December 9, 2022

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Everton 1-2 Aston Villa: Anwar El Ghazi stuns Toffees with late curling strike to dent European hope

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Carlo Ancelotti has masterminded plenty of wins at the San Siro and Bernabeu in his stellar career but Goodison Park is giving him a whole heap of trouble.

The Italian has dreamed of taking Everton into the Champions League and boasts one of the best away records in the Premier League.

But they won’t achieve anything when they collapse so regularly on home soil. This was a fantastic Saturday night treat, one of those games neither team deserves to lose, but Everton did and their top-four hopes are now over, eight points behind Chelsea. 

Anwar El Ghazi scored a stunning winner to bag Aston Villa victory over Everton on Saturday

Anwar El Ghazi scored a stunning winner to bag Aston Villa victory over Everton on Saturday

Anwar El Ghazi scored a stunning winner to bag Aston Villa victory over Everton on Saturday

Villa's winger found the space to curl into the top-right corner in the 80th minute

Villa's winger found the space to curl into the top-right corner in the 80th minute

Villa’s winger found the space to curl into the top-right corner in the 80th minute 

Everton had some strong spell but individual errors and moments of naivety hurt their chances

Everton had some strong spell but individual errors and moments of naivety hurt their chances

Everton had some strong spell but individual errors and moments of naivety hurt their chances

MATCH FACTS/PLAYER RATINGS  

Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford 7: Coleman 6, Godfrey 6, Holgate 5, Digne 7; Gomes 5 (Delph 69 6), Allan 6; Iwobi 7 (Bernard 76), Sigurdsson 6.5 (King 82), Richarlison 6; Calvert-Lewin 7

Subs unused: Olsen (Gk), Virginia (Gk), Keane, Mina, Nkounkou, Davies

Goal: Calvert-Lewin 19

Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martinez 6.5; Cash 6, Konsa 6, Mings 7, Targett 6; Luiz 6, McGinn 6; Traore 8 (Ramsey 88), Barkley 7, El Ghazi 7; Watkins 7.5

Subs unused: Heaton (Gk), Taylor, Nakamba, Elmohamady, Hause, Bidace, Wesley, Davis

Goal: Watkins 13, El Ghazi 80

Booked: Luiz, El Ghazi

Referee: Simon Hooper 7

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Evertonians don’t have to look very far to see why. Everton have won only one of their last eight in the league at Goodison and been beaten eight times – a record since the Premier League was reduced to 20 teams.

Against an Aston Villa side who harbour European hopes of their own, the final scoreline could have been five-all.

But after England forwards Ollie Watkins and Dominic Calvert-Lewin traded early blows with a goal apiece, there was a wait until the 80th-minute for the decider when Anwar El Ghazi pulled the trigger from the edge of the box to give Jordan Pickford little chance.

‘I thought it was a very entertaining game,’ said winning Villa boss Dean Smith.

‘It was certainly one of Ollie Watkins’ best performances for us. He’s always been one of the best pressing strikers in the Premier League and now his link up play is improving and he’s adding goals. 

Ollie Watkins stuck early, profiting from Mason Holgate's error at the back to slide in low

Ollie Watkins stuck early, profiting from Mason Holgate's error at the back to slide in low

Ollie Watkins stuck early, profiting from Mason Holgate’s error at the back to slide in low 

‘He used to beat himself up if he missed chances. He’s got over that. It is a sign of a really hungry player.’

Everton may have sensed it wouldn’t be their night when James Rodriguez pulled up injured in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Alex Iwobi at short notice.

Ben Godfrey and Mason Holgate formed a young centre-half pairing while the more experienced Michael Keane and Yerry Mina stayed on the bench and Watkins ran them ragged and with a bit more composure could have bagged a hat-trick.

The die was cast after 13 minutes which proved particularly unlucky for Holgate. There was little pressure on him when he comfortably received a square pass on the edge of his box but inexplicably turned back to his own goal and had his pocket picked by Watkins.

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The Villa striker stumbled as Holgate tried to retrieve the situation with a last-gasp tackle but creditably continued his run instead of going down and was rewarded by planting a low finish past Pickford.

