A late strike from Anwar El Ghazi saw Aston Villa beat Everton 2-1 at Goodison Park to deliver a significant blow to the hosts’ European hopes.
The result means the Merseyside club remain two points off sixth-placed rivals Liverpool on 52 in the race for Europa League football with five games to go.
For Villa, the result sees the Birmingham side leapfrog Arsenal and Leeds into ninth on 48 points.
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Villa began brightly and broke the deadlock in the 13th minute. Mason Holgate was caught dithering on the ball and Ollie Watkins capitalised before coolly slotting the ball into the bottom corner through the legs of Jordan Pickford for his 15th goal of the season.
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After Watkins saw a close-range shot saved by Pickford moments later, Everton levelled with their first corner of the evening in the 20th minute. Lucas Digne’s excellent whipped ball to the far post was met by Calvert-Lewin, who evaded Ross Barkley to nod home his 20th goal of the campaign.
The half was packed with goalscoring opportunities as defending was scarcely seen. Emiliano Martinez denied a Calvert-Lewin diving header in the 24th minute before a Pickford save stopped Watkins prior to El Ghazi smashing an effort off the crossbar. Barkley hit the post against his old club in the 205th meeting between the two sides, in the 36th minute and Watkins saw his low strike inside the box deflect narrowly wide shortly before the break.
Richarlison missed a great chance to put Everton ahead in the 55th minute when he latched onto a long ball and dragged his low shot well wide of Martinez’s left post, but ultimately the second half turned into a slightly drab affair as the game got increasingly scrappy.
But Villa clinched it ten minutes from time thanks to El Ghazi, who picked up the ball on the edge of the box on the counter-attack and expertly curled his strike into the top corner beyond Pickford for his ninth goal of the season.
Everton v Aston Villa
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TALKING POINT – Is Everton’s European dream over?
Everton were expected to win the game against an Aston Villa side who are playing for nothing more than pride and the slight bonus of finishing the campaign in the top half.
But for large periods of the match Villa looked more motivated than the hosts who struggled with ball retention throughout. Ben Godfrey and Holgate at the back looked particularly shaky at times, while Richarlison was wasteful in front of goal when presented with a great chance to put Everton ahead shortly after the break.
This result will have done nothing good for Everton’s confidence and this will surely be a result their fans will point to should they miss out on the top six.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Jordan Pickford
Although he conceded two goals, Pickford pulled off a string phenomenal saves in the first half to prevent Everton from losing the game by a greater margin.
With England boss Gareth Southgate watching on from the empty stands, Pickford’s impressive display will have surely given the goalkeeper and the manager reasons to be cheerful.
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Everton: Pickford (8), Coleman (6), Digne (7), Godfrey (5), Holgate (5), Allan (5), Gomes (5), Sigurdsson (6), Iwobi (5), Richarlison (5), Calvert-Lewin (6).
Subs: Delph (6), King (N/A), Bernard (N/A)
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (6), Targett (6), Konsa (5), Mings (5), Luiz (5), McGinn (5), Barkley (5), El Ghazi (7), Traore (7), Watkins (7)
Subs: Ramsey (N/A), Davis (N/A)
13′ – GOAL! Holgate is caught dithering on the ball! Watkins tackles him and slots the ball into the bottom corner through the legs of Pickford! That was terrible from Holgate, but great vision from Watkins for his 15th goal of the season!
20′ – GOAL!!! Well well well… Everton’s first corner of the evening results in a goal and it’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin who nods home at the far post! It’s a lovely cross from Digne and Barkley cannot get anywhere near the number nine! He plants it into the bottom corner and we are back on level terms! That is Calvert-Lewin’s 20th goal of the season.
24′ – WHAT A SAVE! Digne’s threatening cross meets Calvert-Lewin… his diving header from point-blank range is excellently parried away by Martinez with a strong right hand! This is end-to-end! Targett is now down receiving treatment after he was tripped up by Richarlison.
29′ – DOUBLE SAVE! Traore is through but Pickford saves it with his feet. It comes back out to him as he curls a cross back into the box, but the England goalkeeper tips over the bar! The following corner comes to nothing.
32′ – SAVE AND BAR! A delightful cross into the box from Cash forces Pickford into making an excellent save to deny Watkins, who uses his knee to turn it on goal, from close-range! The following attempt on goal from El Ghazi then cracks off the crossbar!
43′ – BIG CHANCE! El Ghazi slips through Watkins but his shot takes a slight deflection off Watkins and goes out for a corner! That was only narrowly wide! That was Villa’s 10th attempt on goal this half. The corner swung in is cleared by Calvert-Lewin.
55′ – HUGE OPPORTUNITY! A long ball finds Richarlison… he brings it down and strikes off his left boot, but he gets it all wrong as he fires well wide. It was more questionable defending from Villa, though, as really the chance should have been snuffed out earlier by either Mings or Konsa.
80′ – GOAL!! El Ghazi scores and Aston Villa lead! It’s a really well worked goal. Traore plays it out wide to the Dutchman in space on the left before he neatly culs the ball into the top right corner! A brilliant strike for his ninth of the season! The visitors are ahead!
- Everton have won just one of their last ten matches at Goodison Park
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