Everton 0-1 Aston Villa: Buendia header gives Villa win and prolongs Everton's blues
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There may have been a new man in the dugout but Everton’s afternoon played out in its usual fashion. A blunt attack managed to produce just one effort on target from 15 attempts and at the back they conceded from a set-piece once more, that is now 10 conceded this season excluding penalties.

Duncan Ferguson had seen it all before of course. Installed as caretaker manager for the “upcoming games”, the club’s former striker appeared helpless on the touchline. Had Everton had a striker of his quality up-front then perhaps the late aerial challenge that they conjured would have bore fruit. Instead, Everton were left to lick the wounds of continuing their run of one win from 14 games.

A penny for the thoughts of Steven Gerrard. He brought his upwardly mobile Aston Villa side to Goodison Park and demonstrated what shrewd recruitment can achieve. This was far from the most accomplished Villa performance of Gerrard’s short reign, but still they defended admirably and took their chance when it came to bring an end to three Premier League games without victory.

Emiliano Buendia scored the goal that made the difference as he found the back of the net for the first time in 10 games. The result keeps Villa in mid-table with Europe surely a possibility.

Story of the game

Ferguson promised changes and he made five to the starting XI with three of those being in the backline. Yerry Mina and Mason Holgate were the centre backs of choice with Jonjoe Kenny brought in at left back while Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison started together as a two-man strikeforce for the first time since August. Meanwhile, Villa gave Philippe Coutinho his first start and Lucas Digne made a quick return to Goodison after leaving earlier this month.

The crackling atmosphere at kickoff soon subsided as the thud and blunder of the first half took hold. Villa’s midfield were dominant with Jacob Ramsey once again providing a spark from the left. It was the visitors who conjured the first attempt on target with Buendia firing a low shot which was parried by Jordan Pickford. The Villa attacker was also denied by a sliding Ben Godfrey later in the half after being fed by Matty Cash.

It was the Argentinian’s intervention in first half stoppage time that proved the most decisive. Pickford’s tipping over of Coutinho’s header brought Villa a corner which Digne delivered. Buendia, at the near post, was determined to get his head to the cross and flicked the ball past Pickford. The Villa celebrations in front of the Everton supporters ended with bottles being thrown at Cash and Digne who were both felled.

That inexcusable action no doubt stemmed from the frustrations of the opening half. Everton had shown an element of competitiveness but little quality. Even when the home side were gifted a route to goal when Digne slipped on halfway and Abdoulaye Doucoure pounced. The midfielder ran through on goal but his pass to Richarlison was overhit — a promising opening wasted.

Ferguson, whose last stint in temporary charge brought about one win, two draws and a defeat, encouraged his team here but there was little forthcoming from his players. Villa on the other hand were content keeping their shape and probing where possible. Douglas Luiz grazed the top of Pickford’s net with a central free kick and Ollie Watkins was smothered by the Everton ‘keeper after cushioning Tyrone Mings’s long ball and spinning in the area.

Whatever Ferguson said at the interval seemed to work as Everton began to gather momentum. It was the arrival of Anthony Gordon in the 56th minute that provided greater quality to their play. A quadruple of his crosses deserved better finishes: Richarlison headed over from a first-time delivery, Godfrey’s attempt was saved by Emi Martinez following a corner, Calvert-Lewin couldn’t quite reach a centre after quick passes opened up Villa’s left side and Mina headed off target from another corner.

Everton’s more direct approach was causing Villa greater problems who were being penned in by the aerial threat. Yet, Martinez had still only been forced into the single save despite the home side’s 13 total attempts at goal. The Villa ‘keeper, however, had to be on his toes to get down and save Gordon’s low free kick — the Everton substitute deserved a goal for his efforts.

As the game entered five minutes of second-half stoppage time, Everton supporters cried for one more chance, they were not going to win this contest — a fixture which they last tasted victory in five editions ago — but a point would have been useful nevertheless with just a three-point gap above the relegation zone.

One last push came when Everton won a corner in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Pickford joined his team-mates in the Villa area but Gordon’s corner went out of play before it even reached them. In truth, that summed up their day. A victory chorus came from the Villa fans. Everton’s supporters didn’t know whether to boo or cry.

Teams

Everton: Pickford; Kenny, Mina, Holgate, Godfrey; Townsend (Gordon 56), Doucoure (Onyango 65), Gomes (Allan 51), Gray ; Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison.

Subs (not used): Begovic, Coleman, Keane, Gbamin, Dobbin, Rondon.

Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Digne; McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey; Buendia (Hause 90), Watkins (Ings 79), Coutinho (Chukwuemeka 74).

Subs (not used): Olsen, Kesler, Targett, Iroegbunam, Sanson, Young.

Referee: Craig Pawson.

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