2008 was a year in which Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa side finished sixth in the Premier League, winning seventeen, drawing eleven and losing ten respectively. The club earned a total of sixty-two points, scoring fifty-four goals overall, which meant that O’Neill led the Villans to a sixth place finish for the second consecutive season.
A major highlight of this campaign was Villa’s astonishing game with Everton on a chilly December evening at Goodison Park.
The contest was highly anticipated – with both clubs challenging for the Premier League’s fourth place prize – and it panned out as a “brilliant spectacle”, as described by a flat David Moyes, who saw his Everton side crumble late on in a game that included five superb goals.
Villa went into the game having drawn two of their previous Premier League games without scoring a single goal and were looking to find the net.
Just thirty-one seconds into the game, Steve Sidewell smashed in a twenty-yard strike to give Villa an early advantage after James Milner delivered the perfect pass for the perfect strike.
Everton were inspired by the early goal and began to control the game when they cancelled Villa’s lead twenty-nine minutes later when Joleon Lescott poked home the equaliser after Leon Osman glanced Mikel Arteta’s free-kick into his path.
The resurgence of the Merseysiders saw Belgian powerhouse Marouane Fellaini’s header cleared off the line by Carlos Cuellar, with another two efforts striking the woodwork.
With David Moyes’ men pushing for that all-important second goal, Phil Jagielka’s lapse in concentration undid all of their hard work when the centre-half woefully slotted Ashley Young through on goal with a back-pass which inevitably saw Everton move back to square one with just fifty-five minutes on the clock.
This time, the Villans looked resurgent and were happy to retain Everton in their own half. Ashley Young broke free on the counter-attack with the chance for his second. However, defender Joseph Yobo dashed any hope Young had of adding to Villa’s advantage.
With time ticking on and the ninetieth minute fast approaching, it looked like Villa had done just enough, however when Phil Jagielka kept a cleared ball alive and with Leon Osman on hand to nod the ball across the claret and blue back line, there was Joleon Lescott again, who acrobatically executed a volley that appeared to have salvaged a draw against his boyhood club in the ninety-second minute.
Yet there was still enough time for another goal, one which every Villa fan will remember to this day.
Gabby Agbonlahor played through a dazzling run by Ashley Young who cut inside Joleon Lescott and curled a stunning effort beyond the reach of Tim Howard into the corner of the Everton net to steal all three-points. Scenes!
I remember shedding a few tears that night…