Having made three changes to his starting XI, if Garde was hoping to build on the point secured against Manchester City before the international break, he was to be bitterly disappointed. The line-up may have suggested a four-man defence but, at times, it seemed like the defence was comprised of the new manager’s invisible friends rather than well-paid professional footballers, whose absence forced the wingers to drop back and allowed the home side to ease to victory.
The hosts were in full control of the game’s early stages and it was painfully obvious that it would only be a matter of time before Martinez’s men fractured the already cracked Villa defence.
The Toffees’ breakthrough came courtesy of an elegant passing move after seventeen minutes started by Barkley and worked by Lukaku, Stones and McCarthy to put Deulofeu through for a shot that Guzan parried well. However, Barkley was on hand to poke the ball into the open net with ease from two yards out.
The goal added to the hosts’ confidence and it took a fine save from Guzan to deny Kone ten minutes later.
However, the American goalkeeper could do nothing to stop the hosts doubling their lead a minute later. The incredibly nimble Deulofeu was again at the heart of his team’s attacking play, bursting into the box where Coleman’s header was skilfully converted by Lukaku to secure his fiftieth Premier League goal and maintain his record of scoring in every Premier League game he has played against Aston Villa.
With the defence dozing, Grealish ghosting and Gil’s grievances glaringly obvious, the Villans were sleepwalking towards another defeat rather than fighting to put a stop to their torrid winless run.
Lukaku proved to be the catalyst in compounding the visitors’ misery just before the break, helped by a botched clearance by Richards and pathetic play from no less than four Villa players. The Belgian striker set up Kone, whose low shot was smothered by Guzan. In what must have been a comical moment for anyone not in claret and blue, the ball slipped away from the Villa keeper and the outstanding Barkley put the ball in the net in the forty-second minute with his second simple tap-in of the afternoon.
The game was well and truly over at half time and most felt that the focus in the second forty-five minutes would be on damage limitation.
With Sánchez replacing Gueye, the Villans emerged for the second half looking a little less lifeless.
Lacking confidence, Veretout was unable to capitalise on Mori’s stray pass, failing to beat Howard with a right-footed shot from outside the box.
Gestede replaced Gil after fifty-six minutes before Richardson offered the Villans some hope a minute later with a good move down the left and a powerful shot that forced a diving save from Howard.
It didn’t take long for Lukaku to bag his brace with a left-footed shot from the centre of the box that he clipped over the Villa keeper and into the centre of the goal after fifty-eight minutes.
The Villans had their chances in the final thirty minutes of the game, with Ayew forcing two saves from Howard and Veretout shooting high.
The arrival of N’Zogbia, who replaced Grealish, after seventy-two minutes did nothing to stop the rot and the hosts cruised to victory.
Speaking post-match, Garde said:
“Everton played a very good game today, better than us. Probably the first thirty minutes we were not good enough to resist. We didn’t want to concede an early goal and we did it. After that it was too difficult. The level between the two teams was too different.”
Sadly, he was right and the Villans remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table.