The conspiracy theorists will soon be claiming this is some elaborate plot to quell all that opposition to Everton leaving their spiritual home. The team lost at Goodison again and this time so horribly, having thought they had clinched the point they deserved, that their supporters left the place with heads buried in hands while Martin O'Neill ran on to the pitch and hugged his match-winner Ashley Young like an embarrassing parent.
There is a case to say that Everton have still won only once at home this season because they switched off when they should have known better. Villa scored 34 seconds into the game and within 22 seconds of the injury-time restart after Joleon Lescott's wonderfully-deposited second goal had brought Everton level. But a finale like this – Ashley Young's winner arriving three minutes and 32 seconds after the fourth official's electronic board blinked out the number three – defies too many ifs and buts.
If Lescott had not whipped off his jersey and run around so deliriously, perhaps referee Martin Atkinson would have blown up before his strike was rendered worthless. "I don't know what time was over but I thought it was more than three minutes," said David Moyes. "Maybe the celebration was too long, there's always a minimum so I'm sure they'll hide behind that as well."
Moyes' despair was all the deeper for having seen his side dominate play, hit the bar and have two efforts cleared off the line. "I was waiting for a better performance and that was it," he said. But while Everton showed industry, Villa offered sublimity, in the form of Young. Drifting in from the left to link with Gabriel Agbonlahor, he matched Lescott with two goals of his own and the degree of difficulty for the winner was deceptively high. Seizing on a ball laid through by Agbonlahor, Young flicked it around one side of Lescott to wrong-foot him, ran fully 20 yards around the other and deposited the ball before Joseph Yobo could reach him. "He had miles to go," his manager Martin O'Neill said. "I know I'm eulogising but he is world-class; eight-and-a-half stone wet-through and the heart of a lion."
An even greater contribution came from Martin Laursen, who contained an aerial bombardment from Everton. But it was a sign of the wildly-different resources at their disposal that where O'Neill boasts England prodigies, Moyes had only Victor Anichebe in the striking department – with even his fitness in doubt after he hobbled off with a back complaint. Things really are bad when Moyes has to prove that Andy Van der Meyde, appearing for the 19th time in three troubled years, actually exists.
Villa were back up to fifth last night, the spot Everton once called their own, and Moyes did well to hide his sorrow when he said that they are the side with "the players and the financial backing to be likely contenders for a place in the top four." In Young, they had a provider as well as finisher. The game was precisely 33.8 seconds old when he played a ball inside to James Milner which the England under-21 international laid into the path of Steve Sidwell, who unleashed a 30-yard effort. It was the Premier League's quickest goal of the season; the fastest since Ledley King's 10-second effort for Tottenham at Bradford City eight years ago tomorrow.
Everton were a side in shock, seemingly unable to decide who should be the link man for Anichebe, but their fightback came from an unexpected source. Duncan Ferguson, Everton's £15m record signing Marouane Fellaini is certainly not, and that is not just because of the spectacular volume of hair he wears, but Villa's defence could not cope with his height. It took a goalline clearance from Carlos Cuéllar to keep out one header from the Belgian and then the best of Brad Friedel, palming the ball onto the bar after Fellaini arrived to meet an Arteta header minutes into the second half. The same route had provided the equaliser on the half-hour, Leon Osman helping Mikel Arteta's free kick on for Lescott to tap in. Phil Jagielka, of all people, marked his 50th Everton appearance with an atrocious back-pass which Young anticipated and dispatched past Tim Howard on 54 minutes. He then made amends, heading Leon Osman's lofted ball to Cahill, who beat Laursen in the air for once and sent the ball through for Lescott's acrobatic finish. But Young and Villa, of course, were not yet finished.
There was one piece of good news for Moyes last night when O'Neill announced will not be competing with him for Henrik Larssen's services this January: "I would like to keep the memories [of working with him at Celtic] for posterity," O'Neill said. It was cold comfort.
Goals: Sidwell (1) 0-1, Lescott (30) 1-1, A Young (54) 1-2, Lescott (90) 2-2, A Young (90), 2-3.
Everton (4-4-1-1) Howard; Neville (Van der Meyde, 84), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman, Cahill, Arteta, Pienaar; Fellaini; Anichebe (Baines, 87). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Baines, Ven der Meyde, Castillo, Jutkiewicz, Gosling, Kissock
Aston Villa (4-5-1) Friedel, L Young, Laursen, Davies, Cuéllar; A Young, Barry, Sidwell, Petrov, Milner; Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Guzan (gk), Harewood, Dalfouneso, Knight, Reo-Coker, Shorey, Gardner
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Booked: Everton Fellaini, Lescott; Aston Villa L Young.
Man of the match: A Young.
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