Aston Villa vs Everton – 20/08/23
In a Word
Control: ‘The ability or power to decide or strongly influence the particular way in which something will happen.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
Amidst the backdrop of ACL injuries to two key players and a 5-1 drubbing on the opening day at Newcastle, the pre-season optimism that had filled the heads of the majority of Villa fans had been punctured slightly ahead of the usual home banker against Everton at Villa Park. Would the team’s confidence from last season still be evident?
Glorious sunshine illuminated the lush green turf as the two sides took to the pitch, with only one change for the home side, Pau Torres replacing the stricken Tyrone Mings in central defence.
The mood was set early; Villa’s high tempo pressing game threatened to swamp an Everton side who had failed to register a goal or a point in their opening day home defeat to Fulham. With Leon Bailey to the fore, the Jamaican maverick danced past the returning Ashley Young to tee up captain John McGinn for an unmissable chance in front of his adoring Holte End. 1-0.
The dominance continued for the rest of the half, with somehow only one additional goal to show for it, courtesy of a Douglas Luiz penalty on 26 minutes, following a clumsy challenge from England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford on Ollie Watkins. Again, a good example of elite level coaching was on display here – giving penalty duties to the Brazilian following the hapless recent record of Watkins from the spot. The penalty never seemed in doubt.
With the midfield dominant, and Torres commanding the defence, this felt like exactly what it was – a Sunday afternoon stroll. The visitors posed little or no threat until the appearance of Arnaut Danjuma (on for the forever injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin), with the winger forcing a smart save from the otherwise untroubled Emi Martinez.
A wonderful volley from Moussa Diaby deserved a goal shortly afterwards, with Pickford miraculously tipping the ball onto the post.
The second half saw much of the same, with a raucous Holte End roaring on their team. Soon enough, it was 3-0, Bailey capitalising on a defensive mix-up to fire through Pickford. Game over. It was now a question of how many.
Three soon became four, when Ashley Young seemed to forget he longer played for the home side, risking an unnecessary throw-in to Michael Keane, who was subsequently robbed by substitute Jhon Duran, who cooly guided the ball past Pickford, despite a poor second touch, for his first goal for the club.
With Diego Carlos and Youri Tielemans on to close the game out and ensure that the goal difference was zeroed out following last week’s defeat, the rest of the game meandered by without incident, save for Carlos stepping in to prevent Everton’s Neil Maupay a clear route to goal, in a manner similar to a nightclub bouncer refusing entry to an underage patron.
After a difficult first week to the season, this performance was the perfect antidote for Villa fans, who poured out into the Aston sunshine with confidence in the season renewed.
Yes…there’s a Villa Hawaiian Range
With Hibernian on the horizon in midweek in the Europa Conference League qualifier, if feels like a few more additions to the squad could be imminent. Lucas Digne seems to be close to the exit door, which is a pity given his excellent performance here; however with Alex Moreno close to fitness, it seems that his days at the club could be numbered.
The promising display of Carlos will have reassured the majority of home fans that the absence of Mings may not be as seismic as first thought, and the emergence of Duran to score his first goal for the club will help ease the burden on an overworked Watkins up top.
Europe (or Edinburgh) here we come!
Value rating: £35 (out of £41)