Aston Villa were put to the sword by a far superior Everton side on Tuesday evening, losing 3-1 at home as they made the near on impossible mission of surviving relegation even more difficult.
Weaker, sloppier and on the backfoot from the whistle, it took just five minutes for Ramiro Funes Mori to put the away side ahead. Goals from Aaron Lennon and Romelu Lukaku followed either side of the break, with Rudy Gestede's late header a mere consolation.
Manager Remi Garde, who must now be coming under increasing pressure not to lead his team into the Championship, sprang a few surprises with his line up. Captain Micah Richards came back into the team, with a five man defence picked. Mark Bunn was taken out of goal, Brad Guzan back in after six weeks on the bench, whilst Jordan Ayew returned from a suspension to play up front next to Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Although it was always going to be difficult against an Everton side including the likes of Ross Barkley and the aforementioned Lukaku, even the most cynical of Villans would have hoped for a better start, albeit against a team that had beat them 4-0 on Merseyside earlier this season.
Funes Mori heads in after five minutes
Funes Mori clearly had other ideas, as did the Villa defence. Lukaku's strike deflected out for a corner, from which the Argentine rose to meet Kevin Mirallas' ball in, completely unmarked in the six yard box to make it 0-1. That set the tone for the rest of the night, just five minutes in.
Roberto Martinez would have been delighted with the way his team played after going ahead, whilst Garde was to be disappointed by a lack of passion from his side. It took the Villans until around just before the half hour mark to fashion any real chances, Agbonlahor having a shot parried out by goalkeeper Joel Robles, minutes before Leandro Bacuna forced him into another save, cutting inside from the left wing and getting a shot off.
Lennon and Lukaku extend Everton's lead
Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got, as Aaron Lennon doubled Everton's lead soon after Joel's heroics. Villa were lethargic in attack and lacklustre in defence, losing the ball high up the pitch, allowing their opponents to take full advantage. Barkley charged forward with it, spraying a pass to Mirallas on the left, and he got his second assist of the night by setting up Lennon for a fine finish through the legs of Guzan.
It did come as something of a surprise that Lukaku himself hadn't got in on the act as the game progressed into the second half, but he eventually did. Not before being denied by Guzan, who made an excellent save round the corner of the post from a header by the Belgian, before he added a third.
From the corner that came from Guzan's save, Villa fumbled to clear, and Funes Mori turned provider. Whipping the ball across the six yard box, Lukaku was there to add Everton's third goal and his 17th of the league season.
Gestede pulls one back in the final stages
The pre-planned walkout, in response to fan dismay at the board's actions in previous years, didn't really take off, as most fans had left their seats by the 74th minute.
Those that remained did see a goal, Rudy Gestede coming off the bench to score his first since returning from injury. Climbing higher than Phil Jagielka and John Stones to meet a cross from fellow substitute, Jordan Veretout, Gestede headed the ball powerfully past Joel.
That final goal will be quickly forgotten though, as Villa slumped to their 18th league defeat of the season, with 10 games still to play.