Aston Villa slipped a little closer to the seemingly inevitable conclusion to this dreadful season as Everton strolled to an easy victory here at Villa Park, where it took patience on the part of Villa fans to stay long enough to participate in a staged walk-out.
A protest group urged supporters to leave the stadium after 74 minutes – 1874 is the year the club was founded – and while the number who heeded the call in a crowd of just under 30,000 was probably smaller than the organisers hoped, the point was made.
Those who remained preferred to express their displeasure by word rather than action, shouting themselves hoarse in letting owner Randy Lerner, chief executive Tom Fox and new chairman Steve Hollis how they feel as relegation beckons for the first time since 1987.
Humiliated 6-0 by Liverpool in their last home match, Villa were brushed aside by the other Merseyside club with Everton, who had won only three of their previous 13 Premier League matches, barely needing to break sweat as Villa simply gifted them goals, two in the first half-hour through Ramiro Funes Mori and Aaron Lennon and a third from Romelu Lukaku early in the second half, the striker setting a club record with his 17th of the season, the most by an Everton player in a Premier League season.
After the chastening experience of that Liverpool defeat, the last thing Villa needed was to concede an early goal yet were unable to prevent Everton going ahead from the first corner of the night as Ramiro Funes Mori managed to slip away from Micah Richards to head home unchallenged from a Kevin Mirallas delivery.
A gaunt Remi Garde stayed motionless in his seat, yet Villa’s response to the setback at least gave Everton some defending to do. Goalkeeper Joel Robles, called into action when an attempted clearance by Funes Mori cannoned goalwards off Gabriel Agbonlahor, was stretched to push a decent attempt by Ashley Westwood wide of his right-hand post.
The significance of that moment was that it gave Villa a corner, their first in 235 minutes of football, a statistic that tells its own story. Moments later they won another, from which Richards attempted a scissors volley that was spectacular, if always going wide. Villa kept up the pressure, Robles required again to deal with Leandro Bacuna’s shot.
Yet just as it appeared a way back into the game might be within their capability, Villa conceded a second goal. Again, they were found wanting at the back, pushed on their heels by Ross Barkley’s burst through the middle and then stretched when the midfielder’s pass found Mirallas on the left. When the Belgian sent the ball low across the penalty area, no one picked up Aaron Lennon, who deftly guided the ball wide of Brad Guzan and into the net.
By this stage, to compound what was already threatening to become another awful night, Villa already had three players in referee Roger East’s book, Ciaran Clark and Idrissa Gana for fouls, Bacuna for a cynical handball. Lukaku joined them when he caught Clark with an elbow.
Everton’s third goal came after an hour as Lukaku punished more woeful Villa defending, turning the ball home from close range, again without a defender for company.
It was all too easy for Everton. Villa tried to summon the spirit for a fight in the later stages and substitute Rudy Gestede scored with a header, but by then the damage was beyond repair.