Aston Villa 2 Everton 0: Agbonlahor too quick for Everton defence

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The Independent Football

Consistency is not an attribute always associated with younger players but, at 20, Gabriel Agbonlahor continues to prove an exception. The England Under-21 international has started every match bar one during Martin O'Neill's 13 months at Villa Park and shows no signs of flagging, either in energy or form.

The leading scorer last season with 10 goals, Agbonlahor underlined his determination not to slip in his second campaign by scoring for the second consecutive home match as Villa comfortably subdued opponents missing Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta.

Agbonlahor scored Villa's second against Chelsea three weeks ago, since when he has also scored his first goal for the U21s, against Montenegro. Remarkably, this was his third in four matches against Everton. He scored a debut goal against the Merseysiders at Goodison in March last year and hit a vital equaliser in last season's meeting at Villa Park.

Yesterday's was a goal, in technical terms, that he will enjoy in his mind time and again after he controlled a huge clearance from the goalkeeper, Scott Carson, with one touch as he stole a march on Everton's static back four, setting the ball up to be slotted past Stefan Wessels.

"I think you can measure his progress in the goal he scored," O'Neill said. "We are very pleased with him. He wants to play centre-forward but he has done a job for us on the wide right and still managed to get a couple of goals."

O'Neill was happy to exonerate Agbonlahor over a clash with a team-mate, Marlon Harewood, at the end of the match. The pair squared up to each other, apparently over Agbonlahor's decision to run the ball towards the corner when Harewood was in a position from which he felt he might have scored.

"I can see where Marlon is coming from but I'm with Agbonlahor in this instance," he said. "I was always taught that what you don't do when the clock is ticking down is give the ball away and put yourself under unnecessary pressure. It carried on into the dressing room but they are fine now."

Until the second goal Everton held hopes that they might find a way to cancel out the 15th-minute strike by John Carew that had given Villa the advantage. But at no stage did they look likely to score more than one goal.

Zat Knight and Martin Laursen formed a commanding duo at the centre of the Villa defence, with Olaf Mellberg and Wilfred Bouma providing strength on both flanks. Moyes was so frustrated with his starting forwards, Andrew Johnson and Victor Anichebe, that he took off both with 22 minutes left, although James McFadden and Ayegbeni Yakubu hardly fared better.

Johnson, after his two missed penalties in the Uefa Cup, remains without a goal in 16 games since he scored the winner against Arsenal in March.

Everton's strikers might have been spared, however, had Moyes had the wherewithal to change his defence. Joseph Yobo and Leighton Baines failed to clear the Wilfrid Bouma cross that led to Carew driving home Villa's opener, while the back four froze to allow Agbonlahor – by then playing down the middle in place of Carew, having started on the right – his clear run at Wessels.

Unluckily for Carew, whose goal was his first of the season, Villa suspect their Norwegian striker may have suffered knee ligament damage.

Goals: Carew (14) 1-0; Agbonlahor (60) 2-0.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Carson; Mellberg, Knight, Laursen, Bouma; Agbonlahor, Reo-Coker, Barry, Young; Carew (Gardner, 53), Moore (Harewood, 80). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Davies, Maloney.

Everton (4-4-2): Wessels; Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Baines; Pienaar, Jagielka, Neville, Osman; Anichebe (Yakubu, 68), Johnson (McFadden, 68). Substitutes not used: Ruddy (gk), Valente, Carsley.

Referee: L Probert (Gloucestershire)

Booked: Aston Villa Agbonlahor.

Man of the match: Laursen.

Attendance: 38,235.

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