Aston Villa made it four points from a possible six from European chasing Everton in the space of two weeks.
Dean Smith had to make do without striker Ollie Watkins after his sending off in the defeat against Manchester United at the weekend. Keinan Davis came in for the former Brentford man. All eyes were on the return of Jack Grealish who was named amongst the substitutes.
I did question if we would miss the press from Watkins presence but despite, what was a pretty dull encounter, Villa’s early press was impressive, with Ross Barkley leading by example when he forced Everton to give away an early corner. The resulting corner fell to Bertrand Traore but his shot was blocked.
Seamus Coleman then created a chance, who was finding plenty of space down the right but Dominic Calvert-Lewin was unable to test Emi Martinez.
Villa probably should have taken the lead through Tyrone Mings. Matt Targett’s cross was headed over the bar by Luca Digne and from the resulting corner, Mings headed wide when he probably should have scored.
Matty Cash clashed with Calvert-Lewin late on in the first half which resulted in him being replaced by Ahmed Elmohammady at half-time. I did say it was a dull one!
Emi deserves all the plaudits
Martinez has received plenty of plaudits throughout the season and he deserves it after keeping his 15th clean sheet of the season. He had to work to ensure he kept it in the second half though as Everton upped the pressure.
The first chance came when Gylfi Sigurðsson swung in a free-kick and Martinez made a smart reactive save from Ben Godfrey’s effort.
Then Calvert-Lewin worked the former Arsenal keeper when he leapt to meet Digne’s cross, the ball bounced out to Richalison who could only shoot high and wide.
The late introduction of Grealish would have been a positive for Smith and England manager Gareth Southgate as our captain looked back to his best with a few dangerous dribbles.
The clean sheet for Martinez matches Brad Friedel’s record of 15 for Aston Villa in a single Premier League season. It was probably the biggest positive on a frustrating night for Villa.