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Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Sunday, 27 April 2008 17:56 UK

Everton 2-2 Aston Villa

By Paul Fletcher

Gabriel Agbonlahor (left) watches as John Carew (right) heads Villa level
Carew (right) headed Villa level for a second time in the match

Aston Villa drew with Everton after a dramatic finish to keep alive the race for fifth spot in the Premier League and a place in next season's Uefa Cup.

Phil Neville's strike put Everton ahead via a deflection off Martin Laursen.

But Gabriel Agbonlahor tucked home a corner after 80 minutes to spark a spell of three goals in six minutes.

Joesph Yobo volleyed home Lee Carsley's cross but John Carew then headed in Gareth Barry's cross to keep the gap between the teams to three points.

Both teams have two fixtures left to play and though Everton currently occupy fifth spot, Villa have a marginally better goal difference.

The result also meant that Liverpool are guaranteed to finish fourth in the Premier League and thus play Champions League football next season.

O'Neill delighted with Villa fightback

Played on a sodden pitch at Goodison Park, there was little hint through most of the match of the dramatic finish that saw Villa twice force their way back onto level terms.

Villa looked stunned after Yobo's goal put Everton ahead for a second time just minutes after the visiting team had finally fashioned an equaliser.

But the emotional rollercoaster soon swung in the other direction as Everton paid the price for allowing Barry the time and space to pick out Carew with an inviting cross.

I don't know if we touched the ball after scoring - David Moyes

The first half had produced precious few clear chances, although Everton started well and might have scored through Yakubu after 19 minutes.

Villa keeper Scott Carson dived to his left to palm away a shot from the Everton striker, who had dribbled past Nigel Reo-Coker before seeking out the bottom corner.

The rebound fell invitingly to Manuel Fernandes but he shot tamely wide.

Villa had gone into the match unchanged from the team that thrashed local rivals Birmingham 5-1 and came close to an opener when Ashley Young hit the crossbar with a superbly struck free-kick.

Young also delivered a superb cross into the Everton area from another set piece but Olof Mellberg headed wide.

Heavy rain greeted the start of the second half, making control difficult and leading to a series of frenetic exchanges as both sides struggled to retain possession.

Phil Neville's strike found goal via a deflection off Martin Laursen
Neville celebrated wildly after his strike hit the net

But, as with the opening 45 minutes, it was Everton who started with the greater endeavour and they were rewarded with a goal after 55 minutes.

Yakubu's ball across goal rolled out of the Villa area and was met by Neville, whose crisp strike defeated Carson via the crucial deflection off Laursen.

Steven Pienaar almost doubled Everton's lead with a cross-cum-shot that nearly eluded Carson, who recovered his position to palm the ball away at full strength.


Time appeared to be running out for Villa and manager Martin O'Neill brought on Patrik Berger and Marlon Harewood.

But it was Agbonlahor's sharp reactions which finally restored parity for Villa.

He lost Leon Osman and showed a deft touch to guide Barry's corner into the roof of the net after the ball bounced off the skiddy surface.

Yobo then volleyed home from six yards at the far post from Carsley's dinked cross but Carew had the final say with his decisive header.

Everton boss David Moyes:
"I am disappointed we conceded so quickly after scoring our second goal.

"I think that it was probably a fair result. There were two teams going for it and Villa are a very good side.

"Being three points ahead of Villa with two games to go is a great position for us to be in."

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"We have the ability to fight back. We knew this would be a difficult game and so it proved to be.

"I felt the first goal was going to be vital and yet we managed to get something out of the game.

"We are capable of scoring goals and we never gave up. We have a lot to play for over the last two games."

Everton: Howard, Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Osman, Carsley, Fernandes (Arteta 66), Pienaar, Johnson (Anichebe 83), Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Wessels, Hibbert, Baines.

Booked: Yakubu, Carsley, Anichebe.

Goals: Neville 56, Yobo 84.

Aston Villa: Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight (Berger 75), Bouma (Harewood 78), Petrov, Barry, Reo-Coker, Young, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Salifou, Routledge.

Booked: Petrov, Young, Harewood.

Goals: Agbonlahor 80, Carew 86.

Att: 37,936

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor 7.54 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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