Ollie Watkins scores again for Aston Villa to send Everton back into drop zone
In-form Ollie Watkins scored for the fifth successive match in a 2-0 victory over Everton which ended new manager Sean Dyche’s 100 per cent home record and dropped the club back into the Premier League relegation zone.
The 27-year-old’s 63rd-minute penalty saw him become the club’s first player to achieve the feat in the top flight since Paul Rideout in January 1985.
Substitute Emi Buendia made the game safe eight minutes from time to halt Villa’s three-match losing run.
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.