El Ghazi strikes late against Everton

Anwar El Ghazi scores at Goodison Park
Anwar El Ghazi struck the winner in the 80th minute at Goodison Park

Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti says his side missed a big opportunity to stay in contention for a finish in the European places as the Toffees lost at home to Aston Villa.

Anwar El Ghazi’s superb second-half strike secured victory for the visitors and dealt a significant blow to Everton’s chances of finishing in the top four of the Premier League.

El Ghazi curled home from the edge of the box with 10 minutes remaining to secure Villa only their third win in their last 11 league games.

Everton had started the day six points off the top four but this defeat, coupled with a win for Chelsea, means they are now nine points adrift of Thomas Tuchel’s side.

“We lost a big opportunity to stay in the fight,” Ancelotti told BBC Sport. “We’re still in the fight but with less possibility and more difficulties.

“We didn’t start the game as well as this kind of game demands. It was an important game and would have been an important result.”

El Ghazi’s winner was the only highlight of a relatively flat second half that failed to build on a pulsating first.

Ollie Watkins opened the scoring when he pounced on a mistake by Mason Holgate before slotting past Jordan Pickford.

However, Everton hit back soon after when Dominic Calvert-Lewin powered home a header following a corner.

Home keeper Pickford then twice denied Watkins with excellent saves to keep Villa at bay, while ex-Everton midfielder Ross Barkley struck the post with a low effort from range.

But despite Pickford’s best efforts Villa secured the three points when El Ghazi struck late on.

The defeat leaves Everton eighth on 52 points while Villa are four points behind in ninth.

Pickford heroics can’t save Everton

Jordan Pickford makes an excellent save against Aston Villa
Aston Villa could have been out of sight in the first half but for some excellent saves by Jordan Pickford

To have still been in the conversation for a top-four finish at this stage of the season is impressive for Everton, but the Toffees will perhaps wonder what might have been if their home form had been just marginally better than it is.

The Toffees have collected just 19 points from 17 home matches, with eight of those games ending in defeat.

“It’s unbelievable. It’s difficult to explain why, but it’s true,” Ancelotti said of Everton’s home record.

“The away run we have is also unbelievable. The home run has affected us in the table. I hope it doesn’t affect us in the end.”

After such an impressive win at Arsenal last time out, Everton never really got going against a Villa side that looked hungrier for the victory from the outset.

Indeed, the visitors could have won by a bigger margin but for some excellent saves by Pickford.

He came off his line quickly to prevent Watkins from adding a second not long after opening the scoring, and produced a stunning save to somehow deny the striker again at the back post.

It was arguably Pickford’s best performance of the season and bodes well for England with the European Championship starting in just over a month.

Watkins impresses as Southgate watches

Another player with European Championship aspirations is Villa striker Watkins, and this performance will have done his chances of convincing Gareth Southgate to make a place for him in his squad no harm.

The England boss was watching in the stands as Watkins took his tally in an excellent debut Premier League season to 13 goals, and he could easily have added a couple more to that total.

But aside from his goals, Watkins offers impressive work-rate in attack and he was a constant menace for Everton with his pressing from the front.

He was there to steal the ball from a hesitant Holgate to open the scoring and, for a 20-minute period in the first half, the Toffees were unable to get a handle on his determined runs off the ball.

It was another impressive display from the former Brentford striker and with games against Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea still to come, Watkins has plenty more chances to further underline his credentials to Southgate.

“I thought he was good and difficult to handle. It’s what we paid a lot of money for,” Smith said of his £28m summer signing from Brentford.

“I knew what he was and what he was like as a person, and how he wanted to grow and get better. I thought he was outstanding tonight.”

Woodwork woes for Villa – the stats

  • This was the 205th top-flight meeting between Aston Villa and Everton, the most played fixture in England’s top division – Villa have won 75 times to Everton’s 76 (54 draws).
  • Aston Villa have won more games (20) and scored more goals (73) in the Premier League against Everton than they have vs any other side in the competition.
  • Everton have won just one of their last 10 home league games (D3 L6), with that victory coming against Southampton in March (1-0).
  • Aston Villa have won eight away games in the Premier League this season – their highest total in a single campaign since 2009-10 (nine).
  • In contrast, Everton have lost eight times at Goodison Park this term, only in 1993-94 have they lost more in a Premier League season (nine).
  • No Premier League side has struck the woodwork on more occasions in the Premier League this season than Aston Villa (20).
  • Aston Villa’s Anwar El Ghazi has scored eight Premier League goals in 23 games this season – twice as many as he’d scored last term in 34 appearances.
  • Ollie Watkins has scored 13 goals in the Premier League this season – only one Englishman has scored more for Aston Villa in a single season in the competition (Julian Joachim, 14 in 1998-99).
  • Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who netted his 20th goal in all competitions this season, has scored the most headed goals in the Premier League this term (seven).

What next?

Everton travel to fifth-placed West Ham on Sunday, 9 May (16:30 BST) while Aston Villa are at home to Manchester United on the same day (14:05 BST).

Player of the match

WatkinsOllie Watkins

Everton

  1. Squad number1Player namePickford

  2. Squad number9Player nameCalvert-Lewin

  3. Squad number12Player nameDigne

  4. Squad number23Player nameColeman

  5. Squad number22Player nameGodfrey

  6. Squad number6Player nameAllan

  7. Squad number10Player nameG Sigurdsson

  8. Squad number21Player nameAndré Gomes

  9. Squad number7Player nameRicharlison

  10. Squad number17Player nameIwobi

  11. Squad number11Player nameKing

  12. Squad number20Player nameBernard

  13. Squad number4Player nameHolgate

  14. Squad number8Player nameDelph

Aston Villa

  1. Squad number11Player nameWatkins

  2. Squad number2Player nameCash

  3. Squad number21Player nameEl Ghazi

  4. Squad number26Player nameMartínez

  5. Squad number4Player nameKonsa

  6. Squad number18Player nameTargett

  7. Squad number15Player nameTraoré

  8. Squad number7Player nameMcGinn

  9. Squad number5Player nameMings

  10. Squad number20Player nameBarkley

  11. Squad number41Player nameRamsey

  12. Squad number6Player nameDouglas Luiz

  13. Squad number39Player nameDavis

Line-ups

Everton

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Pickford
  • 23Coleman
  • 22Godfrey
  • 4Holgate
  • 12Digne
  • 6Allan
  • 21André GomesSubstituted forDelphat 70′minutes
  • 17IwobiSubstituted forBernardat 76′minutes
  • 10G SigurdssonSubstituted forKingat 82′minutes
  • 7Richarlison
  • 9Calvert-Lewin

Substitutes

  • 5Keane
  • 8Delph
  • 11King
  • 13Mina
  • 18Nkounkou
  • 20Bernard
  • 26Davies
  • 31Neves Virgínia
  • 33Olsen

Aston Villa

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 26Martínez
  • 2Cash
  • 4Konsa
  • 5Mings
  • 18Targett
  • 6Douglas LuizBooked at 41mins
  • 7McGinn
  • 15TraoréSubstituted forRamseyat 88′minutes
  • 20Barkley
  • 21El GhaziBooked at 90minsSubstituted forDavisat 90+2′minutes
  • 11Watkins

Substitutes

  • 1Heaton
  • 3Taylor
  • 9Wesley
  • 19Nakamba
  • 27El Mohamady
  • 30Hause
  • 39Davis
  • 41Ramsey
  • 52Philogene-Bidace

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