Leon Bailey’s stunning second-half cameo inspired Aston Villa to a 3-0 victory as Rafael Benitez suffered his first defeat as Everton manager on Saturday Night Football.
After a goalless opening period, Matty Cash struck his first Villa goal (66), moments after Demarai Gray had come close to finding the breakthrough.
Villa were then roared forward by a partisan Holte End and doubled their lead three minutes later when substitute Bailey’s corner was inadvertently glanced into his own net by Lucas Digne.
Things got even better for Villa and for Bailey as he latched onto Danny Ings’ hooked through ball to fire in a third for the hosts in 11 minutes before he departed through injury.
The result moves Villa up to 10th in the Premier League while Everton’s first defeat leaves them in fifth place ahead of the weekend’s remaining fixtures.
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Cash (7), Konsa (6), Tuanzebe (6), Mings (7), Targett (6), Jacob Ramsey (6), Douglas Luiz (7), McGinn (6), Ings (6), Watkins (7).
Subs: Traore (n/a), Young (6), Nakamba (6), Bailey (8).
Everton: Begovic (7), Mina (6), Godfrey (5), Keane (5), Iwobi (6), Allan (6), Doucoure (6), Digne (5), Townsend (5), Gray(6), Rondon (6).
Subs: Kenny (n/a), Andre Gomes (5), Gordon (n/a), Davies (n/a).
Man of the match: Leon Bailey.
Bailey’s 21-minute cameo floors Everton
Everton headed down the M6 for the 207th league meeting with Aston Villa – the most-played fixture in the English top flight – in buoyant mood from an unbeaten start but with key absentees.
Jordan Pickford missed out with a shoulder injury while Richarlison was still feeling the effects of the bruising encounter with Burnley.
It meant a first league start for Asmir Begovic and Salomon Rondon, while Emiliano Martinez was straight back in the Aston Villa goal having reportedly only returned from completing his quarantine in Croatia on Saturday morning.
The visitors made a lively start as Ben Godfrey’s low cross was taken in by Rondon but Axel Tuanzebe did just about enough to divert the striker’s close-range shot wide of the post. From Andros Townsend’s ensuing corner, Rondon flashed a header over.
Everton had lost just two of their previous 17 Premier League away games, but they were indebted to Begovic after six minutes. Douglas Luiz’s corner was met by Tyrone Mings at the near post but the former Bournemouth goalkeeper adjusted his feet to make a sublime one-handed reflex save.
Villa looked to pin their opponents back and an inventive free-kick very nearly paid off. Cash changed the angle for Matt Targett to cross and when Mings laid off Ezri Konsa’s header back across goal to Ings, his shot with the outside of his right boot curled a yard over.
With former Birmingham winger Demarai Gray jeered throughout, Everton always looked dangerous on the counter-attack and Rondon was inches away from being found at the far post from the in-form winger’s inviting cross.
John McGinn took a blow to the head and was later withdrawn in the opening period and replaced by Marvelous Nakamba as Everton were handed an additional concussion substitute, but neither side could find the breakthrough before the break.
Both sides sought to wrestle the initiative upon the restart but it wasn’t until after Bailey replaced Targett on the hour-mark that the second period came alive
Gray has been reinvigorated under Benitez, and he very nearly made it four goals in as many games when he collected Townsend’s pass and curled a low right-foot shot inches wide of Martinez’s post.
It proved a turning point as a minute later, Villa found the opener. With Digne switching off, Cash peeled off the Everton full-back to take Luiz’s pass, push the ball onto his left foot and steer his shot beyond Begovic high into the net.
Digne’s evening got worse as Bailey then took centre stage to play a crucial role in Villa’s second from their next attack.
It was from his wicked inswinging corner that Digne could only glance his attempted clearance beyond the rooted Begovic.
Sky Sports’ Andy Hinchcliffe said: “This is why set-piece delivery is so important. If you whip a ball in like this, it’s brilliant for attackers and a nightmare for defenders. An exceptional ball in from Bailey.”
Everton’s defence was at sixes and sevens as they looked a beaten side and their misery was compounded when Bailey was found in acres of space to run onto Ings’ long ball forward to arrow home his first Villa goal.
It would complete a lively 21-minute cameo from Bailey, who hobbled off to be replaced by Ashely Young with his work done.
Michael Keane headed a Digne free-kick wide of the post, but Everton’s shortcomings were exposed in the absence of key personnel.
Man of the match: Leon Bailey
Bailey has been involved in seven goals in his last seven top-flight appearances (4 goals, 3 assists).
He became the second Aston Villa player to be subbed on, score, and then be subbed off in a Premier League match, after Julian Joachim vs Derby in September 2000.
Sky Sports’ Andy Hinchcliffe:
“What an impact he had on the game. First, a sensational inswinging corner causing all types of problems with Digne heading into his own net.
“For his goal he had all kinds of space to work in, but it was a difficult strike to make with the bouncing ball. The change from Dean Smith bringing him on took the game away from Everton.”
Opta stats – Toffees’ sticky time at Villa
- Aston Villa are unbeaten in their last five Premier League home games (W3 D2), their longest run without defeat at Villa Park in the top-flight since January 2015 (W1 D4).
- Everton have conceded 10 goals in their last four Premier League away games, as many as they had in their previous 14 on the road in the competition.
- Aston Villa earned their biggest win over Everton in all competitions since December 2005, when they beat the Toffees 4-0 in a Premier League match.
- This was Aston Villa’s biggest Premier League victory in a match that was goalless at half-time since they beat Blackburn 4-1 in February 2011.
Aston Villa travel to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday at 7.45pm before visiting Manchester United in the Premier League next Saturday at 12.30pm.
Everton take on QPR at Loftus Road on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup third round (kick-off 7.45pm) before hosting Norwich in the Premier League next Saturday at 3pm.