Aston Villa fans stage walkout during home defeat to Everton
Aston Villa fans made their feelings about the club's desperate predicament known with their feet as many staged a walk-out in protest during the 3-1 home defeat to Everton.
Upon their 74th-minute exit, signifying when Villa were founded in 1874, they had endured the best part of an 18th Barclays Premier League defeat of the season as goals from Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon and Romelu Lukaku had Everton firmly in control.
Some had chosen to leave following Lukaku's strike on the hour and many of those who remained joined them after 74 minutes, angry at the club's lack of direction as Villa look certain to drop into the Sky Bet Championship.
They missed substitute Rudy Gestede head a reply shortly afterwards but it was far too little, too late and, with the same protest planned for the home games against Tottenham (March 13) and Chelsea (April 2), Villa, still eight points adrift at the bottom of the table, and their fans could have seen their fate already sealed by the time the reigning champions come to town.
Remi Garde's side made the worst possible start as Everton scored with their first chance of the game when the unmarked Funes Mori powerfully headed Kevin Mirallas' corner past Brad Guzan from inside the six-yard box.
Villa struggled to get a foothold in the game until midway through the first half as Everton dominated possession, but then had a flurry of chances.
A nicely-weighted pass from Leandro Bacuna put Gabby Agbonlahor through on goal but Funes Mori's challenge saw the ball ricochet off the Villa forward, forcing a reaction save from Joel Robles, who was fortunate the deflection went straight at him.
Funes Mori frustrated Villa again shortly afterwards by getting across Agbonlahor at the near post to slide in and deny him a certain tap-in.
Then from a Bacuna corner, Micah Richards' acrobatic volley from just inside the penalty area sailed just over the crossbar and brought roars of approval from the home fans at their team's endeavour.
So it was deflating in the extreme when Villa were caught on the counter-attack after half an hour.
Ross Barkley led the raid before releasing Mirallas down the left and he played a square pass for Lennon to steer home a low shot.
Everton nearly had a third goal three minutes later. Guzan parried Mirallas' shot and Joleon Lescott was on hand to clear Bryan Oviedo's follow-up from just in front of the goal-line.
Guzan made a terrific save to push wide a header from Lukaku, who arrived quickly, timing his run perfectly to meet Lennon's cross with a powerful effort.
It was 3-0 after an hour from the resulting corner as the big Everton striker turned home Funes Mori's cross from point-blank range.
It was the cue for some Villa fans to depart. For those who remained, as at Stoke on Saturday, there was more self-mocking, further chants against owner Randy Lerner and a defiant rendition of "Aston Villa....by far the greatest team the world has ever seen."
A significant number left, as planned, after 74 minutes and four minutes later Jordan Veretout crossed the ball for fellow substitute Gestede to head home from 10 yards out.
Gestede made a nuisance of himself and the impressive Funes Mori threw himself in front of another goalbound effort from the striker before forcing a decent save from Guzan at the other end late on.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"A double nutmeg for Lennons goal and Evertons second. COYB" - ex-Toffee Kevin Sheedy (https://twitter.com/kevin11sheedy/status/704765123676733440)
Brad Guzan: 6
Micah Richards: 5
Ciaran Clark: 5
Joleon Lescott: 5
Aly Cissokho: 5
Idrissa Gana: 4
Ashley Westwood: 4
Leandro Bacuna: 6
Jordan Ayew: 5
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 4
Rudy Gestede (for Agbonlahor, 66) 4
Jordan Veretout (for Westwood, 71) 4
Joel Robles: 7
Seamus Coleman: 7
Phil Jagielka: 7
Ramiro Funes Mori: 8
Bryan Oviedo: 6
Gareth Barry: 6
James McCarthy: 6
Ross Barkley: 7
Aaron Lennon: 7
Kevin Mirallas: 7
Romelu Lukaku: 6
John Stones (for Coleman, 73) 6
Leighton Baines (for Oviedo, 81) 6
Oumar Niasse (for Mirallas, 88) 6
Ramiro Funes Mori: Tormented Villa at both ends of the pitch. Scored early on with a free header and set up Lukaku for Everton's third goal. The Argentinian, who got up and down the pitch all night, made a couple of important blocks inside his own penalty area too.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
The planned 74th-minute walk-out by some Villa fans in protest at the club's lack of direction, as they seem certain to find themselves in the Championship. An 18th Premier League defeat leaves Villa marooned at the bottom of the table and still eight points from safety.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Roberto Martinez will have been satisfied to see Everton keep their long unbeaten run of Premier League away games going - with their only defeat on the road this season still at Arsenal in October - although it was a comfortable night for his team.
Villa boss Remi Garde once again cut a forlorn figure. He knows his players, despite putting in the effort again as they did at Stoke at the weekend, just are not good enough to get themselves out of trouble.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Bacuna was booked in the 27th minute for a deliberate, and needless, handball right in front of the dugouts. The Dutchman pushed the ball out of play with both hands, cutting out a long pass over the top from Lukaku. It could cost Villa later in the season as yellow cards tot up. That was his eighth of the campaign.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Manchester City v ASTON VILLA, Premier League, March 5
EVERTON v West Ham, Premier League, March 5