EPL

Goalkeepers on top as Everton and Aston Villa draw a blank at Goodison Park

By Sports Desk January 14, 2024

Goalkeepers Jordan Pickford and Emiliano Martinez contributed significantly to Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery’s first goalless draw in 97 Premier League matches.

The point meant Villa could not leapfrog Manchester City to go level on points with leaders Liverpool and while it did little for Everton, who are only one ahead of 18th-placed Luton – who have a match in hand – it did at least end a run of three successive league defeats.

A large part of that was down to Pickford, who made good saves from Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins, while Martinez made his presence felt by denying Dominic Calvert-Lewin clean through on goal and also James Garner in quick succession.

However, while the two goalkeepers were on the top of their game at Goodison Park, the men leading their respective attacks were less so.

Calvert-Lewin has not scored for 13 matches and after failing to convert Everton’s best chance he was replaced just past the hour mark having failed to end a run dating back to October.

Watkins’ battle with James Tarkowski was more compelling but ultimately as fruitless as Villa’s 15 shots failed to produce a goal.

This was the 212nd league meeting between the pair – a record in English domestic history – and in the later stages that familiarity bred some contempt as players squared up to each other on several occasions.

Everton captain Seamus Coleman was making his 355th Premier League appearance, a new club record, and while the £60,000 signing from Sligo in 2009 will have enjoyed the clean sheet there was little else to celebrate about his landmark game.

Arnaut Danjuma woefully miscued an early volley from Jack Harrison’s cross and while the return of Abdoulaye Doucoure after five matches made a huge difference it was Villa who looked more constructive in the final third.

Watkins’ angled shot was blocked by Pickford’s knee and although the goalkeeper was beaten by Alex Moreno’s 20-yard strike a lengthy VAR check ruled Bailey, who played the final pass, was offside in the build-up from a short corner.

Pickford’s quick reactions tipped Bailey’s shot around his near post before Martinez proved he could match the England number one in the save stakes.

Danjuma’s through-ball with the outside of his right foot was the perfect invitation for Calvert-Lewin to race through but he never appeared confident, perhaps understandably considering his drought.

The striker – given a reprieve earlier this week when his red card at Crystal Palace was rescinded – was not afforded the same leniency by the Argentinian World Cup winner, who stuck out a foot to block the low shot when anything lifted off the turf would almost certainly have beaten him.

Martinez then made a similarly good stop from Garner low down to his left as he was moving to his right in the breakdown from the Calvert-Lewin attack.

Goalmouth incidents were less frequent in an increasingly fractious second half as referee David Coote struggled to get a handle on a number of strong challenges, several from a pumped-up Tarkowski.

When Danjuma stabbed wide after Harrison’s run down the right it was his – and Calvert-Lewin’s – last involvement.

A flurry of late activity saw Vitalii Mykolenko’s diving block smother a shot from Matty Cash, whose cross was then diverted just wide by the sliding Jhon Duran, before Doucoure raced clear to beat Martinez at his near post only to be denied by an offside flag.

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