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Venue: Goodison Park
Premier League
Saturday 1 May 2021; 8:00pm
1 2
Aston Villa
Calvert-Lewin 19'
Half Time: 1 - 1 
Watkins 13'
El Ghazi 80'
Attendance: BCD
Fixture 33
Referee: Simon Hooper

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  Gomes (Delph 70')
  Sigurdsson (King 82')
  Iwobi (Bernard 76')
  Subs not used
  Doucouré (injured)
  Gbamin (injured)
  Rodriguez (injured)
  Branthwaite (loan)
  Gibson (loan)
  Gordon (loan)
  Kean (loan)
  Simms (loan)
  Tosun (loan)
  Walcott (loan)

  Luiz booked
  El Ghazi booked (Davis 90'+2)
  Traore (Ramsey 88')
  Subs not used
  El Mohamedy

Match Stats

Shots on target

Premier League Scores
Southampton 1-1 Leicester
Brighton 2-0 Leeds
Chelsea 2-0 Fulham
C Palace 0-2 Man City
Everton 1-2 Aston Villa
Newcastle 0-2 Arsenal
Tottenham 4-0 Sheff United
Burnley 1-2 West Ham
West Brom 1-1 Wolves

Match Report

One of these teams still had a very outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League this season; at the very least European qualification of some description was a very real possibility. The other had little to play for apart from professional pride and Premier League prize money via league placement; nevertheless, they could quite easily have had their proverbial flip-flops on and their minds on next season.

Both were missing their best player, their most creative outlet, albeit for one the loss came just minutes before kick-off, thereby forcing a change in plans.

Perhaps most alarmingly, one of these teams is managed by a coach who was very close to losing his job this time last year but survived after avoiding relegation. The other is helmed by one of the most decorated managers in European football history who has coached at some of the biggest clubs in the game.

If you’d come to this match without knowing who fit what in the above description, you could have been forgiven for mistaking Aston Villa as being the team with the all-star manager chasing European football and Everton as the one with one foot on the beach. The difference in attitude, performance, playing style and effectiveness was that glaring.

Everton have been playing atrocious football for months now. Some of the results away from home and against the sides usually occupying the top six have been excellent but for the most part, the standard of play has been garbage. Supporters have tried to excuse it on account of the pandemic, empty stadia, compressed fixture schedules and injuries, and while they’ve all been factors to a degree, they’ve affected most teams in the Premier League to varying degrees this season. Ultimately, however, as it pertains to the presence of fans in particular, it all eventually comes down to the game of football at its purest level which has gone on without supporters in attendance, with all the same prizes of normal times up for grabs.

Manchester City have been operating at an elite level ever since they overcame their rocky start to the season while Chelsea and Manchester United have been performing well relative to the quality in their ranks. Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain played out a high-octane Champions League quarter-final the other week that was as good as anything the competition has served up even with full stadia.

For whatever reason, this squad of players over which Ancelotti presides has consistently failed to produce much that comes close to “the beautiful game” since October. Part of that is down to the personnel at the Italian’s disposal and his inability to field his strongest line-up. Again, though, that afflicts all teams from time to time and when teams struggling at the wrong end of the table with supposedly inferior players are routinely playing better attacking passing football, coming to Goodison and playing Everton off their own park, at some point the focus has to shift to the manager. Carlo Ancelotti, for all his past successes, can no longer be immune to the justified criticism of the Toffees’ abysmal home form or the passive, negative, anti-football his team has been serving up.

This team’s inability to simply pass and move the ball up the field is staggering at times. As is their lack of drive and, it seems, sheer will to grasp the carrot of European football that has been dangling in front of their faces for months now. By contrast, Villa were everything the Toffees aren’t — they played quick, front-foot attacking football; they moved, they found space, hit their front man with accuracy and regularity; and they should have been out of sight by half-time.

5-2 at the break wouldn’t have flattered Dean Smith’s men and had it not been for an inspired display by Jordan Pickford they may well have been that far ahead by that stage. The England goalkeeper made top-class saves to deny Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traoré while Anwar El Ghazi rattled the crossbar and Ross Barkley struck the outside of the post, all in the first period.

