Both managers have to settle for the draw as valiant efforts from both sides weren't enough to bring out a final winner, but a controversially disallowed goal takes the headlines
A Darren Bent double wasn’t enough to see Aston Villa of the relegation zone as a Leighton Baines penalty saves the day for Everton.The game’s first-half was definitely a counter-attacking affair, with both sides looking to open the scoring on the break, with Everton most certainly the brighter of the two. Both teams were showing a mix of determination and energy, despite the midweek internationals and were putting on a good show for the spectators at Goodison. The hosts took lead after tremendous running and footwork by midfielder Leon Osman saw the Toffees secure a first-half advantage.
However, it didn’t last long with Darren Bent getting two goals in the second-half, the second coming after a controversially disallowed goal from Jermaine Beckford that appeared to cross the line. Leighton Baines had to save David Moyes’ blushes from the penalty spot to keep hopes alive of a top-half finish.
The home side were without the prowess of French striker Louis Saha, who will be facing 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 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 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 the effort could only manage to past the outside of the ‘keeper’s right-post.
On his 10-year anniversary for the Toffees, Tony Hibbert was repaying the faith through a solid defensive display, showcasing his experience with a shot-stopping block on a Nigel Reo-Coker effort, ensuring that Everton would not be the first to go behind in what was becoming an end-to-end battle.
The deadlock was finally broken after a non-stop 38 minutes with Osman putting the hosts ahead. Working the ball down the left, teammate Diniyar Bilyaletdinov allowed Osman to collect the ball in his stride. Using a combination of pace and delicate footwork, he was able to out-maneuver the Villa defenders and place the ball past Friedel, enabling Everton to go in at half-time with a one goal lead.
However, the Toffee’s 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 asking 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 wasn’t so accurate and drifted wide of the net.
Football showed its how punishing it could be after Beckford was out through on goal for Everton and deciding to shoot from just inside the box, the ball smacked against the woodwork and appeared to cross the line. However, 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 was saved from taking nothing away from a game they had put so much effort into after John Ill Makoun brought down Phill Jagielka just inside the box following a spirited run from the England center-half. Baines stood up to the spot to take the equalizing chance and did so in clinical fashion, powering the ball past Friedel.
A flurry of chances at the end for Everton couldn’t help them take all the points from the game, a succession of corners tested Friedel until the end, but to no avail and both managers had to settle for the draw.
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