Match report as Emi Buendia's second Premier League goal of the season gives Steven Gerrard a winning return to Everton, as Aston Villa triumph 1-0 at Goodison Park; Ben Godfrey goes closest for hosts who miss numerous second-half chances
Monday 24 January 2022 11:57, UK
Emi Buendia's first-half header put a dampener on Everton's first game under Duncan Ferguson, although Aston Villa's 1-0 win was marred when two of their players were hit by a bottle thrown from the crowd.
Moments before half-time Buendia met former Everton defender Lucas Digne's corner with a late run to the near post, from which his glancing header looped over a helpless Jordan Pickford into the far corner for the only goal of a combative game with passions running high - and nine yellow cards shown.
Villa boss Steven Gerrard said his side had to "roll their sleeves up" at Goodison Park but off the pitch, tensions spilled over as the Villa players celebrated their winning goal, with Digne and Matty Cash both knocked to the floor by a full bottle thrown from the home support.
Everton had shown they were up for the battle but failed to register a shot of any kind in the opening period, before improving again after half-time. Ben Godfrey's header from a corner was cleared off the line, while Yerry Mina and Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed excellent chances to level, as the Toffees did everything but score in a second period where they racked up 15 shots.
Everton: Pickford (7), Kenny (7), Holgate (7), Mina (6), Godfrey (6), Townsend (6), Doucoure (7), Gomes (6), Gray (7), Richarlison (6), Calvert-Lewin (5).
Subs: Allan (7), Gordon (7), Onyango (6).
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (8), Konsa (7), Mings (7), Digne (7), McGinn (7), Ramsey (7), Luiz (7), Buendia (8), Watkins (5), Coutinho (6).
Subs: Chukwuemeka (6), Ings (6), Hause (n/a).
Man of the match: Matty Cash
Despite a bright performance, it was a frustratingly familiar outcome for the hosts who have now lost nine of their last 12 league games and are five points above the relegation zone. The final whistle was met by audible boos which, accompanied by a sit-in protest against the club's ownership, appeared to be directed more at the Toffees' long-term issues than Saturday's spirited showing.
Aston Villa's backs-to-the-wall second-half showing sees them move, for a few hours at least, into the top half of the Premier League table.
Everton's afternoon started with the sort of atmosphere Goodison Park has lacked since fans were allowed back in full numbers - fuelled in some part by caretaker manager Ferguson's decision to fund every home fan's first drink in the local pubs ahead of kick-off.
Every crunching challenge, and there were plenty, was met by a chorus of cheers as they basked in the same character Ferguson's side had displayed in his last caretaker spell two years ago.
Unlike that three-game spell in December 2019, the Scot could not keep away from defeat this time. Having ridden their luck when Ollie Watkins poked wide and Buendia was denied by a Ben Godfrey block, the Spaniard - who seemingly has a point to prove since Philippe Coutinho's arrival - nodded across goal from Digne's corner to put the visitors ahead seconds before half-time.
He was not the main casualty when the Villa players then celebrated in front of the home stand, with Digne and Cash struck and left floored by a Lucozade bottle among a number of objects thrown, in scenes later described as "disgraceful" by Ferguson. The forward was hit by a water bottle, but seemed unhurt.
Without a shot before the break, Everton looked desperate to make up for it from the restart. Within a couple of minutes they twice went close and by the time Mings headed Godfrey's goal-bound effort off the line on the hour mark, they at least deserved to be level.
Even following that, Mina was guilty of repeat offences, twice heading over delicious balls in from Anthony Gordon and Allan, and the former deserved an assist when his wicked dipping delivery was lifted over the bar by a sliding Calvert-Lewin.
The Toffees gave plenty of encouragement that things are going to improve - but with only four points separating them from the relegation zone, and 10 defeats from 13, it needs to happen fast.
Everton posted a statement on their website shortly after full-time announcing they had arrested a supporter, who had been identified by CCTV footage, for "throwing a missile" during Aston Villa's celebrations after their goal.
They said: "Several objects were thrown towards the pitch following Aston Villa's goal at the end of the first half, with one missile appearing to strike two opposition players.
"Investigations in conjunction with the police are ongoing, and the Club will issue bans to any fans identified throwing objects."
Cash described the incident as "crazy" to BT Sport in his post-match interview and added: "It hit me straight on the head. It's not nice having that, but we got three points so we'll take that."
Buendia's performance offered manager Gerrard a telling reminder of his quality - which Villa have not seen enough of since his summer move from Norwich - with a match-winning display at Goodison Park.
"He'll be really proud of that header - and he's gone and won us the game," Gerrard told BT Sport after full-time, reserving praise for a player who he has already trusted to start all but two of his games in charge.
The Spanish midfielder followed up last week's impressive showing against Manchester United with four of Villa's eight shots across the match, including the winning goal, and was only denied a second by a crucial Godfrey block.
Perhaps spurred on by the arrival of Philippe Coutinho, the 25-year-old - who started alongside the Brazilian at Goodison Park - made a strong argument that both can play alongside each other with his performance.
Everton host Brentford in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday February 5 at 3pm, while Aston Villa host Leeds in the Premier League on Wednesday February 9 at 8pm.