Everton 0-0 Aston Villa: Visitors miss chance to go level with Liverpool

The historic venue of Goodison Park was in the spotlight today as England’s most-played league fixture returned for yet another edition. Everton entered the fixture on the back of three successive league defeats, while Aston Villa aimed to level Liverpool’s points at the top of the table by claiming a crucial victory at Goodison. It wasn’t just league position giving confidence to the visitors; Aston Villa had not lost against Everton in their previous nine meetings, making Unai Emery’s side firm favourites.

EVE: Pickford; Mykolenko, Branthwaite, Tarkowski, Coleman; Garner, Onana; Danjuma, Doucoure, Harrison; Calvert-Lewin

AVL: Martínez; Moreno, Lenglet, Carlos, Konsa; McGinn, Douglas Luiz, Kamara, Bailey; Watkins, Diaby

Encouraged by the feisty home atmosphere, Everton started the game well, testing their opposition with an intimidating press. Sean Dyche’s philosophy as a manager relies heavily on intensity and effort, and his Everton players displayed this in abundance in the first 10 minutes. 

The first shot at goal came from the Toffees, as they were rewarded for the pressure they had accumulated. A lofted cross from Jack Harrison floated to Arnaut Danjuma at the back post, and the winger struck his effort on the volley. It was blocked, however, and Everton’s fast start was not reflected in the scoreline. Everton’s Amadou Onana almost capitalised upon a loose pass from Emi Martinez, but no harm was done, and Villa survived a difficult period.

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Just before the 15-minute mark, the momentum began to swing in favour of the visitors. Aston Villa were able to manipulate the ball into more promising areas; their first chance fell to their red-hot striker, Ollie Watkins. A clever pass from Moussa Diaby found his English strike partner behind the Everton defence, but he was forced to take his shot from a very tight angle, allowing Jordan Pickford to save. 

After a spell of domination and sustained attacks, the Villans thought they had opened the scoring. A short corner was defended hesitantly by the hosts, allowing Villa to work the ball to Álex Moreno on the edge of the box. Upon receiving a pass from Leon Bailey, the Spanish full-back unleashed a venomous half-volley towards Everton’s goal. Moreno’s technique was impeccable, and his shot nestled low into the bottom corner of Pickford’s net. 

The men in claret and blue ran away to celebrate, delighted to take the lead in a competitive encounter.  After a VAR check nearly four minutes long, however, their goal was disallowed, and the score remained 0-0. 

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Villa’s dominance persisted for the vast majority of the first 45 minutes, but the best goalscoring opportunity in the first half fell to the feet of Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Moments before the half-time whistle was blown, the Toffees finally managed to dissect the abnormally high defensive line that Aston Villa maintain.

After receiving a perfectly weighted pass from Danjuma, Calvert-Lewin sprinted towards Martinez’s goal with no defender to beat. The scenario looked guaranteed to provide the home team with a goal, but Aston Villa’s World Cup-winning goalkeeper spread himself magnificently to deny the Everton striker. 

The second half saw an increase in ferocity displayed by the teams, as both sets of players became desperate to win all three points. The bearpit that is Goodison Park provided an atmosphere fit for a game of such intensity, pouring a wealth of passion onto the pitch from the stands. 

Despite the attacking intentions of both teams, clear-cut chances were scarce in the second period. Both John McGinn and Danjuma saw their shots fly just wide of the post, but the two goalkeepers remained untested. 

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There was brief euphoria for Abdoulaye Doucoure in the last five minutes of regular time, but his excitement was cut short by the linesman. The midfielder received a long ball over the top of Aston Villa’s high line, but he was unable to time his run correctly, meaning his goal was ruled out for offside. 

Neither team relented their attacking approach, but the two defences remained resilient until the very end. A point each, while potentially disappointing, was a fair reflection of the game’s events. Everton remain in 17th, now one point above the relegation zone, while Aston Villa sit in third – two points off the top of the table.