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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 February, 2005, 16:50 GMT
Aston Villa 1-3 Everton
Leon Osman struck twice as Everton stylishly outplayed Villa to stay on course for a Champions League place.

Osman nodded in Tim Cahill's cross as Everton took control of the first half.

Nolberto Solano slotted in seconds after the break, but Cahill headed the visitors back in front almost instantly from Marcus Bent's floated cross.

Everton continued to dominate, scoring a deserved third when Osman turned in Cahill's pass, with Villa's only reply another Solano shot which hit the bar.

The win puts Everton eight points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool, although their arch-rivals have a game in hand.

Villa had Darius Vassell back on the bench after injury, while Everton recalled midfield man Cahill after suspension.

And Cahill was a key figure in an impressive first 45 minutes from the visitors.

Early on, he threaded a pass through for Bent, and it needed a desperate challenge from Olof Mellberg to deny the striker as he shaped to shoot.

But there was no escape for Villa after 16 minutes when Everton deservedly went ahead.

Kevin Kilbane found Cahill on the left flank, and his cross drifted to the far post where Osman, who had raced the length of the field, arrived unmarked to score with a simple header.

Bent almost doubled Everton's lead two minutes later when he was played in by the impressive Mikel Arteta, but he shot narrowly over.

Villa's response was low key, with Everton goalkeeper Nigel Martyn only seriously troubled by a free-kick from Solano that flew inches wide.

There was an explosive start to the second half, with Villa equalising within a minute of the restart before Everton immediately regained the lead.

But Everton boss David Moyes will have been furious with the casual manner in which his side allowed Villa to level.

Joseph Yobo was muscled off the ball by Luke Moore, and when Martyn could only parry Thomas Hitzlsperger's shot, Solano scored from virtually on the line.

To their credit, the Toffees responded instantly, with Bent providing the perfect cross for Cahill to head home.

It sparked more impressive play from Everton, with Thomas Sorensen saving well from Bent and Kilbane before Osman blazed a glorious chance over the top.

But Osman made no mistake as he grabbed his second and Everton's third after 67 minutes.

Cahill was the creator once more, with another surging run and pass that Osman turned in from close range.

Villa ended well beaten, although Solano was denied by the woodwork from long range in the dying seconds.

  • Aston Villa boss David O'Leary
    "It was probably the worst performance at home since I have been here as the manager.

    "We were outfought by a very strong Everton team who were much the better side. You can see why they are doing so well, but it was shocking from us.

    "We had a terrible day at the office in defence, midfield and in attack and ended up a very well beaten team."

  • Everton boss David Moyes
    "It was a really outstanding team performance and our midfield played very well.

    "Tim Cahill played like a top class Premiership player, scoring one and making the other two.

    "Then we had Leon Osman scoring twice, and I thought Mikel Arteta was really excellent as well, but it is very difficult to single players out.

    "We know what a great opportunity we have to finish high up the table, and played like a team in fourth place."

    Aston Villa: Sorensen, De la Cruz, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Samuel, Solano, Djemba-Djemba (Hendrie 56), Hitzlsperger, Barry, Angel, Luke Moore (Vassell 62). Subs Not Used: Laursen, Postma, Berson.

    Booked: Djemba-Djemba, Solano, Hendrie.

    Goals: Solano 46.

    Everton: Martyn, Hibbert, Yobo, Weir, Pistone, Osman, Cahill (Naysmith 90), Carsley, Arteta, Kilbane, Bent (Ferguson 88). Subs Not Used: Wright, Plessis, Vaughan.

    Goals: Osman 17, Cahill 48, Osman 67.

    Att: 40,248

    Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).

    Interview: Everton manager David Moyes

    Interview: Aston Villa boss David O'Leary

    Interview: Everton midfielder Tim Cahill

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