Everton 1 Villarreal 2: Spanish stylists hand Everton a lesson in European harmony

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The Independent Football

Luciano Figueroa, a two-match flop at Birmingham City last season but with nine goals in 14 games for Argentina, chalked up a crucial away goal for Villarreal midway through the first half. Everton responded with characteristic aggression, equalising through James Beattie before the interval. Far from going in level at the break, however, they were stunned by a goal of rare quality by Josico.

Remembering the tenacious way in which they fended off Liverpool to seize fourth place in the Premiership, it would be folly to write off Everton in the second leg.

But the fretful faces and subdued mood during the closing stages told their own story. Villarreal were invariably more constructive on the ball and their defending at corners after the late appearance of Duncan Ferguson indicated that they will not give up their advantage lightly.

If a lone whisper in the night could change Zinedine Zidane's mind, Moyes was justified in hoping that 40,000 Evertonian voices might be able to create a cacophony that would militate against Villarreal settling into the kind of poised football which swept them to the unprecedented heights of third place in La Liga last season.

This time last year, Moyes was favourite to be the first Premiership manager to lose his job. The giant screens which replayed Everton's victories over Liverpool and Manchester United provided a reminder, as if any were necessary, of the way his team made nonsense of such predictions, as well as a blueprint for beating illustrious opposition.

Phil Neville, who has swapped sides since the latter occasion, took a holding role behind the midfield. A biting challenge on his former United colleague, Diego Forlan, was thunderously received, and a nasty foul on Figueroa seemingly accepted as a necessary evil.

Everton's early pressure, with players breaking at pace in support of the lone striker, Beattie, caused alarm among those guarding Mariano Barbosa's goal. Even Forlan fell on to deep defence at times as shots and corners tested Villarreal's resolve.

Barbosa tumbled melodramatically in a suspiciously delayed reaction to a collision with Tim Cahill. The keeper then bowled the ball into touch when Juan Sorin was well placed to counter-attack - evidence, the crowd's jeers suggested, of a supposedly flaky "foreign" temperament.

Forlan's booking for an ugly revenge foul on Neville, and another for Figueroa after he claimed risibly that Nigel Martyn brought him down, provoked similar disdain. In between Everton had fallen behind to a fine goal by the Uruguayan's strike partner. In the 27th minute, Figueroa stole in front of David Weir after a through-pass by Marcos Senna and rifled an angled shot beyond Martyn into the far corner.

Everton drew level in the 42nd minute after their tactic of probing Villarreal with high balls finally paid off. Neville's curling cross was not cleared, allowing Beattie to prod in the loose ball. Yet on the stroke of half-time, Gonzalo spread the play with a deft pass, and Sorin's cross picked out Josico, whose diving header gave Martyn no chance.

Everton were out on the pitch fully five minutes ahead of Villarreal before the second half, making it no surprise that they pinned their opponents back from the restart. The towering Weir soon signalled Moyes' intention to persist with the aerial siege by heading down a cross by Mikel Arteta. In a crowded area, Simon Davies' goalbound volley thudded into a defender.

Villarreal looked a highly accomplished side. Juan Riquelme seldom wasted a pass, while Senna, and the long-haired Sorin, offered technique as well as industry in support. The Everton manager clearly believed, however, that the key to ruffling their cool lay in physical power and strength in the air, for with an hour remaining he sent on Duncan Ferguson and Marcus Bent.

Almost immediately, Tim Cahill burst on to a long pass and looked set to flick the ball past Gonzalo. The Villarreal defender was taking no chances and cynically cut down the Australian, being fortunate to escape with only a yellow card as the Goodison crowd for once bayed for red.

Pellegrini, acknowledging that the contest was far from over, responded to Moyes' substitutions by sending on an additional midfielder, Alessio Tacchinardi, for Figueroa. The Italian's CV, which includes three Champions' League finals, said much for Villarreal's strength in depth, as well as underlining the severity of Everton's task in Spain in a fortnight.

Everton (4-1-4-1): Martyn; Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Pistone (McFadden, 76); Neville; Davies, Arteta, Cahill, Kilbane (Ferguson,63); Beattie (Bent, 63). Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), Kroldrup, Li Tie, Osman.

Villarreal (4-3-1-2): Barbosa; Javi Venta, Alvarez, Gonzalo, Arruabarrena; Sorin (Pena, 89), Josico, Senna; Riquelme; Forlan (Guayre, 85), Figueroa (Tacchinardi, 65). Substitutes not used: Vallejo (gk), Kromkamp, Font, Valencia.

Referee: T Henning (Norway).

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