Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia scored to get Aston Villa’s Premier League campaign up and running with victory over Everton as Steven Gerrard got one over on his old midfield rival Frank Lampard.
The two were facing each other as managers for the first time after years of battles on the pitch in games between Liverpool and Chelsea.
Both had overseen losses in their Premier League openers and it was Gerrard’s side who claimed their first win of the season with a dominant display at Villa Park.
The home side looked on it from the start and got the breakthrough midway through the first half when Ollie Watkins, making his first start of the season, found strike partner Ings inside the box and he turned sharply before firing clinically into the back of the net.
Everton, once again playing without a recognised striker, did not manage a shot on target in the first half, although they did see an Anthony Gordon effort ruled out by the video assistant referee for offside.
Substitute Buendia saw a deflected shot cleared off the line as Vila pressed for a second, which duly arrived in the closing stages when Buendia stabbed in following a good move.
Lucas Digne turned a cross into his own net immediately after to give Everton hope, and they staged a late rally as Gordon was twice denied by Martinez, but Villa held firm to take the three points.
Villa desperately needed a good start to this season after they finished last term with just two wins from their final 10 games, and that poor form continued with a 2-0 loss at newly promoted Bournemouth in their opening game.
Gerrard caused a stir by replacing Tyrone Mings with John McGinn as the Villa captain and starting Mings on the bench against the Cherries, but the former Liverpool captain will probably have felt somewhat vindicated by his decision during this game.
There were no signs of disharmony as Mings put in an assured performance on his return to the first XI, while it was McGinn’s brilliance that led to the opening goal as he won the ball off McNeil before playing a superb pass to Watkins, who then teed up Ings to score.
Villa really should have been out of sight by the time Buendia added a second and the late Everton pressure will have given Gerrard some discomfort – but overall this was a decent Villa display that will provide encouragement for the fans about the season ahead.
Lampard clearly targeted his defence as an area for improvement over the summer with former Burnley centre-back James Tarkowski making his debut in last weekend’s defeat at Chelsea and on-loan Wolves defender Conor Coady starting in this game.
It was an area that certainly needed improving after Everton came close to being relegated last season but this game again highlighted their deficiencies at the other end of the pitch.
They did not manage a shot on target until eight minutes into the second half and it took a slice of fortune to get them back into the game through their own goal.
Everton’s late pressure was encouraging but it is clear the Toffees need reinforcements in attack if they are to avoid another difficult season.
source – BBC Sport