Frank Lampard chose to keep it close to last weekend’s starting XI, with only two changes to his Everton lineup at Aston Villa — Conor Coady making his debut and Mason Holgate coming in for the injured pair of Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina, with James Tarkowski making up the defence. Jordan Pickford in goal, with Nathan Patterson and Vitalii Mykolenko as the wingbacks. The midfield was unchanged again with Alex Iwobi and Abdoulaye Doucoure, and the same front three of Demarai Gray, Anthony Gordon and Dwight McNeil.
New signing Amadou Onana was on the bench while Allan dropped out after picking up a minor knock. Tom Davies returned from injury to the bench though Andre Gomes is still not in the squad.
This was the 209th meeting between the two sides, the most played fixture in English footballing history. On a hot day in the midlands, Villa started off hot backed by the home support, charging up and down both wings and doing all the early running. Still the Blues held them off well without giving away too many clear chances.
Without that focal point in the attack it was always going to be difficult to sustain possession in the Villa half, and so it proved. About twenty minutes in, the Blues’ industry in the middle allowed them break on a quick counter with numbers, but McNeil’s poor ball to an open Gray meant the chance was initially gone. From a corner, Tarkowski headed the ball down to Gordon to tuck in, but the Everton celebrations were short-lived as the forward was offside.
Villa’s threat was always going to come from out wide and so it proved soon after the half-hour mark. Dwight McNeil gave up the ball and the home side started a quick counter with a long ball to Ollie Watkins. The forward drew Tarkowski wide and then his pass back into the middle was controlled well by Danny Ings, who turned a retreating Doucoure easily and swiveled to shoot past Pickford’s despairing dive on the right to give Villa the lead.
That's some finish from Danny Ings!— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 13, 2022
Aston Villa's number 9 opens the scoring with a quick swivel before slamming the ball into the bottom corner pic.twitter.com/ukJOEqt8Sh
To make things worse, Doucoure looked to have hurt himself on that play and was replaced by Tom Davies, who promptly went into the book for clattering Watkins. The Blues played out the rest of the half without giving up more save a good run from Jacob Ramsey again down the Everton right, and Toffees everywhere would have been relieved to see his low cross evade Coutinho’s slide into the box.
The second half started with more of the same, but the wingbacks did start having more of a say with both Patterson and Mykolenko starting to make forays forward. Lampard made his second sub soon after the hour mark with Rondon coming on for McNeil. That spell ended soon, though the game was getting more stretched at that point with both sides allowing possession in their own half.
As the half wore on it was Villa that grew stronger and had a number of chances to stretch their lead. With under ten minutes to go, Dele came on along with Amadou Onana, with the young midfielder making his Everton debut.
Immediately Onana set about trying to drive the Blues forward, and in a manner of minutes we saw both good and bad from the youngster. He lost the ball in the center circle with five minutes to go and Watkins and Buendia combined well with the latter to score. A minute later the Belgian international charged forward and his delightful cross was turned into his own goal by Lucas Digne, who had done the same at this very ground last season, but for Everton.
A flurry of Villa injuries extended the game late on, but Everton were unable to do enough to find an equalizer and slipped to their second defeat in two games.
Everton’s traveling support were incredible as usual, making themselves heard early on, just as loud as the home crowd.
Surely we cannot go another game without a striker on the pitch. Villa’s defending has not been great and they are susceptible to pace, but without a focal point in the middle it was too easy for the hosts.
Abdoulaye Doucoure unfortunately is no longer the indefatigable machine he used to be. He’s definitely lost a step or two in the last year, and is making up for that loss of pace by doing niggly things like bundling into his man or grabbing shirts.
All that experience in the backline between Tarkowski and Coady is great, but they’re still way too slow. Need some pace in that defence, but doesn’t look like we’ll have it this season.