It was the 25-year-old’s 15th goal of an impressive debut season in the Premier League club and he should be in Gareth Southgate’s England squad now it’s been extended to 26 players.  

Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed in the equaliser moments later from Lucas Digne's corner

Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed in the equaliser moments later from Lucas Digne's corner

Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed in the equaliser moments later from Lucas Digne’s corner 

The striker bagged his 15th goal of the season and was a menace to the Villa centre-backs

The striker bagged his 15th goal of the season and was a menace to the Villa centre-backs

The striker bagged his 15th goal of the season and was a menace to the Villa centre-backs 

So too will Calvert-Lewin who quickly headed Everton level with his 20th of the season but only his second goal in eight games.

Lucas Digne’s corner was floated towards the far post where Calvert-Lewin beat a cluster of players including his former Everton team-mate Ross Barkley to head in.

The early goals help produce a remarkably open game. Three times Watkins was denied by outstanding stops by Pickford and the visitors also hit the woodwork twice through El Ghazi and Barkley who enjoyed success running at a hesitant Everton defence.

Pickford also pulled off a double save to deny Bertrand Traore whose attacking threat meant the injured Jack Grealish wasn’t missed for once.

But it wasn’t one-way traffic and Everton also had opportunities. Calvert-Lewin threw himself at a Digne cross and connected with a low diving header – reminiscent of a former Everton hero Andy Gray – that was brilliantly pushed away by Emiliano Martinez.  

Calvert-Lewin went close again moments after his goal with a diving header which was saved

Calvert-Lewin went close again moments after his goal with a diving header which was saved

Calvert-Lewin went close again moments after his goal with a diving header which was saved 

Jordan Pickford had a goodgame, making some big saves from Watkins in the first-half

Jordan Pickford had a goodgame, making some big saves from Watkins in the first-half

Jordan Pickford had a goodgame, making some big saves from Watkins in the first-half 

Twice Gylfi Sigurdsson crept into the penalty area and had goalbound efforts blocked by Tyrone Mings throwing his body in the way.

Worried about the chances Everton were surrendering, Ancelotti tweaked things tactically in the second half, reverting to a 4-4-2 with Sigurdsson on the left to help stop Traore and Richarlison playing closer to Calvert-Lewin up top on the Brazilian’s hundreth league outing for Everton.

Gradually, Everton gained some control. John McGinn was rushed into giving the ball away to Iwobi who made a hash of his finish. Martinez did well to clutch onto a driven centre by Digne and Richarlison fired wide from an acute angle.

Yet Watkins still buzzed around to give Everton nightmares and having hit the woodwork 20 times this season, a Premier League high, Villa probably felt they deserved they got the late win. 

Holgate's error for the opening goal continued a theme of mistakes in the Everton back-line

Holgate's error for the opening goal continued a theme of mistakes in the Everton back-line

Holgate’s error for the opening goal continued a theme of mistakes in the Everton back-line 

It was another cracker. Traore drove through the Everton backline and released a pass to El Ghazi on the left edge of the penalty area.

As Seamus Coleman came out to cover, Villa’s Dutch international cleverly used him as a marker to bend his shot around the defender and past Pickford into the far corner.

Everton are due to move from Goodison to a shiny new stadium at Bramley-Moore dock in 2024. Ancelotti will wish it was going to happen in August.

‘It is unbelievable, the run we’re having at home compared to the run away from home. It is the same team that won at Arsenal seven days ago but we had less concentration. We gave up a lot of chances,’ he said.

‘It is difficult to say why but we were not good. We didn’t have balance. But the season is not finished. 

There are five games and we have to keep fighting.’ Everton may yet reach the Europa League but the Champions League, which Ancelotti has won three times, is gone.

Watkins led the line superbly for the visiting Villains at Goodison Park on Saturday night

Watkins led the line superbly for the visiting Villains at Goodison Park on Saturday night

Watkins led the line superbly for the visiting Villains at Goodison Park on Saturday night

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