ASTON VILLA 1
L. Young 9
Luke Young’s early goal proved to be enough to secure victory for Aston Villa, as they fought hard to hang to their lead against a strong Everton side to record a second Premier League victory of the season.
It has been a difficult week for the Villains, losing embarrassingly to newly promoted Newcastle United last weekend and then being knocked out of Europe midweek. Yesterday’s result was the perfect tonic for Kevin MacDonald’s side.
Villa’s system under MacDonald resembles a cross between a 4-4-1-1 and a 4-2-3-1. With two deeper central midfielders anchoring the midfield, two genuine wingers and Ashley Young playing off a lone striker as the primary creative focus. On Sunday their system looked more like 4-4-1-1 with Everton controlling the game better than their opposition in the first-half, forcing Mark Albrighton and Stuart Downing into deeper positions.
The home side took an early lead, against the run of play and through the unlikely source of full-back Young. Marouane Fellaini’s sliced clearance fell to Ashley Young who spotted his namesake’s driving run and slipped him in with a clever reverse ball, and the right-back’s finish was clinical.
Everton had looked to take the game to Villa. The Toffees, who have had a poor start to the season, started the better of the two teams, controlling the midfield with the power of Fellaini and the poise of Mikel Arteta. After going behind Everton continued to dominate, forcing Aston Villa deeper. The Villains struggled to keep hold of the ball and were unable to launch any real counter-attacks in the first half. Despite this pressure Everton struggled to create a meaningful opening, thanks largely to the discipline of Villa’s back line.
Most of Everton’s success came down their left, with Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar exploiting Albrighton’s unwillingness to track back and poor defensive positioning. It was Pienaar who came closest to levelling in the 18th minute with a curling effort form the edge of the box.
The second-half was very open affair and a delight to behold for the neutral. Villa lacked composure in the first-half with Nigel Reo-Coker and Stiliyan Petrov both struggling to assert themselves in midfield. In the second-half Villa again struggled to take control of the game but were much more threatening on the counter attack.
Ashley Young was again Villa’s best player – his direct running after the break was a constant threat to Everton’s defence. The Villains’ best chances in the second-half came through Young. It was his half-blocked shot that forced and great save from Tim Howard on 60 minutes and later it was his parried shot after a driving run that fell to Albrighton, who with the goal seemingly at his mercy, sliced the ball over the bar.
As the game progressed Villa again were forced to defend deep, with Everton camped in their half trying to work an opening. The Blues won a series of corners but could not force a goal that would have earned them the draw they deserved.
It was Villa’s stubborn defensive display that won them the game. Everton might count themselves somewhat unlucky but they failed to create any real clear cut chances. The return of James Collins at centre-back helped bring added security to the Villains’ defence, and he, Richard Dunne and the 39-year-old Brad Friedel were the rock for Villa as the side’s collective discipline and strength proved sufficient to secure victory in a game that could have been won be either team.
2 L. Young – 29 Collins – 5 Dunne – 3 Warnock
12 Albrighton – 20 Reo-Coker – 19 Petrov – 6 Downing
7 A. Young
66 – 11 Agbonlahor on for 10 Carew