Everton were held to a 0-0 draw by high-flying Aston Villa in a competitive Premier League clash played out at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Blues had the best of chances in a battling contest where both sides had goals ruled out for offside. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s low effort late in the first half was perhaps the home side's best effort of the bunch. However, Unai Emery’s men remained a consistent threat throughout the clash and the Toffees had to defend doggedly at times to grind out the hard-earned point.
For the contest, Abdoulaye Doucoure returned to Everton’s starting XI for the first time since the Toffees’ away trip to Burnley on December 16. He was one of two changes from the starting line-up in last week’s FA Cup clash at Crystal Palace, with Jordan Pickford also back between the sticks in place of Joao Virginia.
The Blues wasted no time stamping their authority early on and forced their first threat on Martinez’s goal inside five minutes when Harrison drove down the right before swinging a dangerous deep ball towards the back post where Danjuma was lurking.
Everton’s winger failed to catch the ball cleanly with his attempted volley and his tame effort was blocked before being cleared from danger by Villa’s Diego Carlos.
Danjuma was lively throughout the opening exchanges and heavily involved again minutes later.
He latched onto a ball played behind the Villa defence before driving a low cross towards a lurking Doucoure on the edge of the six-yard area, an outstretched leg intercepted as the midfielder readied to meet it. But then despite the bright start from Dyche’s men, it was the away side who looked to have taken the lead.
A well-worked corner routine as the game approached the 18th minute saw the ball find Alex Moreno on the edge of the Everton box, he drilled a fine strike into the bottom corner of Pickford’s net - but thankfully the goal was ruled out for an offside in the build-up following a lengthy VAR review.
The moment sparked Unai Emery’s men into life and they started to take control of proceedings, seeing plenty of the ball and working it into good areas inside the Everton half.
Leon Bailey was next to go close when Douglas Luiz found him with a precise pass inside Everton’s box, he smashed a low effort on target but Pickford got down superbly to tip it wide for a corner.
Although Villa continued to see plenty of the ball as the half progressed, Everton started to contain the away side and restrict them to better areas away from their goal.
The Blues also posed a constant threat on the counter and one of their fast breaks nearly broke the deadlock nine minutes before the end of the half.
Good pressure from the Blues saw Ezri Konsa dispossessed deep up the pitch by Garner, Danjuma led the counter and dribbled into the Villa box before cutting in onto his favoured right foot and attempting a low effort that looked to be heading into Martinez’s bottom corner but for a block Diego Carlos’.
Then, as the game approached first-half stoppage time, Everton really should have gone ahead.
Danjuma released Calvert-Lewin with a beautiful pass with the outside of his foot, Everton’s No.9 bore down on goal and was one-against-one with Martinez, however, the Villa shot-stopper made a great low save to deny the forward.
"I'm very pleased with our resilience and mentality. I thought it was on show again today that we could come away with something."— Everton (@Everton) January 14, 2024
Sean Dyche reflects on a hard-earned point. #EVEAVL pic.twitter.com/aNlnVf9m74
Seconds later James Garner curled a low effort from the edge of the box that Martinez was again equal to, getting a strong hand to tip it around the post for a corner.
That proved the end of the goalmouth action from a competitive first half in which momentum swung one way and then the other without either side being able to find the elusive opener.
The second half very much continued in the same manner as the first with both sides showing plenty of intent with Mykolenko denying Watkins with a great block at one end and Danjuma going close with a low effort that drifted just wide of the post at the other.
Just after the hour mark and desperate to get the game’s opening goal, Dyche made attacking changes as he introduced Beto and Dwight McNeil - who recovered from the injury sustained at Palace - in place of Calvert-Lewin and Danjuma.
Despite those changes, the game plateaued with no side able to really take control and the atmosphere around Goodison suffered as a result.
But it did explode into life in the 71st minute when a robust Tarkowski challenge on Moreno in the corner where the Gwladys Street meets the Bullens Road had Evertonians on all four sides up on their feet. The challenge was a fair one and no foul was awarded, but Villa players took exception leading to tempers flaring up on both sides - Tarkowski and substitute Youri Tielemans ended up in the referee's book as a result.
With Goodison momentarily at its raucous best, the incident looked to set up another famous grandstand finish at the Grand Old Lady, however, it was Villa who nearly nicked it.
With a little over five minutes remaining, Moreno met a ball down Everton’s right and drilled a low cross towards Cash attacking on the penalty spot. He looked certain to score by a robust block from Mykolenko kept the game level.
Cash was involved again seconds later for the away side when he crossed a dangerous ball towards substitute Jhon Duran in the box, the striker flicked a boot at the ball which flashed across Pickford’s goal and just wide of the post.
In what proved to be a chaotic end to a forgettable second half, it looked as if Doucoure had won it for Everton when he broke clear to meet a ball in behind the Villa defence and then eventually fire a fine finish past Martinez - but he was frustratingly flagged offside seconds later.
The Blues pressed hard late on in search of the decisive goal, but both sides were ultimately forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
Everton return to action on Wednesday 17 January (7.45pm kick-off) when they take on Crystal Palace in the FA Cup third-round replay.