Pickford had been left helpless in the 13th minute, however, when Mason Holgate, misguidedly selected to start again, lapsed into the depressing backward-looking trait that has infected this Everton side all season long, got caught by Watkins trying to pass back to his goalkeeper, and the Villa striker shrugged off the attempt to bring him down by slotting home.

Everton, whose attempt to display the intensity their fans have been desperate to see in home games lasted barely a minute before they reverted to the limp, pedestrian outfit they have been on so many occasions since the turn of the year, were level within six minutes via an avenue on which Ancelotti has relied heavily this season — set-pieces. Lucas Digne swung in a deep corner from the right and, having rolled Barkley expertly, Dominic Calvert-Lewin arrived at the back post to power home a header.

It was his first goal since the 13th of March but the outcome of the game, a 2-1 home defeat, would be the same… although you wonder if things might have turned out different had one of the hosts’ few moments of genuine quality paid dividends a few minutes later. Digne’s cushioned volley pass back across goal was met with a flying header by Calvert-Lewin but Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal parried it to safety.

Frustratingly, having weathered that flurry of chances that Villa carved out in the first half and with the contest settled into a more pattern in the second, Everton just didn’t have the wherewithal to move up a level to win it. Alex Iwobi, willing as always but with precious little end product, shot wide eight minutes after the interval and Allan drilled a similarly disappointing effort off target but that was it until Calvert-Lewin sliced well off target with 11 minutes to go. With so much on the line, the lack of determination or guts from Ancelotti's players was galling.

In midfield, André Gomes, mysteriously selected again despite being pretty dreadful at Arsenal last week, offered nothing once more and was hooked in the 70th minute… again in favour of Fabian Delph who — again! — offered just as little while Tom Davies, a player who performed well alongside Allan against Tottenham recently, was left sitting on the bench. Allan himself was the only one who really looked up for the fight but without help around him, he was powerless to really influence things.

Up front, Richarlison had a horrendous game. It was his loose touch that had let Traoré in in the first half for a chance that Pickford saved well coming off his line before the retreating keeper acrobatically batted the Burkinabé’s curling effort behind for a corner. At other end of the field, he ran down blind alleys, lost possession and on the odd occasion that a really promising situation opened up in front of him to release Calvert-Lewin or Gylfi Sigurdsson, he greedily held onto it and was easily dispossessed.

Bernard came on for Iwobi and Josh King replaced Sigurdsson a little later on but Everton were out of ideas by that stage and by the time the latter change had been made, it was too late anyway. The Blues had been worryingly open at the back all game and they let Villa in far too easily with 10 minutes left where El Ghazi received the ball on the edge of the box, cut back onto his right foot and curled a shot around Pickford to make it 2-1 to the visitors.

The increasingly ridiculous notion of Everton in next season’s Champions League had effectively gone prior to kick-off with Chelsea’s comfortable win over Fulham earlier in the day but the Europa League and Conference League somehow remain achievable with five games remaining. On this form, the Blues won’t qualify for either and they don’t deserve to. Having done the hard work ojn the road and against some of the toughest teams in the division, it will be a colossal, infuriating waste of a gilt-edged opportunity.

Quite what that will do to the club’s ability to attract the players they will need to try and sustain a proper challenge next season or hold on to the likes of James remains to be seen. Ancelotti has always been regarded as the big draw for top playing talent but it’s getting to the stage where even his lofty reputation is going to start eroding if he can’t either motivate the personnel he currently has or demonstrate the ability to set his team out to play effective attacking football even when he doesn't have his best players available.

So amid that sense of futility and resignation, thoughts should turn to the close season and the resumption of Marcel Brands’s task of offloading more of the dead wood from prior regimes while also acknowledging that a few of his own acquisitions will need to be moved on if possible to make room in the squad. It’s on old chestnut, but it’s another huge summer ahead…

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

Everton were back at Goodison Park this evening, exposing a maddening panoply of incomprehensible inadequacies as they once again failed painfully to press their claims for European qualification.

