Everton Lose Despite Late Rally

Everton must wait another week, at least, to collect their opening points of this Premier League campaign.

But after a frantic finish at Villa Park, when these two teams went toe-to-toe in an archetypal English confrontation, Frank Lampard would be well within his rights to feel brassed off Everton ended this lively contest empty handed.

Conor Coady made his Everton debut from the start. But it was another man making his first appearance for the Club in Amadou Onana, on as a substitute late in the piece, who set up a grandstand finish.

Onana looked crestfallen when Emiliano Buendia added to Danny Ings’ first-half strike four minutes after the midfielder’s introduction.

A portion of Onana’s annoyance stemmed from the fact he had the ball at his feet moments before Buendia converted.

What a show of character, then, from this 20-year-old, who duly bustled down the left to deliver a cross Lucas Digne awkwardly turned into his own net.

Onana and Anthony Gordon were both close to equalising as Everton pressed, ultimately in vain, for a levelling strike.

There was another injury blow for manager Lampard when Abdoualye Doucoure limped off 11 minutes before half-time after apparently sustaining a muscle problem.

The Frenchman’s forced exit came only three minutes after Ings swatted the hosts in front right at a time when Everton were gaining a foothold in the game.

Gordon had a strike ruled out for offside and Dwight McNeil and Demarai Gray were separately left rueing heavy touches in promising positions.

Everton had the best of it immediately after the break, creating a handful of presentable opportunities.

But the visitors’ already difficult task grew in size when substitute Buendia tapped in with five minutes remaining.

Everton demonstrated spirit and belief in their response but received no tangible reward for a grandstand finish.

The away side capped their brightest period in the opening half by depositing the ball in Aston Villa’s net, only for a linesman’s flag to scrub off Gordon’s ‘goal’ – a decision corroborated by a VAR check.

Dwight McNeil originally swung in a corner from the right – Everton’s dead-ball deliveries serially discomforted the home team – and James Tarkowski bundled the ball towards goal.

Gordon controlled and finished on the turn, but the Everton player had strayed fractionally offside.

Digne, meanwhile, had a handful of Coady’s shirt but the offence was moot, in light of Gordon’s transgression.

The same Everton player in Gordon – again employed as his side’s highest attacker, but consistently retreating to knit together play – stole possession in midfield and fed Doucoure. He found the advancing McNeil to sustain the forward direction, but the former Burnley player’s final pass for Gray was too strong, enabling the hosts to muster behind the ball.

Aston Villa’s early speed and purpose had given way to an element of frustration when the hosts opened their Premier League account for the campaign.

Indeed, the biggest cheer of the afternoon prior to Ings’ strike was heard roughly 60 seconds earlier and reserved for Matty Cash, dispossessing Gray and circling the fast-pressing Alex Iwobi, before calmly passing out of trouble.

John McGinn, Villa’s newly-appointed captain, was at the hub of events when the deadlock was broken by a team that had temporarily looked like it was running short of ideas.

The Scot tidied up in midfield and duly lifted a long pass for Ollie Watkins.

The ensuing cross from the right was low and Ings appeared to have missed his opportunity when inadvertently killing the ball dead.

Ings, however, swiftly recovered to toe the ball away from Doucoure and administer a mighty whack with his left boot to defeat Jordan Pickford inside the goalkeeper’s right post.

Doucoure would soon succumb to injury, replaced by Tom Davies, who went into the book before half-time for a foul on Watkins.

Philippe Coutinho was already yellow carded by this point, the Brazilian punished for illegally putting the brakes on Nathan Patterson’s escape down the right.

Everton began their hunt for a leveller during a lengthy portion of time added on at the end of the opening half following a stoppage for drinks around the 25th minute.

Alex Iwobi did wonderfully well in the first place to hook in a ball destined to drift out of play. He eventually flighted a delivery over the top of Gordon and Tyrone Mings in the centre of the penalty area. It dropped for Gray in front of goal but the heavy touch allowed Digne to clear.

Villa responded with Jacob Ramsey’s latest burst down the left – the midfielder started the game with a couple of dangerous surges into the final third – and a low cross that Coutinho couldn’t reach on the stretch.

