Everton vs. Aston Villa: 6 Things We Learned
First-half goals for Christian Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor, coming either side of a strike from Victor Anichebe, gave the visitors a shock 2-1 lead at halftime.
Despite intense waves of Everton pressure, a second goal from Benteke looked to have wrapped up the points for a clinical Villa with just 30 minutes left to play.
However, a late double from Marouane Fellaini, the first on 69 minutes and the second deep into injury time, ensured both sides went home with a point.
The game was a gripping spectacle from first to last, fiercely contested and generally played at a rapid tempo.
Both sets of supporters will still go home frustrated; however, given the scoring pattern, Villa fans will perhaps be the more dejected.
Here are six Everton-related talking points to emerge from this encounter.
Heitinga a Liability
Guilty of a comical gaffe in the midweek game against West Brom, John Heitinga was once again the main culprit in defence, at fault for all three of Aston Villa's goals.
He was first exposed one-on-one against Christian Benteke in just the second minute of the match. The ease in which the Belgian striker strode past him to score was, quite frankly, embarrassing and didn't augur well for future exchanges.
Thirty minutes later he was partially to blame for Villa's second strike, offering little resistance in front of Gabby Agbonlahor, although Marouane Fellaini was perhaps equally culpable too.
For Villa's third, Heitinga was once again left with Benteke as a deep cross was glanced in by the Belgian forward with the Dutchman left hapless again.
He was hauled off the pitch soon after this third error, but the decision to start him against such a powerful front man—a scenario he's struggled with before—must surely go down as a major mistake from David Moyes.
Heitinga suffered throughout the contest against Benteke and was brushed off with consummate ease on a number of occasions.
Many fans felt he was lucky to keep his place after his blip against West Brom, especially with this season's best centre-back—Phil Jagielka—continuing out of position at right-back.
This latest contribution has surely ruled him out of the lineup for the Toffees' next game at Old Trafford.
Fellaini to the Fore
Not for the first time this season, Marouane Fellaini stood up with his team reeling and somehow rescued a result for his side.
With the Toffees unable to find a way through a stubborn Villa defence, the Belgian scored twice to secure a 3-3 draw.
He gave Everton a lifeline at 3-2 by guiding a Victor Anichebe lay-off past Brad Guzan and then beat Ron Vlaar in the air to head home a dramatic late equaliser.
The comeback gave Everton their 21st point from a losing position this season, the second-best Premier League record after Manchester United's 27.
Agbonlahor and Villa with Typical Returns
Every side has certain players and teams that consistently prosper against them, regardless of form.
For Everton, Aston Villa and Gabby Agbonlahor are exactly that, and both combined to hurt the Toffees despite their awful run of form.
Although Christian Benteke will rightly get the plaudits for his efforts up front, Agbonlahor's strike was perhaps Villa's most vital.
With the game levelled at 1-1 there was huge momentum shifting Everton's way, a surge that could have easily seen Villa crumble to a heavy defeat.
The fact he scored just three minutes after Anichebe's riposte deflated Goodison Park and ensured his side had something to hold onto after halftime.
Agbonlahor scored his first ever goal against the Toffees and today's strike was his seventh in all. Despite a 3-0 win at Villa Park this season, Everton have now won just one league game in 14 against today's opponents.
Their last home win in the Premier League was a 4-1 victory back in 2006—a game in which Agbonlahor scored on his debut.
Aston Villa have been poor defending set-pieces this season, a trait Everton seemed determined to act upon and further expose.
In total, the Toffees sent in 42 crosses, their highest amount of the season, but only one cross—Leighton Baines' last-minute corner—resulted in a goal.
Few other deliveries caused as much trouble as Everton did when they chose to create space and play through their opponents.
The Toffees weren't helped by a general lack of quality, as only eight of 42 crosses found a man, with far too many easily cleared at the near post.
Everton's approach is generally to exploit the flanks, but it shouldn't always be to then whip in a delivery. Today, they were simply far too one-dimensional.
When the ball was kept on the floor and played into the area, Villa appeared far more on edge and were undone that way for both of the Toffees' first two goals.
Crosses should be sent in on a regular basis and are an understandable last resort, but 42 was simply too much of a reliance that Villa began expecting.
Fellaini and Anichebe Hit Career Bests
Both Everton scorers hit career landmarks in this contest and have been large success stories for the Toffees over the course of the season.
Anichebe struck his sixth goal of the campaign, his highest seasonal tally for Everton, while Fellaini's brace gave him 11 so far. That surpassed the nine he struck in his inaugural campaign with the Toffees back in 2008/09.
Both of them are two of their side's most attack-minded players, and their success in front of goal has helped mask and compensate for some of the continuing struggles of Nikica Jelavic.
In a season where Everton's main front-man has been misfiring, the contributions of Anichebe and Fellaini have been crucial and must continue for the Toffees to keep pace in the race for fourth.
Glossing over the statistics, this was a game well and truly thrown away by the Toffees through individual failings.
For the first time this season they conceded three goals, yet restricted their opponents to just eight chances and eight shots at goal.
In 25 Premier League games this season the Toffees have only restricted three sides to fewer shots, illustrating just how clinical Aston Villa were and how lethargically Everton defended.
Concentration is a fundamental asset for any top side. Defenders must be accustomed to watching their team dominate while remaining switched on and focused for the chance of a counter-attack.
That's a trait Everton—and specifically John Heitinga—were badly lacking today and fully paid for.
At the other end of the field, the Toffees scored three times for the first time since September, but they also fashioned out 17 chances and 21 shots in the process.
They have only shot at goal and been more creative in three games this season.
For that kind of differentiation in statistics to not end in a win, there has to have been some major individual errors and several poor choices made at both ends of the field.