Everton 2 Aston Villa 1 match report: Roberto Martinez savours ‘most satisfying’ win of the season

Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas help Everton overcome Leandro Bacuna's shock opener to get their European hopes back on track

Goodison Park

Should Everton ultimately make it to European football next season these might be the dozen minutes in which they did it. Time was sprinting away, the hangover from Tuesday’s debacle in the Merseyside derby was continuing to sting.

Roberto Martinez, their manager, who had been forced to operate without a specialist striker, was gazing at a second straight defeat.

Everton held their nerve, although the crowd, who screeched for the final whistle long before it was blown, did not. The thinness of Martinez’s squad might well count against them – there are not many contenders for the Champions’ League who would be unable to field a centre-forward – but Everton do appear to have the required attitude.

“That is our most satisfying victory of the season,” said  Martinez, who claimed this was less a case of his players suffering from the after-effects of the 4-0 defeat at Anfield as being unable to cope with Aston Villa’s tactics that saw Paul Lambert field three centre-halves and a tightly packed midfield.

“It was a very different tactical puzzle to ones we are used to and we became worried and cagey,” he said. “But this is a team with a knack of looking adversity in the face.

“We showed style and character and you can get excited about the end of the season after a performance like that.”

At Anfield, Martinez had been accused of putting his trust in players who were not properly fit. Here, the catalyst was undoubtedly Steven Pienaar, who is still feeling his way back from injury. He had been brought on at the interval in place of  Ross Barkley, who had lost possession to Fabian Delph for the move, which was beautifully finished by Leandro Bacuna, that produced Aston Villa’s opener.

Pienaar’s flicks and passes had threatened to produce something but too often those alongside the South African had failed to anticipate them. Steven Naismith, however, did foresee a measured flick that Lambert thought Villa’s defence should have intercepted. The Scot was clear on goal and did not miss.

 Until then, Aston Villa, who had been unfortunate to only draw at Liverpool last month, had produced another well-measured performance away from home. Aiden McGeady, the new winger, had struck the post with his first shot at Goodison Park but, thereafter, the closest Everton had come to an equaliser had been Christian Benteke heading past his own post.

Too often they produced crosses for a target who was not there. Romelu Lukaku had been a casualty of the Merseyside derby and, although Goodison did see a newly signed centre-forward on the pitch, Lacina Traore, who has been brought in on loan from Monaco, was only being introduced to the crowd and was, in any case, carrying a hamstring injury.

Crucially, as the game reached a climax, Villa lost their captain and centre-half, Ron Vlaar, to a similar complaint and conceded a free-kick 25 yards out. Leighton Baines might have taken it but Kevin Mirallas (left) insisted and found the top right corner of Brad Guzan’s net.

“Their first goal was disappointing,” said Lambert. “The second was a world-class free-kick.”

Since Everton had invited Eric Bristow, who was hosting an exhibition at Ormskirk, to the game it was tempting to say the darts maestro could not have found double top any better but the Crafty Cockney had left the posh seats by the time that Mirallas struck.

Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Stones (Naismith, 70),  Jagielka, Distin, Baines;  McCarthy, Barry; McGeady (Hibbert, 87), Barkley (Pienaar, 45), Osman; Mirallas.

Aston Villa (3-4-1-2): Guzan; Baker, Vlaar (Albrighton, 80), Clark; Bacuna, Delph, Westwood, Betrand; Weimann (Tonev, 87); Holt (El Ahmadi, 61), Benteke.

Referee: Robert Madley.

Man of the match: Pienaar (Everton)

Match rating: 6/10

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us