Aston Villa head coach Dean Smith is delighted with the progress striker Ollie Watkins has made this season and felt his performance in the 2-1 victory at Everton was one of his best.
But Anwar El Ghazi scored for the second successive match with a brilliant curling effort 10 minutes from time as Villa won at Goodison Park for the first time since 2008.
“I thought he was good tonight and difficult to handle. It’s what we paid a lot of money for,” Smith said of the decision to sign Watkins from Brentford in the summer for £28m.
“I knew what he was and what he was like as a person and how he wanted to grow and get better. I thought he was outstanding tonight.
“I think his game has got better. I’ve always said he is one of the best pressing centre-forwards in the premier League, which is huge praise indeed. He is backing that up with goals.
“He is a lad who used to beat himself up a lot if he missed chances but he gets over that a lot quicker now and that’s a sign of a really hungry and top young player.”
Ancelotti questions attitude after ‘deserved’ defeat
Defeat extended eighth-place Everton’s woeful home league run to one win in the last 10 and put a huge dent in their hopes of putting themselves within striking distance of fourth-placed Chelsea with a match in hand.
This was another hugely frustrating night at Goodison for Everton, who must iron out the mistakes in their final five premier League games if they are to retain any hope of securing a European berth for next season.
Carlo Ancelotti says he is finding it hard to put a finger on why the performances on the road cannot be mirrored back on Merseyside.
“We weren’t good enough,” the Italian said. “It was completely different from the last game we played against Arsenal with more concentration, more spirit and more attitude. The start of the game was really bad and there were a lot of poor passes. We had opportunities but we also conceded a lot and in the end we deserved to lose and so it’s difficult to say why we have this kind of home run.
“You would think we are more comfortable and not so worried when at home compared to when we are away but this is the reality. We’re still in the fight [to finish in the European places] not for what we’ve done at home but for what we’ve done away, for sure. It’s a completely different team with a completely different attitude.”
Only Sheffield United and Fulham have lost more premier League home games than Everton, whose away record is only bettered by Manchester city. Huge lapses in concentration ultimately cost them against an Aston Villa side who looked better prepared.
With James Rodriguez injured in the warm-up, Everton lacked balance. Andre Gomes is easing his way back to full fitness, but he was again wasteful in possession as the hosts struggled to gain a foothold. Ancelotti arrived with a 60 per cent win record as a manager, but he is finding out the size of his task in turning Everton into a side befitting of his illustrious career.
When pressed on the impact of Rodriguez’s absence, Ancelotti added: “He had a little problem and wasn’t comfortable to play. But I think he’s going to play the next game. We had some individual mistakes, but the team spirit and the team-work wasn’t good enough.”
Everton travel to face West Ham on Sunday, live on Super Sunday; coverage starts on Sky Sports premier League and Main Event at 4pm with kick-off at 4.30pm.
Aston Villa are at home to Manchester United on the same day, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 2.05pm.