Super Eagles midfielder Alex Iwobi made his Everton debut in the English Premier League in their 2-0 defeat against Aston Villa Friday evening and almost scored his first goal for the club but was denied by the woodwork.
A first-half goal against the run of play from Aston Villa striker Wesley and substitute Anwar El Ghazi’s stoppage-time effort condemned Everton to a first Premier League defeat of the season.
Everton had twice come close to an equaliser in the previous two minutes when El Ghazi squeezed the ball under Jordan Pickford in the last of five added minutes.
The Blues had been parked in Villa’s half for the majority of the opening 21 minutes when Brazilian forward Wesley ran onto a pass from Jota and steered his finish into the bottom corner,
Substitute Iwobi was the width of a post from marking his Everton debut with a goal eight minutes from time.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was close for the Blues before half-time, while Everton piled on the pressure towards the end without being able to crack a resolute home team – Theo Walcott steering over his side’s clearest opportunity.
For the hosts, their breakthrough could not have come at a more opportune moment. Villa Park was jumping before the game and for most of the opening 10 minutes, this storied old stadium generating a din to split your ears.
Everton’s dominance, though, was sucking the life from those Villa supporters so excited to be back among the big time.
There didn’t appear any immediate threat when the home team took a quick free-kick on halfway. Jota speeding through the middle changed the complexion of events, The Spaniard perfectly timed his pass to Wesley, the striker looking like he was dicing with the linesman’s flag at first glance but definitely onside and free to slid the ball across Pickford and inside the keeper’s right post.
Wesley was away again moments later, released by the same player. Yerry Mina recovered to make the last-ditch tackle and limit the damage inflicted on Everton in a period out of keeping with the rest of the opening half.
Villa struggled to keep tables on the visitors from kick-off, a situation perfectly exemplified by Frederic Guilbert, the French right-back making his debut, being outwitted by Bernard and gratefully accepting the booking he received for hooking down the Brazilian.
On six minutes, Everton were convinced they had a good claim for a penalty. Richarlison traded pass with Gylfi Sigurdsson, an exchange which left Jack Grealish caught in the lights and trying to recover`
Grealish tagged his man and sent Richarlison sprawling but referee Michael Oliver didn’t agree with the visitors’ take on events.
Everton would have levelled juat past the half hour were it not for Bjorn Engels. The Villa centre-back blocked a goalbound strike from Dominic Calvert-Lewin following tremendous approach play by Morgan Schneiderlin and Seamus Coleman.
Belgian Engels clenched his fist and roared his delight in recognition of his own work.
The same player had endured a testing start to the match. He was robbed by Dominic Calvert-Lewin early on and had injury added to insult when Tyrone Mings inadvertently booted his defensive partner in the face.
Not long after Richarlison roamed forward to unleash a shot which Engels deflected for a corner.
Gylfi Sigurdsson took it, skilfully flighting the ball to Lucas Digne who met it square on the volley from 20 yards. The Frenchman’s piledriver struck the towering Mings flush on his body.
Grealish curled wide of the far post after conjuring his own space on he left on the stroke of half-time.
Sigurdsson and Digne combined to release Andre Gomes for a cut-back intercepted by Engels nine minutes after the break – Mina too high with his header from Digne’s resultant corner.
They might have found containing Everton a devilish task in the opening phase of the game but the home players had scooted about at a million miles per hour.
With an advantage to protect, Villa’s chasing and tackling gave way to a more measured tactic.
The hosts were dropping off, allowing Everton to progress so far before engaging – and reserving their more rapid work for the occasional raid.
It was enough to energise the locals who raised the volume once more.
Marco Silva and assistant Luis Boa Morte were locked in conversation and straining to make themselves heard.
The upshot of their discussion was a double change, Iwobi on for his Everton debut and Moise Kean also introduced, with Bernard and Sigurdsson’s numbers going up.
Iwobi promptly won his side a corner, served up by Digne and met once more by Mina, this time heading low but foiled by a blocking defender.
Everton’s possession share – around the two-thirds mark for the first 70 minutes – was steadily climbing.
Digne crashed a volleyed delivery into the box after being fed the increasingly influential Gomes. Iwobi gathered but the sting was taken out of his shot by Engels and Heaton was able to claim.
Iwobi and Digne’s fledgling relationship was showing promising signs and when the former slid in the latter, Digne’s centre ignited a scramble close to Villa’s goal.
They managed to smuggle the ball behind nonetheless and when the following corner was recycled Schnederlin smashed over from 18 yards.
Iwobi’s near-miss arrived on 82 minutes. He fed Andre Gomes with a quick free-kick and surged into the box to meet Michal Keane’s knock down.
The former Arsenal player did nearly everything right, standing up his defender and sending a shot scudding into the base of Heaton’s left post.
Anwar El Ghazi, on for Villa, forced Pickford to parry a looping drive from distance. Everton responded through Iwobi tearing down the left and squaring for Walcott whose side-footed volley was too high to trouble Heaton.
Digne’s strike from a Walcott delivery travelled a similar route and Villa promptly broke to wrap up the points when El Ghazi strode onto John McGinn’s pass and rammed his finish under Pickford.
Match report: Everton FC website and Newslegend.com.ng.