Read a full match report of the Premier League game between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park on Saturday October 26, 2013, kick-off 15.00 (BST).
This was billed as a contest between Belgium’s burgeoning attacking talents and Romelu Lukaku’s hopes of replacing his close friend at international level will only improve if he continues to remain in this mood.
Lukaku hammered out another message to Belgium manager Marc Wilmots with another powerhouse performance to steal the headlines from Christian Benteke, whose first-half penalty was brilliantly saved by Tim Howard.
Leon Osman added the second goal nine minutes from time to secure Everton their fifth win in six league games and condemn Paul Lambert to another defeat at Villa Park, on a deeply frustrating afternoon for the home team.
Benteke’s miss from the spot completely altered the complexion of the game, at a time when Aston Villa were dominating, and Lukaku’s growing influence for Everton will only enhance his chances of becoming Belgium’s No 1 forward at the World Cup.
Wilmots has been reluctant to play the pair together but Lukaku scored twice against Croatia earlier this month, benefiting from Benteke’s hip injury, and will be in the box seat on this evidence. What a delicious problem for Belgium to have ahead of Brazil next year.
“Romelu is getting stronger, improving with every game and he is stays clear of injuries he can be one of the top strikers in world football,” Everton manager Roberto Martinez said.
“He was a threat all through the game and there are many aspects he is getting better at to fulfil his potential. Chelsea have allowed him to come into an environment for the next ten months where he can benefit and they will get a player who has been well looked after. He is loving his football at the moment.”
Benteke completed 90 minutes in his first start for five weeks but Villa will know this could have had a different outcome had the 22-year-old seized his chance in the eighth minute.
Referee Anthony Taylor had infuriated Cardiff last weekend and forced Malky Mackay into penning a letter of protest but his first decision here was relatively simple.
Andreas Weimann sent Benteke into the area and Seamus Coleman’s flailing leg brought the forward down. Benteke had already missed a spot kick this season, at Arsenal, but this time his penalty was saved, brilliantly, by Howard with the American tipping the ball over the crossbar.
Benteke was equally wasteful midway through the half when he had only Howard to beat, after a sublime attacking move involving Weimann and Aleksandar Tonev, but the Everton goalkeeper was having one of those afternoons.
Everton gradually became more menacing and it was then the turn of Brad Guzan, Howard’s rival in the USA team, to produce two excellent saves to deny Lukaku. Ross Barkley, looking increasingly at home in the heart of Everton’s midfield, in front of England manager Roy Hodgson here, also struck the crossbar from distance as Villa survived a sustained period of pressure.
Villa appeared in control in the second period, without ever really threatening Howard, but they fell behind on 67 minutes.
Osman, a substitute, was released on the left by Leighton Baines and his cross was directed into the bottom corner by Lukaku. It was his fifth goal since joining on loan from Chelsea.
Gabriel Agbonlahor shot straight at Howard soon after but Osman’s brilliantly controlled finish sucked the life out of Lambert’s players.
Villa have only taken 14 points from a possible 51 at home. Lambert said: “I’m not going to sit here and criticise my players because we could have been 3-0 up by half-time.
“Both goals were really poor ones to concede and we seem to find it hard here. It’s something we have to overturn.”
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Bacuna, Vlaar, Baker, Luna (Clark 45); Westwood, Delph, Tonev (Helenius 77); Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor.
Subs (not used): Steer, El Ahmadi, Sylla, Kozak, Lowton
Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Mirallas (Deulofeu 90), Barkley (Osman 60), Pienaar (Naismith 80); Lukaku.
Subs (not used): Robles (g), Jelavic, Oviedo, Stones.
Referee: Anthony Taylor