Pictures and analysis of Everton 3 Aston Villa 3

Yet another missed opportunity for Aston Villa who will struggle to turn the corner this season until they learn how to defend one.

Yet another missed opportunity for Aston Villa who will struggle to turn the corner this season until they learn how to defend one.

It’s getting beyond a joke now isn’t it? A frustrating 12 times in cup and league games this season Villa have conceded from corner kicks.

And the apparent inability of team to defend set-piece situations at crucial times could well prove the difference between survival and relegation.

This was Villa’s eighth Premier League game without a win and although the players showed moments of genuine quality against Everton, which belied their position two points adrift of safety, a lack of defensive nous emphasised the need to develop a backbone if they are to beat the drop.

Perhaps what is most frustrating is that the claret and blues had actually coped with the threat pretty well and defended 14 corners adequately until one lapse in injury time from a flag-kick cost them.

Manager Paul Lambert said afterwards he was “sick of talking about corners” but he will keep getting asked about it until he is able to remedy one of Villa’s long-standing ills.

We are assured that the players spend hours on the training ground working on how to defend set-pieces. Clearly not long enough because these elementary mistakes continue to creep in.

Similarly, this enthralling draw at Goodison Park completed an unwanted hat-trick for Villa this season – the third time they have thrown away a two-goal lead.

Nine points should have been banked from the home game against Manchester United and away fixtures with Albion and Everton rather than two they have ultimately managed to take.

A lack of tacit knowledge on how to kill a game, waste time and stifle the momentum of the opposition has been so abundantly clear in all three contests.

Despite those gripes, though, this was a thoroughly entertaining clash as Villa became the only team to score three goals at Goodison Park this season.

Lambert had made three changes from the side which lost to Newcastle as Karim El Ahmadi, Andreas Weimann and Gabby Agbonlahor came in for Barry Bannan, Nathan Baker and Darren Bent.

Deadline day signings Simon Dawkins and Yacouba Sylla were both handed places on the bench.

Villa were the first to strike when they caught the Everton defence half asleep to take a surprise lead in the second minute.

Charles N’Zogbia, who continued his impressive form of recent weeks, evaded three blue shirts after he picked up the ball inside the Everton half and slid a perfectly-weighted pass for Christian Benteke.

The powerful striker ghosted past John Heitinga before firing across Tim Howard and into the corner of the net.

Everton responded with a spell of pressure as Marouane Fellaini whistled a shot past the post while Victor Anichebe stung the palms of Villa keeper Brad Guzan.

Inevitably, the home side levelled when Kevin Mirallas fed the ball into Anichebe in the 21st minute and he held off Ciaran Clark before he swivelled and struck a low shot past Guzan.

However, the claret and blues took the lead for a second time three minutes later. Everton failed to clear a corner and Ashley Westwood swung a high ball into the box for Agbonlahor, who got in between Heitinga and Fellaini, to head home.

David Moyes’ side continued to pose the greater threat in the first half and Villa were given a lucky escape when Leon Osman’s shot was cleared off the line.

Villa missed a chance to increase their lead on the counter-attack moments after the interval when Agbonlahor played a clever through-ball to send Weimann clear but the Austria striker fired over.

Everton dominated possession as the second half wore on but it was Villa who made it 3-1 in the 61st minute when Lowton played a one-two with Weimann and delivered a brilliant cross for Benteke, who got in front of the hapless Heitinga and stooped to a head past Howard.

Villa were able to shut out the game from a similar position across Stanley Park against Liverpool in December – their last league win in fact –but Everton had a two-goal Belgian hero of their own to call upon as Villa came unstuck against Toffees midfielder Fellaini.

Everton pulled one back in the 68th minute when the Fellaini cut inside from the left and played a clever one-two with Anichebe before he rifled the ball into the net from near the penalty spot.

The remainder of the contest saw Villa pinned back into their own half as Everton peppered the visitors’ goal and predictably the equaliser came in injury time from a corner.

Leighton Baines swung a high ball into the area and the not-so-subtle afro of Fellaini evaded the attentions of Ron Vlaar and Clark to power a header past Guzan.

By Timothy Abraham