UNITED KINGDOM: As Steven Gerrard defeated his former midfield rival Frank Lampard, Aston Villa’s Premier League campaign got off to a winning start against Everton with two goals from Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia.
After years of physical altercations on the field during games between Liverpool and Chelsea, the two were squaring off against one another for the first time as managers.
Both teams had suffered defeats in their Premier League debuts, but Gerrard’s team won their first game of the year with a convincing performance at Villa Park.
Ollie Watkins, making his first start of the year, found strike partner Ings inside the box, and he turned sharply before shooting clinically into the net to give the home team the lead midway through the first half.
Everton did not get a chance on goal in the opening period despite having an Anthony Gordon attempt disallowed for offside by the video assistance referee. Everton was once again without a recognised striker.
As Villa pushed for a second goal, substitute Buendia saw a deflected shot cleared off the line. The second goal was eventually scored in the closing minutes 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 Martinez twice denied Gordon, but Villa held firm to take the three points.
Villa bounces back
After finishing the previous campaign with just two victories in their final ten games, Villa sorely needed a strong start this year. However, their terrible run continued with a 2-0 loss to recently promoted Bournemouth in their season opener.
Tyrone Mings was the captain of Villa, but Gerrard sparked controversy by removing him in favour of John McGinn and starting Mings on the bench against the Cherries. Nevertheless, the former captain of Liverpool will likely have felt partly vindicated by his choice in this game.
No traces of discord could be seen as Mings delivered a confident performance upon his return to the starting lineup, and the first goal was the result of McGinn’s brilliant pass to Watkins after winning the ball back from McNeil. Watkins then set up Ings for the goal.
The late Everton pressure will have caused Gerrard some discomfort, but this was a respectable Villa performance that will give the fans hope for the upcoming season. Villa really should have been out of sight by the time Buendia grabbed a second goal.
Everton fails to put pressure
With former Burnley center-back James Tarkowski making his debut in last weekend’s loss at Chelsea and on-loan Wolves defender Conor Coady beginning this game, Lampard obviously identified his defence as an area that needed improvement over the summer.
After Everton came dangerously near to being relegated last season, it was unquestionably an area that needed work. Still, this game once again brought to light their weaknesses at the opposite end of the field.
It took them eight minutes into the second half to manage a shot on goal, and the own goal they scored to tie the game was a stroke of luck.
Although Everton’s late pressure was encouraging, it is evident that the Toffees need offensive reinforcements if they hope to avoid another challenging campaign.
Aston Villa 2-1 Everton
Aston Villa: Ings (31′), Buendia (85′)
Everton: Digne (87′ og)