Match Report: Marouane Fellaini double for Everton denies plucky Aston Villa
Everton 3 Aston Villa 3: Lambert's youngsters squander two-goal lead as Everton's European ambitions are stalled
Sunday 03 February 2013
A miss 49 minutes into a game they really ought to have won may be one of the defining moments of Aston Villa's season. The type of miss talked about afterwards as summing up the besieged campaign, and the sort which, when all is said and done in May, may end up being a contributing factor to the club's relegation.
Ahead 2-1, Andreas Weimann – who was excellent for the majority of proceedings and has been all year – was put clean through in front of the Gwladys Street end. The attacker flashed his shot over the bar. If that goes in, coupled with Christian Benteke's header minutes later, the game is up for Everton.
As it was, Villa could not hold on, despite being two goals to the good. Paul Lambert admitted that he would have taken a draw beforehand, but to come away with just a point was a bitter disappointment, although he was a fairly chipper character compared to the frost he dished out after the FA Cup defeat against Millwall last weekend.
"We deserved to win. You're never going to get an easy game here, but we were great. We should have gone 3-1 up at the start of the second half, but you couldn't fault the way the lads played," Lambert said. "There are not many teams who come up here and beat them. If we continue to play like that, hopefully we will stay up."
Despite the comeback, David Moyes insisted that it was two points dropped in their quest for Champions' League qualification. "At the start of the week if you'd given me a win in the FA Cup and four points I might have taken it off you," he said. "The players kept knocking on the door. I told them at half-time that we might need four to win it. They didn't half keep going, I thought it was a really good game."
Surprisingly, it took only two minutes for Villa to nod themselves in front. Charles N'Zogbia found half a yard to wriggle away from his marker, poking a ball through to Benteke, and the striker held off Jonny Heitinga before stroking beyond Tim Howard. It barely registered within Goodison Park, such was the shock. Everton supporters were pondering why Heitinga had been preferred at centre-half with Phil Jagielka out on a whim at right-back.
The embarrassing defending wasn't exclusive to the hosts. Ciaran Clark was ridiculously shrugged off by Victor Anichebe to restore parity. Three minutes later Marouane Fellaini decided to get in on the act, neglecting Gabby Agbonlahor from Ashley Westwood's cross and allowing Villa to retake the lead.
Lambert turned to the away bench with fists clenched. For him it presented a breather from kicking every ball, willing his side on and providing them with a source of inspiration; a manager who coaches throughout, guiding the Villa youngsters through the game, and acts as a crucial 12th man. If they are to escape, he will drag them over the line, kicking and screaming.
What Lambert cannot legislate for are galling misses or a lack of concentration from set-pieces, which may come back to bite Villa hard, although they scored again through Benteke via another Heitinga defensive mishap. Fellaini struck back to set up a rousing final 20 minutes.
So it was, in six minutes of stoppage time, that Everton squeezed an equaliser their rather lethargic endeavour scarcely deserved. From the second phase of a corner, Fellaini wasn't marked tightly enough, cranked his neck and planted past Brad Guzan. Defending corners is a chronic problem, one that Lambert said he was "sick of talking about".
Asked if, at 3-1, he felt comfortable, the manager reflected: "You're never at ease until it's finished." That goes for this painful season, too.
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