Everton applied sustained pressure on their opponents’ goal during a breakneck passage of play soon after half-time.

Digne was cautioned for wrestling Patterson to the floor on the left of the home team’s box.

The free-kick was partially cleared but Everton kept play alive. Davies eventually fed Vitalii Mykolenko for a cross to the back post where Tarkowski – a real threat in the opposition penalty area – won the header.

McNeil hooked the bouncing ball goalwards but it landed the wrong side of Emiliano Martinez’s upright.

Goalkeeper Martinez was then called on to beat away a thudding drive from Gray, collecting a Mason Holgate ball speared to the left and cutting infield to let fly.

Another Everton corner caused panic in the home ranks, the ball scrambled only as far as the increasingly prominent Patterson, whose low shot thudded into Cash – the Villa right-back making a second intervention in no time after blocking when Gray took aim minutes earlier.

Amid all this, there was a counter for Villa led by Ings and Watkins. Davies, however, did exceptionally well to get all six studs on the ball as he slid to halt Watkins’ run across the fringes of the penalty area.

Michael Oliver, the referee, didn’t endear himself to either set of players with a pair of first-half decisions in quick succession at either end of the field.

It was the home team feeling wronged in the first instance. Cash fell in close proximity to Mykolenko as the two men chased a ball turned into the box on 12 minutes.

Villa pleaded forlornly for a penalty – and there was contact, albeit television replays indicated it occurred outside the area.

Four minutes later and Everton were irritated over Oliver’s next call.

Gordon cleverly gave Boubacar Kamara the slip around the halfway line. Accelerating down the right, Gordon chose an old-fashioned push-and-run tactic to bypass Mings. And it appeared set to pay off until Mings flashed out a hand to fend off the attacker. The move looked illegal from the stands but not in the view of Oliver.

Returning to the second half, Villa were fastest out the blocks – the same was true from the first whistle when a McGinn corner inside two minutes was headed over by Diego Carlos – and McGinn struck over with his right boot.

The other side of Everton’s rush of half chances, Gray was agonisingly close to connecting with a smart through ball from Iwobi.

Salomon Rondon was sent on for McNeil after 64 minutes – four minutes after Villa lost Coutinho, playing as a withdrawn centre-forward, sandwiched by Watkins and Ings – to what appeared a muscle injury.

Holgate sped across to intercept when Ings worked an opening straight after the second-half drinks.

Mykolenko cleared off the line when Buendia’s scuffed effort deflected off Coady and beyond Pickford, while the impressive Tarkowski managed multiple blocks as Villa sought a killer strike.

Lampard went all out for the equaliser with nine minutes remaining. Coady and Gray made way for Dele and Onana and Everton flexed to a back four, while Dele supported Rondon and Gordon and Iwobi occupied the wide positions.

But before the changes could take effect Villa doubled their lead.

Buendia raced forwards following a turnover of possession in midfield.

Reaching the 18-year line, the Argentine slipped a pass to Watkins on his right and continued forwards to meet the return with a tap into the net.

It appeared for all the world the game was up.

Onana, visibly irked by his part in Villa’s second goal, made amends at the first opportunity.

The Belgian collected Rondon’s knockdown to barrel past the overpowered Carlos and send in a ball Digne could only shovel into his own net.

Any notion of a quiet closing passage of play had disappeared.

Now we had a slugfest on our hands.

Pickford spread himself to deny Watkins as Villa exploited the increased space in Everton’s rearguard.

Gordon was then released one-on-one with Martinez, who saved the effort down to his left, with Mings beating Rondon to the rebound in front of a gaping goal.

A hiatus for treatment to Carlos lasted at least two minutes. And immediately after Villa’s concentration lapsed.

Another Rondon flick was allowed to reach Onana close to goal but a combination of Martinez and a defensive body squeezed the ball past the post.

Martinez saved again from Gordon as whistles rang around this 125-year-old stadium.

And when those whistles were replaced by an almighty roar at full-time it spoke to the relief of a home support who knew their team was on the rack, but eventually got the job done.