I'm weird when it comes to weather. Give me a grey, rainy day over bright sunshine any day. Before the Everton game came on this afternoon on delay here in the States (more on that in a bit), I caught the tail end of the Chelsea-Newcastle game. Now that's my kind of weather, both to watch football in and play football in. All of this is a long-winded way to say that the sunny weather at Villa Park today matched the mood of most Evertonians, except for me and any other rain-loving crazies.
In any case, make it two fantastic performances in two matches for the mighty Toffees, as they thoroughly dismantled a really poor Aston Villa side 3-1. The final scoreline probably didn't do justice to Everton's complete domination in this game, and the excitement among the fan base is no doubt building. A complete recap of an impressive win is after the jump...
- Aston Villa controlled the game for all of about one minute, with Nathan Delfouneso slipping into a dangerous position before the Everton defense dealt with the problem.
- However, not two minutes later Everton had the lead through an excellent strike from outside the box off the foot of Steven Pienaar. It was the product of some crisp passing between Marouane Fellaini, Nikica Jelavic, Leighton Baines, and Steven Naismith, and given plenty of space to shoot by the Villa defense Pienaar was more than happy to oblige them. The commentators said Shay Given had "no chance" to stop the shot, and while it may be asking quite a bit I think he could have at least gotten a glove to the ball. The early goal caused the air to go out of Villa Park, which had been quite boisterous and optimistic leading up to the kickoff.
- The movement off the ball by Nikica Jelavic today was really superb, and he fashioned two decent chances with glancing headed efforts in the period following Pienaar's opener. Both opportunities were set up by Baines, and both whizzed over the bar from difficult positions. Phil Neville was putting in some good tackles on the other end to disrupt Villa's rare forays into attacking areas.
- The home side looked sluggish, creating very little with their possession and never looking likely to threaten Tim Howard's goal. They were made to pay for their inactivity when Phil Jagielka marauded down the right flank from the back, working a neat move with Pienaar before whipping in a picture-perfect cross that found the long locks of Fellaini. The Belgian headed the ball right into Given more or less, but the keeper completely bungled his footwork and could do nothing but deflect the ball hilariously into the inside of the net. A bit of a gift, but a great cross and a 2-0 lead!
- Then, with under five minutes to go before halftime, Jelavic was rewarded for his hard work with a trademark one-touch lightning bolt that must have seemed just a blur to Given; it was simply a beautiful goal and for my money even nicer than Pienaar's. Baines and Fellani were again involved in the buildup, and the intelligence of Jelavic to get into the right position to strike the ball was outstanding. The whistle blew for halftime and the boos rained down at Villa Park, their team down 3-0 and looking nothing like Paul Lambert's attractive Norwich City sides.
- Jelavic nearly made it a brace right after play resumed, corralling a headed pass from Fellaini in a dangerous spot and firing it toward Given, but Nathan Baker was there to block the shot. Baker was one of the few players for Aston Villa who played well today, I thought.
- Villa's nightmare went from bad to worse in the 58th minute, when Ciaran Clark took down someone (Jelavic I think?) as he broke through on goal and young referee Michael Oliver deemed the foul worthy of a red card. It was bad luck for Clark, who barely touched the Everton player, but it was a breakaway and a clear goal-scoring chance so by the letter of the law I suppose it was the right decision. Darron Gibson went for placement over power with the ensuing free kick and narrowly missed the top corner.
- Shortly after that exchange, Sylvain Distin came ever so close to making it 4-0, his header cleared by Darren Bent off the underside of the bar.
- From that point on, Everton essentially eased up on the gas and coasted a bit, and Villa actually had their best spell of the match after going down to ten men. This culminated in a consolation goal for Villa through new signing Karim El Ahmadi, a 30-yard effort that fooled Howard and caused him to initially move in the wrong direction. In truth it was a bad goal to concede, but with the score still sitting comfortably at 3-1 there was little cause for alarm. Andreas Weimann did manage to strike one off the post in the closing moments.
- The last thing to note was the debut of Kevin Mirallas, who was handed 20 minutes at the end of the match. I thought he showed flashes of why he's been dubbed the "Belgian Ronaldo," and he actually put the ball past Given before the goal was ruled offside. I'm excited to see what the rest of the season holds in store for Mirallas.
(in order of performance)
Jelavic 8.5 (MOTM), Pienaar 8.5, Gibson 8, Osman 8, Fellaini 8, Baines 7.5, Jagielka 7, Distin 6.5, Naismith 6.5, Coleman (64) 6.5, Neville 6.5, Mirallas (71) 6, Howard 4, Heitinga (87) n/a
It was much tougher this week picking a Man of the Match, but I decided to go with Jelavic for his overall effort. He also hobbled off late in the game, so hopefully it was just a minor knock and he'll be good to go next week. Really, I couldn't find significant fault with any of the performances, except perhaps Howard for missing a shot he should have stopped. A midweek League Cup date with Leyton Orient is up next, and Moyes may very well choose to make some significant changes to the squad to keep the team fresh for the visit to West Brom next weekend.
Finally, I have to get in this rant for my fellow American Blues. Fox Soccer Channel showed this match on delay here in the U.S., which meant that it came on at 1:30pm where I am in Texas. Though I easily could have found a live stream of the game online, I dutifully waited until 1:30 before tuning in. After the Chelsea-Newcastle game ended, they went back to the studio for some post-match analysis. Then, inexplicably, they reviewed the full scoreboard of the day's games, including Aston Villa 1-3 Everton! Not only that, they also showed the score on the ticker at bottom of the screen!
I get that the match had finished over two hours before, but to show the score of the match you are about to present is still ridiculous. There were more issues during the match itself when the satellite feed went out for a few minutes, and then when it finally came back they restarted the entire match instead of picking up where it left off. FSC really needs to get their shit together.