Everton eased to a comfortable 3-1 victory over relegation-embattled Aston Villa at Villa Park on Tuesday.
Villa fans made their feelings about the club’s desperate predicament known with their feet as many staged a walk-out in protest during the home defeat.
Upon their 74th-minute exit, signifying when Villa were founded in 1874, they had endured the best part of an 18th Barclays Premier League defeat of the season as goals from Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon and Romelu Lukaku had Everton firmly in control.
Some had chosen to leave following Lukaku’s strike on the hour and many of those who remained joined them after 74 minutes, angry at the club’s lack of direction as Villa look certain to drop into the Sky Bet Championship.
They missed substitute Rudy Gestede head a reply shortly afterwards but it was far too little, too late and, with the same protest planned for the home games against Tottenham (March 13) and Chelsea (April 2), Villa, still eight points adrift at the bottom of the table, and their fans could have seen their fate already sealed by the time the reigning champions come to town.
Remi Garde’s side made the worst possible start as Everton scored with their first chance of the game when the unmarked Funes Mori powerfully headed Kevin Mirallas’ corner past Brad Guzan from inside the six-yard box.
Villa struggled to get a foothold in the game until midway through the first half as Everton dominated possession, but then had a flurry of chances.
A nicely-weighted pass from Leandro Bacuna put Gabby Agbonlahor through on goal but Funes Mori’s challenge saw the ball ricochet off the Villa forward, forcing a reaction save from Joel Robles, who was fortunate the deflection went straight at him.
Funes Mori frustrated Villa again shortly afterwards by getting across Agbonlahor at the near post to slide in and deny him a certain tap-in.
Then from a Bacuna corner, Micah Richards’ acrobatic volley from just inside the penalty area sailed just over the crossbar and brought roars of approval from the home fans at their team’s endeavour.
So it was deflating in the extreme when Villa were caught on the counter-attack after half an hour.
Ross Barkley led the raid before releasing Mirallas down the left and he played a square pass for Lennon to steer home a low shot.
Everton nearly had a third goal three minutes later. Guzan parried Mirallas’ shot and Joleon Lescott was on hand to clear Bryan Oviedo’s follow-up from just in front of the goal-line.
Guzan made a terrific save to push wide a header from Lukaku, who arrived quickly, timing his run perfectly to meet Lennon’s cross with a powerful effort.
It was 3-0 after an hour from the resulting corner as the big Everton striker turned home Funes Mori’s cross from point-blank range.
It was the cue for some Villa fans to depart. For those who remained, as at Stoke on Saturday, there was more self-mocking, further chants against owner Randy Lerner and a defiant rendition of “Aston Villa….by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.”
A significant number left, as planned, after 74 minutes and four minutes later Jordan Veretout crossed the ball for fellow substitute Gestede to head home from 10 yards out.
Gestede made a nuisance of himself and the impressive Funes Mori threw himself in front of another goalbound effort from the striker before forcing a decent save from Guzan at the other end late on.