It was not the expected reaction, and it took Everton 87 minutes as they looked defeat in the face to call it.
So there would be a reaction after all. Some kind of reaction. In the end.
VERDICT – Phil Kirkbride reflects on the draw against Aston Villa, where Everton seriously lacked quality
Theo Walcott’s late equalizer could not hide the cracks of an underwhelming and uninspiring performance against a team that had been defeated in the last three games.
Nothing of the sort. They are still in a rut. In the last third their head is empty.
But it came. Not that it mattered much. One point, yes, and preserving Carlo Ancelotti’s unbeaten start in Goodison, but there was little to convince anyone here that Everton had left defeat to the Wolves behind.
As he watched an “unacceptable” attitude prevail in the defeat to the Wolves on Sunday, he collapsed in his chair in the dugout and betrayed little until he vented on his players full-time – and then made his feelings known to the press.
Forget the team, Ancelotti’s reaction was far more revealing. Even though he said afterwards that the spirit and attitude were “good”, the performance was not, and rarely did he attack his players as often as he did tonight at Goodison.
The Blues boss could hardly have complained if he had experienced defeat at Goodison for the first time when Villa took a bad game and deservedly took the lead when Ezri Konsa escaped his shooters after a Conor Hourihane free-kick.
Tonight he roared, hollered and hissed at various players for points over the 90 minutes. At one point he put his head in his hands, but it was a classic Italian drama that added to the effect.
Five minutes later, it should have been 2-0, but somehow Anwar El Ghazi sent Jack Grealish a cross from Jack Grealish far, almost at right angles, when he was less than three feet from goal.
Everton pushed for the winning goal in the four minutes of stoppage time, but had to settle for a barely earned point.
Everton didn’t deserve that bit of luck, but they accepted it and Walcott saved a point when he headed home a low cross from Andre Gomes, which he shot over Pepe Reina and out of Konsa’s desperate lunge.
Behind closed doors, the whistling of chairs folding back and the light applause from the stands or shelters resounded. Had Goodison been fully occupied, the end of this game would certainly have been met with the sound of apathy.
Walcott’s header from Gomes’ second assistant in his blues career was Everton’s only shot at the goal. Conza’s goal was also Villa’s, but they are in the top three, dreaming of staying in the league and playing away. At least until Sunday, the Blues should be a team that aims to qualify for Europe.
A brilliant opening match in the first 10 minutes had raised hopes of a much better game, but these soon faded as the Ancelotti team lost control of a game that became what the guests were in – a dogfight.
It was scrappy, and although it was clear that his players were playing with an improved attitude and a greater desire (it was impossible not to, right?), the quality was not there. Or the supposed difference in quality was not there.
A single goal attempt against the team with the second worst defense in the league is a bad performance…