Abdoulaye Doucouré is still out injured, along with Jean-Phillippe Gbamin. So it was to be the same side that beat Arsenal with Sigurdsson and Gomes as the midfield powerhouse for Everton tonight. But James Rodriguez with a repetition of his troublesome calf injury aggravated in the warm-up, he was replaced by Alex Iwobi in the starting XI, a potentially huge late setback for the Blues, with Virginia added to the bench.

Michael Keane is fit again after missing out last time with a slight hamstring problem but is on the bench with Yerry Mina, Josh King and Bernard — Nkounkou the only not-quite senior player on the bench tonight.

For the visitors, Ross Barkley returns to the club he used to love, while Jack Grealish is absent as he recovers from a shin injury.

Another brilliant start from the kick-off, hoofing the ball upfield and out for a goal-kick to the visitors. But they did get it back and actually put together a decent move, Iwobi's shot being blocked.

Everton put themselves under pressure with a series of dreadful clearances until Villa blazed the ball over the bar. Everton tried to play out but struggled to get beyond a busy midfield. Holgate got caught dithering and Watkins was all over him, easily beating Pickford.

Watkins then tried a similar move on Godfrey off a long ball and it almost worked, Pickford making a last-ditch block. But Everton won a corner at the other end and a fantastic ball from Digne to the far saw Calvert-Lewin deliver a fierce header that was unstoppable.

But Everton were somehow all at sixes and sevens in defence, Watkins failing to profit and more shots needing desperate blocks. But they finally took the game to the other end and a brilliant first-time cross bounced up for a difficult diving header that Calvert-Lewin could not divert past Martinez in the Villa goal.

Villa got a free-kick that Barkley tried to put in the top corner but over-hit it. Everton were caught again and Pickford had to block Watkins again, and then recover to bat away his deep cross/shot to the far post.

Another unbelievable goalmouth scramble off a brilliant ball in by Cash somehow failed to go in, Pickford getting a vital interception before the follow-up from El Ghazi hit the bar. Sigurdsson tried a shot but the execution was off. He was set up again with some neat passing but shot blindly into a defender.

Gomes and Digne conspired to give the ball away in attack and Villa moved up, with Barkley in space, hammering his shot onto the base of the post and away. Iwobi got free and looked to play in Calvert-Lewin but the Everton forward just couldn't pick it up. Douglas Luiz was booked for his grappling Richarlison but Sigurdsson's dangerous ball in was punched away by Martinez, Coleman firing the return ball high and wide.

Brakley then set up Watkins for a shot that screwed across Pickfords's goal and just past his far post. There could be no complaints about lack of tempo although the purists will want to berate some of the haphazard defending that had made it a much more watchable game than many that have preceded it this season. The half finished with a couple of well-delivered corners from Digne but the Villains were first to make contact.

Iwobi fed Digne for a great cross in and a Villa block in a lively ending to the half that epitomized the game up to this point. Villa's chances had looked more dangerous, having twice hit the woodwork, and they will feel they should be ahead.

Villa made the better start to the second half, Watkins winning an early corner. Another back-and-forth, end-to-end spell ensued without any danger being created for the moment. A lovely move off a back-flick by Allan saw another great cross from Digne but Calvert-Lewin had failed to anticipate it and ut himself in the right place.

Everton got more chances to threaten but first Richarlison then Iwobi then Allan all made the wrong choices. And so up to the other end for Watkins to create even more danger. Richarlison benefitted from a poor clearance to get behind the Villa line but, for a Brazilian, his shot was shockingly abysmal.

Iwobi picked up the ball in space and promised this time to cross effectively... but of course he did no such thing, and the pendulum swung back to VIlla, although this time they struggled to play out as the game saw its quietest spell.

Gomes, who had been more lively than effective, was replaced by Delph, wearing the correct socks this week. Calvert-Lewin had a nice long run and shot fairly hard for him from outside the area, but directionally it was simply woeful. Bernard came on for Iwobi.

Everton would pay dearly for their ridiculous lassitude in front of goal. After Digne needlessly gave the ball away, Traore set up El Ghazi with just enough time and space to curl an unstoppable shot past Pickford with just 10 minutes left. Sigurdsson departed for the perennially poor King. Surely there could be no way back from this latest catastrophic result?

