Both managers have to settle for the draw as valiant efforts from both sides were not enough to bring out a final winner, but a controversially disallowed goal takes the headlines
The home side were without French striker Louis Saha, who looks set to spend the rest of the season on the sidelines after surgery on his ankle, leaving Beckford to take the striking duties on his own. Jack Rodwell and Tim Cahill were also ruled out through injury, but youngster Seamus Coleman passed a late fitness test and started the game.
Villa, meanwhile, were glad to see James Collins and Richard Dunne return to their defensive line-up, however, Ciaran Clark was still suspended.
Everton began the game in a positive manner, putting on early pressure to show their intentions towards Gerard Houllier’s side, winning an early free-kick around 20-yards outside the Villa area. John Heitinga stepped up to the set-piece, but didn’t even pass the Villa wall and the ball was cleared to safety.
Just minutes later, Beckford was put through on goal, much to his surprise, by a stray back-header that was meant for Brad Friedel. However, the former Leeds man couldn’t get it past Villa’s American ‘keeper and pushed the angled shot out for a corner.
The following set piece also tested the former Liverpool shot-stopper, after Leighton Baines swung in the ball, eventually falling for Coleman whose effort was blasted straight down the middle of goal, forcing Friedel to save with his feet.
Regardless of their own spirit within the game, Villa were only able to threaten Tim Howard’s net through a succession of corners with Dunne going the closest with a header, but his effort flew past the outside of the ‘keeper’s right post.
However, the deadlock was finally broken after 38 minutes with Osman putting the hosts ahead. Working the ball down the left, team-mate Diniyar Bilyaletdinov allowed Osman to collect the ball in his stride. Using a combination of pace and delicate footwork, he was able to out-manoeuvre the Villa defenders and place the ball past Friedel, enabling Everton to go in at half-time with a one goal lead.
However, the Toffees' lead didn’t even last three minutes of the second-half. Stewart Downing cutting inside the right channel allowed himself to find some space on the edge of the area and unchallenged, was able to place the ball towards the penalty spot where a waiting and unmarked Darren Bent was able to power his foot through the pass, causing the ball to fly into the top right-hand corner of Howard’s net.
Howard didn’t help Everton’s cause after a moment of madness when the American came rushing out to challenge Bent, but the ‘keeper could only manage to foul the England international. The resulting set-piece could have led to an immediate second for Villa if Kyle Walker had kept his volleyed effort from inside the area down.
Just a few minutes later, Everton found themselves wondering why they hadn’t regained the lead after a corner from the right found an unmarked Heitinga leaving the Dutchman with a free header on goal, but Friedel found some inspiring luck to save the shot with his own head. Osman tried to follow up the effort, however, his contribution was off target and drifted wide of the net.
Football then showed how punishing it could be after Beckford was put through on goal for Everton and decided to shoot from just inside the box. The ball smacked against the woodwork and appeared to cross the line however, the referee didn’t see it that way, nor did his assistants. Friedel’s following goal kick was quickly taken and through a succession of rapid passing, Bent was through on goal at the other end and the former Sunderland man was able to trickle the ball past Howard to put Villa 2-1 up amidst a shadow of controversy.
David Moyes’ team were saved from taking nothing away from a game they had put so much effort into after Jean Makoun brought down Phil Jagielka just inside the box following a spirited run from the England centre-half. Up stepped Baines to take kick and equalise he did in clinical fashion, powering the ball past Friedel.
Everton then had a flurry of chances but couldn’t take one to ensure all three points and instead both managers had to settle for the draw.
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