Jack Grealish made his return to first-team football, coming on as substitute in Aston Villa’s dour goalless draw with Everton.
Needing a win to keep their tenuous Champions League hopes alive, Everton scarcely threatened the Villa goal.
The closest either side came to scoring was Tyrone Mings heading just wide Douglas Luiz’s cross from six yards out in the 18th minute.
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The result leaves the Toffees in eighth position, while Villa climb above Leeds into the top half and their talisman got just over twenty minutes under his belt as he looks to prove his fitness for the European Championships.
Talking point – Time for Ancelotti to find a fantasista
Ancelotti has had some marvellous flair players at his disposal during his career. One especially thinks of Kaka at his brilliant best at AC Milan and Angel di Maria when he was at Real Madrid.
It might be hard for Everton to attract that type of talent but some creative players, behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin and an attacking right full back/wing-back are a must over the summer if Everton are to end up in the Champions League spot they challenged for this term.
The number ten role is the one which could really help the Toffees though. James Rodriguez tends to do his better work coming in from the right while Gylfi Sigurdsson can still cause danger from set pieces, at 31 he is not going to raise his game to be worthy of a top-four challenger. Matheus Pereira from West Brom would be a player who may be worth targeting, though ideally Everton would want a higher profile, while the dream full back would be Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan – though they are likely to be gazumped by a resident Champions League outfit in this pursuit.
Man of the match: Lucas Digne (Everton)
While the right flank of Everton needs an injection of talent during the summer, they will be very happy with the Brazilian on the left.
Most of his team did not cause Villa much problem but there was always a fear when Digne got the ball deep in the hosts’ half, usually after linking with his countryman Richarlison.
He also showed an improved defensive side to his game coming around to cover his centre backs when balls were played over them from the other wing.
Aston Villa: Martinez 7, Cash 6, Konsa 7, Mings 7, Targett 7, McGinn 6, Douglas Luiz 7, Barkley 5, El Ghazi 7, Davis 5, Traore 6. Subs: El Mohamady 7, Ramsey 6, Grealish 6.
Everton: Pickford 6, Coleman 6, Digne 8*, Holgate 7, Keane 6, Godfrey 7, Doucoure 6, Allan 6, Sigurdsson 6, Richarlison 7, Calvert-Lewin 6. Subs: Gomes 7, Iwobi 6.
18′ Close from Mings! A corner came to Luiz at the back edge of the box and he gets to the by-line before clipping back to the six-yard box where Mings, all alone, met the ball with a diving header which flew a yard wide.
78′ Richarlison got down the right flank and pulled a ball back for Gomez whose low effort was blocked by El Mohamady’s outstretched leg. That might have had Martinez beaten.
88′ Double let-off for Villa. A fine cross from Digne finds Calvert-Lewin rising majestically at the far post but Martinez parried and the rebound was turned back towards goal by Doucoure too high for Richarlison to get a good connection at his attempted close-rage header.
89′ A nasty foul on Calvert-Lewin from Mings. A lunging studs-up foul under the striker’s knee. The VAR are looking at it……No red card given. Not even a yellow! If they weren’t international team-mates and it happened in the summer tournament for example, you can bet it would have been a red.
89 – The number of days since Jack Grealish last played for Aston Villa.
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