King was just as bad when he was gifted sight of goal, driving it well wide of the target. And the game pretty much fizzled out in a stream of Villa substitutions, for another utterly incomprehensible home defeat.

Kick-off: 8 pm, Saturday 1 May 2021 on BT Sport 1

Everton: Pickford, Coleman (c), Holgate, Godfrey, Digne, Allan, Gomes (69' Delph), Sigurdsson (82' King), Rodriguez Iwobi (78' Bernard), Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin.
Subs not Used: Olsen, Viginia, Keane, Mina, Nkounkou, Davies.

Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings (c), Douglas Luiz [Y:41'], McGinn, Watkins, Traore (88' Ramsey), Targett, Barkley, El Ghazi [Y:90'] (90' Davis) .
Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Wesley, Nakamba, El Mohamady, Hause, Philogene-Bidace.

Referee: Simon Hooper
VAR: Graham Scott

Michael Kenrick

Match Preview

Everton are back at Goodison Park this evening looking for a first home win since the start of March in order to press their claims for European qualification.

The Blues kept pace with the top six with their slender victory at Arsenal last Friday, yet another away win in this unusual season, but they will need to rectify their miserable form on their own turf if they are to make it into Europe for next season.

Unless Fulham do Carlo Ancelotti's men a favour in the 5:30 pm kick-off, Everton could find themselves 11 points off the Champions League spots and, realistically, out of contention for the top four by the time they kick off but a place in the Europa Conference League at least is very much still in their hands.

Standing in their way tonight are Aston Villa who looked at one stage this season to be strong contenders for the top six under Dean Smith's stewardship but they have fallen away in Jack Grealish's absence in recent weeks.

The England international has been struggling with injury and the Midlanders haven't had the same cutting edge without him and since beating Leeds on 27th February, they have just one win in eight Premier League games.

With Ollie Watkins leading the line and Anwar El Ghazi chipping in with goals, they remain a dangerous side, however, and they will have done their homework on how to cause Everton problems based on a succession of matches at Goodison where the Toffees have been overrun by a more intense opposition midfield.

Rediscovering that tempo that, in truth, has really only surfaced in the two home fixtures against Tottenham in recent weeks, will fall on Ancelotti's shoulders as he prepares for this one with a practically fit squad. Unfortunately, one of the two absentees, Abdoulaye Doucouré, is arguably his most important in terms of providing the legs and stamina in the middle of the park.

Still, Allan is back fit and has settled back into his groove since returning from a hamstring injury — even if he has, understandably, looked a touch short of match sharpness. And in Tom Davies, the manager has a player who can provide a decent foil for the Brazilian, although the young Englishman was overlooked at the Emirates until late on, with André Gomes preferred in the starting XI.

Gomes would count himself fortunate if selected to start again after a disappointing hour or so against the Gunners and his replacement in that match, Fabian Delph, wasn't much better. Ancelotti can exhibit a frustrating deference to experienced players, though, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Delph got the nod to start against Villa.

At the back, there will be a decision to make given that Michael Keane is fit again after missing out last time with a slight hamstring problem. He was involved in both of Spurs' goals in that 2-2 draw at Goodison a fortnight ago and, as such, might not walk back into the side. Yerry Mina, who was only deemed fit enough to begin the last match on the bench, is the more likely option to partner the in-form Ben Godfrey if Ancelotti sticks with the four-man back line.

There has been much talk in the Everton camp about needing to approach the last quarter of the campaign as a series of cup finals but thus far they have failed to raise their game to the required levels.

With games running out but so much still to play for, hopefully this will be the moment where the players break out their best form, get into Villa from the first whistle, establish some early dominance, and then finish them off to set the tone for the five fixtures that will remain.

Kick-off: 8 pm, Saturday 1 May 2021 on BT Sport 1
Referee: Simon Hooper
VAR: Graham Scott
Last Time: Everton 1 - 1 Aston Villa

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Coleman, Mina, Godfrey, Digne, Allan, Delph, Sigurdsson, Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin

Lyndon Lloyd

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