Everton lose to Aston Villa in Ferguson’s first game
Duncan Ferguson’s second reign as Everton interim manager started with defeat to Aston Villa at Goodison Park.
The Scotsman stepped in following the sacking of Rafael Benitez but the move did not produce the desired response as Emiliano Buendia’s header in first-half added time settled a scrappy encounter.
Villa’s victory was particularly sweet for former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard as well as ex-Everton defender Lucas Digne, who provided the corner for Buendia’s winner.
The goal was followed by disgraceful scenes as celebrating Villa players were struck by objects thrown from the crowd.
Everton will feel their second-half pressure, based on an aerial bombardment, should have brought some reward as Dominic Calvert-Lewin turned Anthony Gordon’s cross over from close range and Ben Godfrey’s header was scrambled off the line by a combination of Tyrone Mings and keeper Emiliano Martinez.
It leaves Everton with only six points from their last 42, searching for a new manager, and sitting uncomfortably close to the relegation zone of the Premier League.
Where now for Everton?
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright were banking on a ‘bounce’ from the appointment of Ferguson in order to revive a season sliding into danger and which resulted in Benitez’s sacking.
It did not work on a flat afternoon at Goodison Park, which ended with fans staying behind on the Gwladys Street End chanting “sack the board” and waving banners of protest.
A plane also flew overhead before kick-off demanding the removal of Kenwright, who was also a target for abusive chants after the final whistle.
This is a genuine crisis for Everton as they not only face a relegation battle but must also make yet another decisive decision on their next manager.
Even the atmosphere inside Goodison Park was not lifted for long by the talismanic Ferguson’s presence on the touchline, with Everton failing to produce a shot in the first half.
It was a grim spectacle, outlining exactly why Everton have only one win in 14 league games has led to growing unrest among the fanbase.
Everton improved after the break and threatened an equaliser but the danger was based largely on a succession of long balls rather than any guile, although Demarai Gray and substitute Anthony Gordon did their best to provide creativity.
However Everton came up short and once more face a pivotal moment, one they cannot afford to get wrong again.
Aston Villa dig deep for victory
This was a Villa victory based more on sweat than quality, but manager Gerrard will be no less delighted for that.
In a tight first half, any danger was produced by Villa and it was fitting that Buendia’s angled header from a corner gave them the lead as the Argentine was the game’s most dangerous player at that stage.
Villa were presented with a different challenge after the break as Everton turned up the tempo and the pressure, hoping the height provided by Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Mina and Godfrey might make a difference.
The visitors lived dangerously at times but it was a backs-to-the-wall effort that yielded three points as their defenders put bodies on the line to secure an important victory.
Buendia’s excellence was the perfect response to those who felt he might be forced out by the arrival of Philippe Coutinho, who understandably tired as he adjusts to life back in the Premier League.