Christian Benteke netted a brace to earn Aston Villa three vital points in the race for Premier League survival.
The Belgian scored his 11th goal in nine matches to ensure that his team were one step closer to safety with other teams around them also picking up points. Tom Cleverly netted his second goal in as many matches to make sure the points were safe despite a late Toffees’ comeback.
With Leicester City continuing their survival surge with a win against Newcastle, the Villa players knew they had to produce a top level performance and Tim Sherwood sent his troops out ready to battle from the off.
After a flying start Villa grabbed the opener with 10 minutes gone when Fabien Delph curled in a pinpoint cross from the left which Benteke headed powerfully into the corner leaving Tim Howard rooted to the spot. Everton offered very little in reply with Shay Given back in the Villa goal having an easy afternoon.
On the stroke of half time Villa doubled their lead when a Jack Grealish corner from the left was flicked on at the near post by Ron Vlaar and Benteke was there unmarked at the far post to stab home.
The Toffees’ who despite having nothing to play for in the league at this stage of the season, came out in the second half with a much more positive attitude and in the second minute, Benteke’s fellow countryman Romelu Lukaku went on a surging run which needed the fingertips of Given to tip his 20 yard effort round the post. With 59 minutes on the clock Everton finally got back in the game when a scramble in the Villa box ended with Vlaar bundling over Steven Naismith and Lukaku coolly stroked from the penalty spot.
The goal spurred Roberto Martinez’ men on but any hopes of an equaliser were quickly stubbed out in the 64th minute when a defence splitting pass by Leandro Bacuna was latched upon by Tom Cleverly who slotted into the near post from the right hand side of the area.
With the game moving into injury time, Phil Jagielka headed home a sloppy consolation goal despite a blatant foul on Given by Seamus Coleman but Villa held out for the win.After the game, a happy Villa boss Tim Sherwood was full of praise for his players particularly Man of the Match Fabien Delph. ‘To me he is the best midfield player in the country at the moment. I wouldn’t swap him for anyone,’ he said.
With Leicester and Sunderland picking up important wins, Sherwood was keen to point out that the work to stay in the Premier League was far from over.
'It’s a freak season. Who saw Leicester winning five out of six? If we win the games available to us we will be fine but I think we need to win all three. If we don’t do our job we deserve to go down.’
Everton manager Roberto Martinez said he was disappointed after a ‘fantastic’ result last weekend against Manchester United. ‘I did feel in the first half we were second best in everything we did. Aston Villa were the best side in the first half. We were the better side in the second half but we couldn’t get through the problem of giving away a two goal lead. On the basis of our second half performance we deserved something better.’