again inconsistent Leon Bailey. Buendia had an immediate effect on the game, laying on a ball for John McGinn to advance into the area before being brought down. It wasn’t the most obvious penalty ever given, but it was for the Villa so it was definitely deserved. Ollie Watkins took it and finally got his fifth in a row to give him that record. I’ve seen better goalscorers but rarely one who’s suddenly clicked into gear so dramatically.
Of course, where the Villa are concerned taking the lead and keeping it are two completely different things. There wasn’t much for the defence to do for the next eighteen minutes though, until Tyrone Mings launched a long upfield ball that two passes later found its way to Buendia, who seemed to send three Everton defenders the wrong way just by looking at them before hammering the ball home.
All that remained was the obligatory booking for Martinez and a bit of tidying-up, which was done without much fuss. Buendia and Watkins got the headlines, Mings and McGinn were the unsung heroes of a scrappy yet ultimately satisfying performance. Only the dedicated pessimist would have been worried about Villa being dragged down the table and the main thing now is to stop the season from petering out. Winning away without playing particularly well is a useful habit to pick up, and long may it last. Whether that most-played fixture record will last much beyond this season is another matter entirely.