Aston Villa v Everton Vital's Match Report
Attendance: 36 565
A new season and a new era was heralded in by a vibrant and colourful Villa Park as Paul Lambert's lions took to home turf for the first time this season. Banners, balloons and a Holte End in full voice welcomed the team to the pitch to the pumping riffs of legendary local band, Black Sabbath. The cleansing, spiritual rebirth of Aston Villa Football Club had begun. Unfortunately, a rampant dominating Everton had not read the script, so much so that after three minutes, Steven Naismith teed up Steven Pienaar who set the ball for a curling strike from the edge of the box, beating an out stretched Given.
David Moyes' Everton, a Premier League team 10 years in the making continued where they left off on Monday night, with high tempo, pulsating patterns of physically driven play against a Villa team who looked liked they'd just met each other on the bus. This was a rag bag, low tempo first half performance by Villa, indicative of the worst home games seen under McLeish. Charles N'Zogbia perhaps had the best chance to score. the Frenchman ran into the Everton half on the counter, passing the Everton fullback only to dither in the box and fluff his pass when a clear opportunity had presented itself for him to fire home.
Everton continued to command from Midfield. Bannan for all his ankle snapping puff had no answer to the colossal Fellaini or the cunning of Gibson, who sprayed the ball around nicely. Indeed, my one major tactical criticism would be the logic of playing Bannan in midfield. He looked woefully out of his depth and seemed soft in the tackle. So much so, he might as well have being playing in lingerie.
A second goal was coming and in the 31st minute it duly arrived. Given misread a Phil Jagielka cross, allowing Fellaini to head home with ease to double the lead. Misery was compounded further when Nikica Jelavic met Baines' good work on the left, to slot home a neat finish from inside the box in the 43rd minute. The whistle could not come soon enough for the deflated home crowd who continued to sing the manager's name.
Delfouneso, who seemed ineffective and without invention, was replaced at half-time by an energetic and purposeful Holman who brought a higher work rate and focus to the pitch. Unfortunately, Villa's afternoon then took a turn for the worse when, half-an hour from time, last man Clark tripped Jelavic on his way through to a goal scoring opportunity. Referee Michael Oliver delayed for a moment before producing a straight red.
Paul Lambert responded, making an immediate substitution, bringing on Lichaj for Bannan, the American slotting in a left-back. Baker moved along the line to form a centre-back partnership with shining light Vlaar, who continues to show touch, technique and quality throughout.
Ironically, Clark's dismissal seemed to rouse ten man Villa, who raised their tempo and penetration to provide more of a challenge to an Everton side who could be forgiven for assuming that the three points were already in the bag.
The home crowd were finally given something to cheer when El Ahmadi struck a swerving effort from 20 yrds out, beating a struggling Tim Howard in the 74th minute to pull it back to 3-1. Villa continued to move the ball well after the goal though struggled to find a clear opening until Holman, a few minutes from time, played a cutting ball in to the feet of late substitute Weimann, who shot onto Howard's post. Bent looked poised to bang the rebounding ball home, only for his shot to deflect wide.
Confidence is precious at this level and Aston Villa do not currently have a lot of it. There are, however, some small shoots of recovery. Passing in the 2nd half was neat, short and of a more technical style than see under McLeish, though we continue to lack the killer pass or touch we so desperately need, leaving Bent running about for little return.
Although I was not impressed with the partnership of Clark and Vlaar, Baker and Vlaar looked promising, with Lichaj at left back. Hopefully, Clark's absence will give Lambert a chance to run the rule of this pairing perhaps a little more.
El Ahmadi - cheered on by the supporters to the tune of 'Rock The Kasbah'- looks like a find at £2.5 million and Holman continues to show fight and enterprise in a team that seems lost without the outlet of Agbonlahor's pace.
After this early season showing be under no illusion whatsoever. Villa need to make some signings before Friday's deadline. We were physically light in midfield, with almost no one being able to link midfield to forward play. At times we were also merciless exposed on the flanks and our most clinical player, Bent, in impact terms, is a ghost. Credit, however, to a superb Everton team who look as though they are off to a flyer.