Everton 2 - Aston Villa 1: Match Report

Kevin Mirallas celebrates after scoring a superb free-kick winner. - Malcolm Couzens

A Kevin Mirallas wonder strike seals the points against Aston Villa to keep Champions League hopes alive.

Everton banished their derby misery with a hard fought win over Aston Villa at Goodison Park. Despite dominating all of the statistics and play, it took a wonder goal from Kevin Mirallas to seal victory for the Blues after Villa took the lead with their only shot of the game and defended stoutly throughout.

It was Everton who started the game the brighter; Aiden McGeady cutting in from the right and curling a left footed effort past a helpless Guzan, only for it to come back off the post and deny him a home debut goal. The game then entered a lull, the Blues looking the most likely down the left with Leighton Baines and Barkley linking up constantly but the final ball lacking. That man McGeady would have his second chance of the game on the 27-minute mark, again cutting inside but firing straight at Guzan.

Aston Villa would take the lead with their first effort of the game through Leandro BacunaFabian Delph dispossessed Ross Barkley in the middle of the park and Christian Benteke strode forward to feed Bacuna, the defender slotting through Howard's legs to give the visitors an underserved lead.

The second half started with the bad news for Everton that Barkley had picked up a knock and was replaced with Steven Pienaar. The home side upped the tempo regardless, Mirallas being set free by Gareth Barry and putting an excellent cross into the box only to find Bacuna who cleared comfortably. Leon Osman would then break into the box after pouncing on a mistake fire past the post disappointingly.

Aston Villa soon replaced Grant Holt for El Ahmadi as a clear sign of their counter attacking intent.  Everton were knocking on the door, Osman scuffing his effort after turning excellently in the box and Pienaar hitting a wicked shot straight at Villa's American keeper. Martinez sensed a change was needed, but oddly replaced John Stones with Steven Naismith, with Benteke then lucky not to score an own goal following a free kick.

Everton's equalizer would soon arrive and justify Martinez's substitution.  A quick pass from Barry found Pienaar whose wonderful flick found Naismith running through, the Scotsman finishing expertly with the outside of his boot. Aston Villa then replaced Ron Vlaar with Mark Albrighton in a surprising demonstration of their desire for three points.

The home sides play deserved a second, and it was Kevin Mirallas to give it to them. The Belgian drew a free kick from Ciaran Clarke and soon punished him, curling wonderfully past Guzan into the top right hand corner and putting Everton into the lead with 5 minutes remaining. Tony Hibbert then replaced Aiden McGeady to push McCarthy back into midfield to see out the win with Tonev replaced Weimann for the visitors. Naismith should have put the game beyond doubt 3 minutes later, finding himself free in the box but heading straight at the keeper when either side would have seen him score.

With four minutes added on, Aston Villa had not given up entirely and substitute Albrighton hit a wicked dipping shot towards the Everton goal to nearly break Everton hearts. The resulting corner saw Delph launch an effort into the box but Howard climbed commandingly to seal the points. A good win for Everton eventually then,  to record their first league double over the Villains in 20 plus years, give Martinez his first tally of 42 points in the Premier League ever and move a point behind Liverpool in fourth.

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