Aston Villa survived a late Everton flurry and secured their first victory of the 2022/23 Premier League season at Villa Park on Saturday afternoon.
Danny Ings and Emi Buendia scored in the first and second halves, respectively, as Steven Gerrard guided Villa to a 2-1 win. The side captures its first three points one week after surrendering a 2-0 loss to newly-promoted Bournemouth.
After a long stretch of sustained possession, Ings put Villa on the board in the 31st minute when the forward took a pass from Ollie Watkins in the box, spun, and beat Jordan Pickford with a pacey left-footed strike.
On the other side of halftime, Buendia broke with Watkins and played a give-and-go before beating Pickford at the far post in the 86th minute. Buendia came on as a substitute for the injured Philippe Coutinho in the 60th minute.
Villa’s two-goal advantage would only last one minute, though, as Everton saw the deficit cut in half courtesy of Lucas Digne’s own goal in the 87th minute. The tally set up a nervy ending, as the Toffees piled on late pressure and nearly salvaged a draw. Late defensive heroics from Emi Martinez, Tyrone Mings, and Calum Chambers preserved the Villa win.
Diving deeper: Aston Villa 2-1 Everton
Gerrard’s Villa lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation against Everton, a departure from the 4-3-3 used in the loss to Bournemouth. Mings replaced Ezri Konsa in central defense and formed a formidable partnership with Diego Carlos (who picked up a knock and may be out long term).
Boubacar Kamara was stellar at the base of an unchanged three-man midfield, while Jacob Ramsey and John McGinn had much better showings after subpar outings last week. Ramsey recorded 13 progressive carries and was key to Villa’s build-up play.
Coutinho played in behind a two-man front line consisting of Ings and Watkins but struggled to impose himself before exiting with an injury in the second half. Ings and Watkins were bright throughout; the former was a constant threat in the box and the latter was credited with two assists.
Despite a dicey final few minutes, Villa were a much improved side at home to Everton. They maintained 58% possession, created three big chances to Everton’s one, completed 517 passes, and held an expected goals (xG) advantage of 2.53 to 1.62.
At Bournemouth Villa were resigned to creating from wide areas and never imposed themselves in the middle of the park. In the first half against Everton, it looked like Gerrard’s side were set to fall back into old habits, but the strong play of Ramsey and the introduction of Buendia in the second half changed the scope of the match as Villa began to take control of the space at the top of the Everton box.
Gerrard’s squad is still very much a work in progress, but three points and a couple of goals will surely help jumpstart Villa’s season.
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