A stunning free kick from Kevin Mirallas helped Everton to a hard fought 2-1 victory over an Aston Villa team disappointed to leave Goodison Park without at least a point.
The match looked as if it was heading for a draw on 85 minutes when Mirallas swept a superb right foot shot past Villa keeper Brad Guzan from 25 yards out to steal all three points.
Despite a strong wind and heavy rain showers Everton started the brighter and almost went ahead in the second minute when new signing Aidan McGeady cut inside from the right and curled a left foot shot which came back off the post.
The home team were on top until the 34th minute when Villa scored the perfect counter-attacking goal with their first real chance. Returning England international Ross Barkley was caught in possession halfway in his own half by Villa midfielder Fabian Delph who played the ball forward to striker Christian Benteke in the middle of the pitch. The big Belgian strode to the edge of the box before releasing a perfectly weighted pass to the right hand side of the six yard box where it was met by advancing right back Leandro Bacuna who slotted the ball through the legs of Everton keeper Tim Howard.
Toffee’s boss Roberto Martinez started the second half by taking off Barkley and replacing him with Steven Pienaar which certainly made a difference. Suddenly Everton were on top and it was only a matter of time before they drew level.
The valiant Villa defence stayed strong until the 74th minute when former Villa captain Gareth Barry picked the ball up 25 yards out. He played a short pass to Pienaar on the left and the South African played a wonderful first time pass which sent substitute Steven Naismith clear in the centre of the box and the Scot fired past Guzan's left hand side.
Villa’s hopes of hanging on for a point ended on 85 when centre-back Ciaran Clark gave away a needless foul and Mirallas scored from the resulting free-kick.
Villa created very few chances over the duration of the match but in the dying minutes, substitute Marc Albrighton picked the ball up on the left, cut inside and his effort nearly deflected into the top right corner but to the disappointment of the travelling Villa fans, it went inches over the crossbar.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez was full of praise for his team’s fight back saying ‘it was our most satisfying win of the season’.
However Villa manager Paul Lambert was disappointed that his side’s two recent trips to Merseyside have resulted in just one point despite leading in both matches.
‘It was a world class free kick but I still feel disappointed that we got nothing from the game,’ he said.