90+3’ - There’s the final whistle. Everton undone by some superior attacking quality, had none of their own to replicate. Villa win 3-0, Everton’s unbeaten run over.
90+2’ - Mina block on Watkins produces another corner for Luiz to take. Sent outside to Traore, blocked by Doucoure.
90’ - Ref’s going to add three minutes here, no need really. No one would have complained had he just ended it right now.
85’ - Freekick into the box and Doucoure gets to it first, but takes it away from Keane who cannot make good contact.
81’ - Bailey is hurt and leaves after three goals in the twenty-odd minutes he was on.
78’ - Gomes chance that is blocked, Blues haven’t given up, but Villa are rampant right now.
Missed it in all the hubbub but Godfrey got booked for tugging down Watkins who ran away from him, and Anthony Gordon is on for Allan as Everton return to a 4-2-3-1.
Now Kenny and Davies are on too, with Godfrey and Iwobi coming off. Godfrey has not been himself since that bout of COVID it looks like.
75’ - Bailey determined to punish Everton for not signing him. Ings finds him in space and he just runs away from Mina and smashes it home. 3-0 Villa.
70’ - Allan caught in possession and loses the ball, Ramsey charges forward and instead of playing in an open Ings, tries to curl it in, wide, so close. Yikes Everton disintegrating.
69’ - Two goals in three minutes for Villa, looks like a Digne own goal from a corner. Bailey’s inswinger is wicked and it goes just over Begovic who can’t react quickly enough. 2-0 now, and the killer blow it looks like.
65’ - Villa turnover allows Townsend to advance, he finds Gray to cut in from the left and his shot is just wide of Martinez’s far post.
Cash with a great run that carries him past Digne and he slams home at the near post with Begovic beaten for pace. Argh, Villa lead 1-0.
63’ - Rondon is done, his influence has faded as time has gone on. Andre Gomes is on, and the Blues should revert to a 4-3-3 with a fluid front three.
61’ - Godfrey a hair late on Targett and concedes a foul. One-time Everton target Leon Bailey comes on for Targett.
Bailey takes the freekick, Keane heads clear, cross back in and Mings tries a fancy backheel, wide.
56’ - Mings foul for a high boot, less than thirty yards out, near central position. Who will take this? Townsend.. straight into the wall, grrrr.
Lovely tackle from Allan and Gray can break, fouled at the edge of the middle third. Townsend can eventually cross into the box but Martinez can take. His clearance is intercepted and Gray finds Iwobi in space, but his shot is weak and again the goalie collects.
54’ - Gray turns Konsa beautifully and is tugged back, and outrage from the traveling Blues as Craig Pawson doesn’t see a foul there!
52’ - Cash wins a freekick on the right off Iwobi, Luiz ball into box, Mina gets a head to it and Townsend can clear.
Targett cross into the box that Watkins nods down towards a lurking Ings, but Mina stoops to head clear.
46’ - We’re off again, no changes that we see.
Doucoure concedes an early corner off Watkins. Luiz inswinger, low and headed on, Everton can clear.
Halftime Thoughts - If Benitez was looking to manage the game and not give up any big chances, he will be feeling pretty satisfied. Hard to ask for more in the attacking half when you don’t have Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison or James Rodriguez available,
45+2’ - There’s the halftime whistle, 0-0 now. The Blues have come back into the game, both sides have had their chances.
45’ - Only two minutes added on. Allan to Digne, dink into the box and Townsend is inches away from it, lovely ball, nice run.
44’ - Townsend has a crack at goal from about the same distance as Monday night, but doesn’t catch it that well and Martinez can gather.
40’ - McGinn is definitely struggling and will be coming off - it’s a concussion substitution even though the doctors had cleared him to continue, Nakamba is coming on for him.
Doucoure fouls Luiz as he rushes towards the box, conceding a dangerous freekick from about 30 yards out. Targett will curl into the box looks like, dangerous ball in and cleared well.
36’ - Gray holds off Konsa brilliantly to spring Iwobi who wins a corner. Rondon controls the corner, ball back into the box is for another corner. Taken short and Gray’s cross pings about and collected by Martinez.
DIgne is definitely off corner duty, Townsend from the right, Gray from the left.
34’ - Keane blocks a McGinn shot, rebound comes to Cash and Keane does well to dissuade him and he drags a shot wide.
29’ - Gray has swapped sides with Townsend and can run at the defence on the right, cuts in and slips just when he was about to shoot inside the box!
