Aston Villa will take a much needed point from their clash with Everton at Goodison Park, but they'll be left to once again rue their inability to protect a lead in a game that could have had much greater rewards. Christian Benteke opened the scoring in the 2nd minute, but Everton responded by taking control of the game and equalizing through Victor Anichebe 20 minutes later. Villa would reply in encouraging fashion just three minutes later when Gabby Agbonlahor headed past Tim Howard from a corner, and after spending much of the next 45 minutes on top Benteke added a second with a tremendous diving header to finish an excellent attacking move.
But from there it was all Everton, and after Marouane Fellaini bent a low shot past a diving Brad Guzan just shy of the 70 minute mark it set up a nerve-wracking finish that saw Villa penned in to their own half the rest of the way. Villa managed to hold strong through regulation but when six minutes of added time were announced a sense of inevitability set in and it was Fellaini once again, this time from a corner, to bring the home side level and add two more to the tally of points Villa has surrendered from winning positions.
This was yet another game where Aston Villa's strengths and weaknesses were on full display. When on top of the run of play they look a confident, classy attacking side whose midfield organization makes them very difficult to break down. When on the back foot they look a shambles, unable to get the ball out of their own half and, on the rare occasions they find themselves in possession in midfield, unable to link to the attack in any meaningful way. The last 25 minutes of the game felt like an eternity, and it would come as no surprise to hear that the Toffees had somewhere in the neighborhood of 85% of the possession over that spell.
The response to Everton's first goal was refreshing and unexpected, but the response to their second was all to familiar. At that point it felt as though it would take a miracle to hang on to the lead, and though the effort was admirable in the end the pressure was just far too much to endure for so long. And while it was another set piece that proved to be their undoing, Villa looked much better in that regard today; in the end, there were so many of them to deal with that conceding was to be expected. And while it's at first blush encouraging that Villa had excellent spells in both the first and second halves, in the end the result was the same. This was another furstratingly inconsistent performance, and while the highs were brilliant the lows were too much to overcome.
The result is made worse by things out of Villa's control, as Reading grabbed a late equalizer against Sunderland and moved two points clear of Villa while Wigan drew Southampton and stayed ahead on goal difference. While keeping Southampton within three points is important, it's becoming more and more difficult to deny that Villa will be in the relegation fight right until the end. Nothing that happened today could have changed that single-handedly, but another two points would have been a huge relief and an encouraging sign that this team is in fact capable of seeing out games and beating quality opponents. While their were certainly some positive things to take from this game, the current situation is far too dire for moral victories. They need actual victories, and with a very tough run of games on tap it's difficult to be optimistic that there are very many of those upcoming.