Aston Villa returned to winning ways when they took on Everton at Goodison Park in the most played fixture in English football.
Goals from Ollie Watkins and Anwar El Ghazi on either side of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal gave Villa all three points as they jumped back into the top half of the Premier League.
Dean Smith decided to stick with the same side that drew with West Bromwich Albion last weekend and he was rewarded with his decision.
Everton came close early on through Alex Iwobi when he received the ball from Richailison but his shot was blocked by Tyrone Mings.
Despite the early scare, Villa settled quick and looked the more dangerous in arguably their best-attacking performance for some time.
John McGinn came close but his thumping effort went flying over the bar but on the thirteenth minute, the away side got themselves ahead.
Watkins was causing problems for Mason Holgate from the off but he didn’t learn his lesson and then the forward stole the ball from the Everton defender. Watkins could have easily gone down and probably did Holgate a favour and stayed on his feet before slotting past England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Everton strike back
Despite looking more dangerous, it was just a matter of minutes before the home side were level.
Luca Digne swung in a delicious cross and Calvert-Lewin was able to climb above Ross Barkley to head the ball past Emi Martinez.
Moments later things could have got worst but Martinez wasn’t allowing Calvert-Lewin the opportunity to double his tally for the afternoon after the striker got on the end of another Digne cross.
Then it was the time for Pickford to show why Gareth Southgate still regards him as his number one. It wasn’t to be an off day for the goalkeeper or the score could have been embarrassing for European chasing Everton.
Pickford denied Bertrand Traore twice in quick succession with the best save coming when the winger tried to lob the keeper who was off his line but he was able to push the ball over the bar.
Then it was the turn of Watkins who got on the end of a Matty Cash cross but Pickford was strong in a point-blank save. Barkley then came close but the ball ran loose for El Ghazi whose effort cannoned off the bar.
Just before half time, Villa hit the woodwork again – the 20th time they have hit the woodwork this season, more than any other team in the Premier League. Traore skipped away from Digne and found Barkley, he then used Watkins run to create space before firing a low shot past Pickford but off the base of the post.
El Ghazi earns Villa all three points
Everton were a different outfit after the break and looked stronger in midfield after a tactical tweak from Carlo Ancelotti.
The home side were stronger but Villa were still a threat on the counter-attack as Watkins smashed a ball across the face of the goal but no one was able to get on the end of the cross.
Douglas Luiz then had a chance on the edge of the box but did too much and nearly gifted Everton the winner when they won the ball off him and counter-attacked themselves but Calvert-Lewin’s effort summed up the Toffees performance on the day.
Moments later, El Ghazi showed a lot more composure when he picked up the ball from Traore before stepping inside and curling a shot over Pickford into the top corner.
It was a much better performance from Smith’s men who have struggled since Jack Grealish picked up his injury. Smith challenged his side to show they were not already on the beach and they didn’t disappoint.
On another day, Villa could have scored 3-4 as Everton were not at the races. Up next for Villa is the visit of Manchester United to Villa Park.