Stubborn Aston Villa deal Everton major blow to European aspirations
The European hopes of Everton were dealt another late-season blow after failing to break down Aston Villa’s stubborn resistance in a 0-0 draw.
Aston Villa were boosted by the return of Jack Grealish to the bench. The talismanic playmaker will be hoping for an eye-catching end to the season with his spot in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 England squad not yet secured.
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The three points on offer would have a greater bearing on the course of Everton’s season, however. An away win here would keep their faint hopes of bagging a top four finish and Champions League football alive.
Those hopes almost suffered an early hammer blow when Tyrone Mings spurned a glorious opportunity from close range.
Douglas Luiz kept a corner alive before picking out Mings. With the goal seemingly gaping, the centre-half powered his headed effort narrowly wide from barely six yards out.
WHAT. A. CHANCE
Tyrone Mings heads wide from six yards out
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That opportunity would prove to be a rare sight of goal throughout the half, with each side cancelling each other out in the midfield in the opening half hour.
Richarlison caught a rare glimpse of goal with 10 minutes left before the break, but scuffed his left-footed shot harmlessly wide from the edge of the area.
On the stroke of half time, Dominic Calvert-Lewin (knee knock) and Matty Cash both received treatment, with the Villa full-back being replaced by Ahmed Elmohamady after suffering a hamstring complaint.
Calvert-Lewin was able to shake off his knock during the interval and looked lively after the break. The England centre-forward forced a smart stop from Emiliano Martinez in a one-v-one situation, though the goal would have ultimately been ruled out for offside.
Grealish was made to wait for his return despite warming up at half-time, though Villa almost notched without him on the hour mark.
Everton failed to clear a corner that fell to the feet of John McGinn. The Scotland international fired goalwards, though couldn’t direct his shot through the swarm of bodies in the area.
Grealish was handed his return to action with 20 minutes remaining, but it was Everton who went close to breaking the deadlock through Andre Gomes.
The Portuguese fired low and hard from 20 yards out, but Elmohamady was expertly positioned to provide a vital block.
Calvert-Lewin remained the visitors’ greatest threat, but was frustrated by Martinez once more when the Argentine repelled his late close-range header.
There was further work remaining to preserve parity, with Mings colliding with his own goalkeeper when slashing clear a dangerous cross destined for Calvert-Lewin.
That would prove to be the game’s final decisive moment as both sides were made to settle for a 0-0 draw.
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