Had Archbishop John Sentamu sought some divine inspiration before making his case against Easter Day football, then he might not have chosen this fixture to talk about. The sides contesting it have now thrown the kitchen sink at each other on four occasions in the past year, collectively scoring 19 goals in the process. If the Archbishop's choice of words had prompted any soul-searching before the game – "Do not think ... 22 people chasing a ball around is all life is about," he said of the TV scheduling – then they described what most who had watched the match actually did think, before the day was done.
David Moyes was certainly enthused by the spectacle, even though he left Villa Park aggrieved by Howard Webb's decision to award Villa the penalty which saw them take a point and not to award one, as he well might, for Curtis Davies' second half push on Jo. Joleon Lescott certainly seemed to be watching the ball when he raised a foot which Stiliyan Petrov dropped his head into for the spot-kick which Gareth Barry converted. "He's not seen [Petrov] and he's put his foot up," Moyes said of Lescott. "I don't think his boot catches him." Moyes felt an indirect free-kick for dangerous play would have been more appropriate.
"It's not good criticising the refs – maybe if you criticise them the week before you get an effect the week after," the Everton manager added. He'll encounter Steve Bennett, not Howard Webb, in next Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United but clearly wants to head south with a sense of calm. He certainly has reason to do so.
As Everton's players warmed up, Villa screened footage as of Ashley Young's stinging injury-time winner at Goodison Park in the clubs' last fixture but Moyes' side have lost only twice since then and the way they swept past Gareth Barry and Petrov for long periods of the first half – Steven Pienaar was particularly effective in phases of immaculate passing – will give United plenty to think about. Everton fans are currently enjoying the "we're going to Wembley twice" song and that might not be too wildly optimistic.
Martin O'Neill, without a win in 10, was the manager with the furrowed brow. The Champions League "utopia" has now gone for Villa, he admitted, even though Arsenal have the top three sides still to play and, as O'Neill put it, "you shouldn't down tools".
Villa's performance was a vibrant one when they recovered from Everton's start – John Carew tormenting Joleon Lescott, and Ashley Young causing Tony Hibbert difficulties. But Villa, for whom Gabriel Agbonlahor will have a hamstring scan today, have still won only five games in the last 16. At Villa Park, where they are perhaps allowed less space to play, they have five wins all season. They have conceded at least twice in the seven games since Martin Laursen was injured.
Asked what it will take to penetrate the top four, both managers replied: "Money", though O'Neill's case is open to more debate, since only Manchester City spent more than his £40m in the summer. Moyes has spent £22m in the past year, £15m of that on Marouane Fellaini, and has the better knack of getting performances where you least expect them. Fellaini has gradually come to justify his record price tag and it was he who nipped in ahead of Gareth Barry for his eighth goal of the season, after some uncharacteristically neat footwork from another of Everton's hair bear bunch, Jo, allowed Leighton Baines to cross. Fellaini's height is distracting and contributed to Davies letting Tim Cahill escape to meet Pienaar's corner for Everton's second.
Everton found the same difficulties with Carew, who spun on a ball which was ricocheting around the box to pull a goal back. Jo, going some way to proving he can perform away from Goodison, began the move which saw Pienaar holding off Luke Young to re-open the two-goal advantage. But James Milner curled in an exquisite free-kick after Cahill fouled Barry 30 yards out, and after the penalty had equalled things out, Young and substitutes Nathan Delfouneso rained efforts on Howard's goal. A wonderful advertisement for Easter football.
Goals: Fellaini (18) 0-1; Cahill (22) 0-2; Carew (32) 1-2; Pienaar (52) 1-3; Milner 2-3; Barry (66).
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel; L Young, Knight, Davies, Shorey; Milner, Petrov, Barry, A Young; Carew, Agbonlahor (Delfouneso, 53). Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Sidwell, Salifou, Reo-Coker, Gardner, Albrighton.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert (Jacobsen 65), Jagielka, Lescott, Baines; Osman, Cahill, Neville, Pienaar; Fellaini; Jo (Saha, 80). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Van der Meyde, Castillo, Saha, Jacobsen, Rodwell, Gosling.
Referee: H Webb (South Yorkshire).
Booked: Everton Hibbert, Neville.
Man of the Match: Cahill.
Attendance: 40,188 .