Better spell of possession for the Blues, Digne cross into the box and Godfrey goes up for it and crashes into Mings who is down. Targett is down too.
We’re going to have nearly five minutes of time added on at this rate at the end of the first half.
27’ - Possession is 66%-34% for the hosts so far, three shots apiece.
Mina with a lovely tackle on Watkins, ball falls to Luiz and he hits wide.
20’ - McGinn having a concussion check after going down a second time, Key player for Villa in both halves of the pitch.
18’ - An Ings cutback allows the Blues to break at pace.. Gray runs at goal and his cross across the six-yard box just eludes a sliding Rondon. So close!!
16’ - Digne cross blocked for a corner that Townsend takes, Keane gets his head to it and narrowly wide!
14’ - A rehearsed freekick sees the ball fall perfectly for an Ings shot which goes narrowly over. Well-played Villa, Everton had no idea what to do there.
12’ - Been mostly Villa which is pretty much what we expected even before all the changes to the starting XI.
6’ - Villa win a corner on the Everton right. Mings touch on the inswinger and fantastic save by Begovic, palms it into the air and cleared for another corner. Whew.
Low and cleared and the Blues can counter before Gray is foiled.
4’ - Iwobi is the #10, and a chance for Rondon from a narrow angle, Tuanzebe deflects it out for a corner. Inswinger and Rondon gets to it first, heads over.
1’ - Looking like a back four for Everton here, Mina is the right sided centrehalf and Godfrey at right back.
So we’re ready to kick off at Villa Park with a much-changed lineup.
Update from Everton - "Richarlison misses #AVLEVE with a knee problem while Jordan Pickford has a shoulder injury and Seamus Coleman had a problem in training yesterday." Sounds like Richarlison's injury is related to that wild tackle from Tarkowski on the Brazilian, Pickford’s issue is minor and should be back soon while the captain’s problem is hamstring related, something that’s plagued him for the last few years. No word yet on why James or Gbamin are out.
Starting lineups - Benitez has had to ring up some changes, injury-related it looks like. Richarlison is a big loss certainly, but he wasn’t well-suited for the sole #9 role anyway which Rondon fits better. Begovic has looked like a safe pair of hands in the back so that might be a wash. Godfrey at right back and not in the middle could be a problem against the likes of Ings and Watkins.
The video Everton released of the Blues arriving at Villa Park seemed to show that none of Jordan Pickford, James Rodriguez, Richarlison or Seamus Coleman were on the bus, and youngsters Ellis Simms and Zan Luk Leban were inspecting the pitch with the rest of the squad.
Rafa Benitez appears to have made an immediate impact on the squad with the Blues playing more direct football going upfront while showing resiliency coming from behind in two consecutive home games now.
Away at a packed Villa Park though will be a different challenge, more akin to the game at Leeds where the Blues twice took the lead but we're unable to fend off the hosts and Benitez will be looking for more defensive solidity.
Hosts Villa are still struggling adjusting to life after Jack Grealish, and even though they've invested those funds wisely the attack is yet to get it all together coherently. Dean Smith will be hoping a big home crowd in a feature game will be what his side needs to spark them.
Competition: Premier League Matchday 5
Date and start time: Saturday, September 18th at 9:30 a.m. PT / 12:30 p.m ET / 5:30 p.m. BST
Stadium: Villa Park, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom
Weather: 52°F/11°C, showers, 51% chance of precipitation, 12 mph winds
How to Watch/Listen
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Starting XI: Begovic, Godfrey, Keane, Mina, Digne, Doucoure, Allan, Gray, Iwobi, Townsend, Rondon
Subs: Lonergan, Kenny, Holgate, Gomes, Gordon, Davies, Branthwaite, Simms
Starting XI: Martinez, Konsa, Tuanzebe, Mings, Cash, McGinn, Luiz, J. Ramsey, Targett, Ings, Watkins
Subs: Steer, Hause, A. Young, Nakamba, Buendia, El Ghazi, Bailey, Traore, Archer
The Blues have struggled against Villa since their latest return to the Premier League, drawing twice and losing another two times in four meetings. Last season a COVID-enforced delay meant the two sides faced off twice in a fortnight. Everton drew 0-0 at Villa Park with no fans, but the season before that they were well-beaten 2-0 when fans were still allowed in stadiums in late August 2019 with Marco Silva still in charge.