Rafa Benitez says choosing the wrong option in attacking situations and a sluggish reaction to conceding first cost Everton their unbeaten Premier League record at Aston Villa.
Everton were without a handful of important figures in the Midlands and Benitez revealed the missing trio of Richarlison, Jordan Pickford and Seamus Coleman will be sidelined for “a minimum of two-to-three weeks”.
Striker Salomon Rondon played from the start in the absence of regular number 9 Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the Venezuelan came close on three occasions in the first half to marking his debut with a goal.
Everton repeatedly motored forwards on the counter-attack and one of their standout performers, Demarai Gray was a whisker from opening the scoring 60 seconds before Matthew Cash broke through for Villa on 66 minutes.
Lucas Digne’s own goal doubled the hosts’ advantage three minutes later and Villa were out of sight when Leon Bailey escaped down the left for a third goal in nine minutes.
“We started the game quite well and in the first half had a lot of situations on the counter-attack where the final decision was not right – but we were very close,” said Benitez.
“In the second half we had a couple of chances, that could have meant everything was totally different.
“Then we conceded the goal and very soon conceded a second and it was difficult for us.
“Salomon, Demarai Gray and Alex Iwobi [had chances], so we had two or three situations where it could have been different.
“We made mistakes and we made them too early, too close, then it was difficult to react and that is something for the future, hopefully, we can manage.
“Either not concede, or if we do concede, react like we did in our games at home.
“The two goals were too close and then it was more difficult.”
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DOUCOURE: WE'VE GOT THE QUALITY TO BOUNCE BACK
Everton went to Villa Park buoyed by a come-from-behind victory over Burnley on Monday when Benitez’s side struck three times in six minutes to overcome a one-goal deficit.
They recovered from one down to beat Southampton, too, and after a win and draw from two away matches were undefeated prior to kick-off.
The visitors’ chances of preserving that unbeaten record were dented when it was confirmed goalkeeper Pickford, forward Richarlison and Coleman, Everton’s captain, were all ruled out of this match.
But Everton created chances nonetheless. Among their 11 attempts on goal was a close-range effort from Rondon that was deflected wide, the same player heading narrowly over from the corner.
Iwobi was denied by a low save from Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Gray was agonisingly close when he bent a teasing effort beyond the far post.
“We started with too many problems, because we came with some issues, but the team fought really well,” said Benitez.
“But when you concede two goals in a few minutes, we know from the experience the other day [against Burnley], it is very difficult to change things.
“The team was very good in the first half, it is just, sometimes, if you have these players available, you can make substitutions and have fresh legs and keep the level.
“In some positions we were short of players and needed to manage how we could.”
Everton go to QPR for a Carabao Cup third-round tie on Tuesday and play again in the Premier League when Norwich City visit Goodison Park on Saturday.
Benitez, then, is keen that the loss at Villa is a setback in isolation following a bright start to the campaign.
The Spanish manager oversaw four wins and a draw from his opening five matches across the competitions and reiterated his view over where his side came unstuck in game number six.
“It was a good performance from the team in the first half and at the beginning of the second half,” continued Benitez.
“We were missing the right decision in the final third but overall the team was good – and Demarai played well.
“I was pleased we had the chances but disappointed because the final decision was not right."
“And when we then conceded the first goal, we conceded again too soon after.”