Everton 0-2 Aston Villa: Watkins and Buendia plunge Toffees back into drop zone
In-form forward Ollie Watkins bagged a goal for the fifth game in a row as Aston Villa ended Everton manager Sean Dyche’s 100 per cent home record and plunged the Toffees back into the relegation places with a 2-0 win.
Watkins became the first player to score in five successive top-flight matches since Paul Rideout in January 1985 as a result of his second-half penalty.
Substitute Emi Buendia then doubled the scoring not long after, to halt Villa’s poor run and put them level on points with Chelsea, who have played a game less than the Midlanders.
In a game of two goalline clearances by Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Everton’s James Tarkowski, the first goal was always going to be decisive and while it was one of Watkins’ quieter games Dyche must have looked on enviously.
The Toffees boss, who had overseen wins over Arsenal and Leeds in his previous two games at Goodison, started with Neal Maupay – with one goal in his last 28 league matches – and later replaced him with 22-year-old Ellis Simms for just his sixth top-flight appearance.
The folly of ending the January transfer window without strengthening up front was laid bare as the toothless hosts, who have scored just 17 times in 24 league matches, dominated the game but just had no threat in the penalty area.
Their woes were compounded as wins for West Ham and Leeds plunged them back into trouble just when it looked they were edging their way out of it.
Everton have not beaten Villa in eight attempts but they will rue this occasion as one which got away as their dominance should have produced much more than it did, with Amadou Onana’s first-half header tipped over and Maupay’s close-range effort hacked off the line by Mings.
They were made to pay as when Idrissa Gana Gueye brought down John McGinn in the penalty area, with Watkins blasting past England colleague Jordan Pickford.
McGinn was the provider again eight minutes from time when he played in Buendia to shoot past the goalkeeper.
Anthony Taylor’s baffling second-minute booking of Onana for a foul on Douglas Luiz set the tone for a fractious afternoon in the stands, although that was actually a benefit as Goodison is at its best when it rails against a sense of injustice.
But despite turning that negative into a positive the toothless team could not respond accordingly, with Onana’s header from Vitalii Mykolenko’s cross tipped over by Martinez in their best chance of the first half.
Winger Dwight McNeil was again an encouraging outlet down the left but the familiar problem of having the 5ft 6in Maupay up front meant the threat of any dangerous cross dissipated as soon as it entered the six-yard area.
When Maupay did win the ball in the air, from Everton’s second corner of the match delivered by Alex Iwobi, he looped his near-post header across goal and wide.
The Frenchman and Iwobi were both guilty of weak finishes which failed to trouble Martinez while at the other end Pickford, on his 350th club appearance the day after signing a new contract, denied Watkins with a dash off his line.
Early in the second half Mings hacked clear after Maupay’s bundled effort, while Pickford produced a brilliant save to tip Watkins’ downward header onto the post allowing Tarkowski to hook off the line.
But once Watkins had made the breakthrough there only looked like being one winner but Buendia erased any lingering doubt.
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