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

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests