Marouane Fellaini headed a dramatic equaliser deep into stoppage time as Everton and Aston Villa shared the points in a 3-3 draw in their Premier League clash at Goodison Park.
Villa, who have won just two of their last 20 Premier League away matches, went ahead with their quickest goal since December 2008 through Christian Benteke in the second minute, only for Victor Anichebe to briefly restore parity for the hosts shortly afterwards.
David Moyes’s side were level for just three minutes as Gabriel Agbonlahor headed the visitors back in front before Benteke doubled his tally on the hour mark, but Fellaini pulled one back with a neat finish and proceeded to head the equaliser in the third minute of added time to deny Paul Lambert’s side a much-needed win.
It would have been only Villa’s second win in their last 11 league matches, but Everton deserved at least a point after having dominated the possession and held the visitors under the cosh for long periods of the match.
Lambert made three changes from the midweek defeat to Newcastle as Darren Bent was again dropped in favour of Agbonlahor with Andreas Weimann and Karim El Ahmadi also coming in, while Everton made one change with Darron Gibson making his first start since Boxing Day at the expense of captain Phil Neville.
It took under two minutes for Benteke to put Villa in front as he beat John Heitinga far too comfortably after receiving the ball with his back to goal and proceeded to beat Tim Howard with a clinical finish. Everton have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 18 league matches against Aston Villa, and they had it all to do after a sluggish start.
The hosts produced little with an abundance of possession in the first half, and it took a moment of inspiration from Anichebe to haul Everton back on terms as the forward spun Ciaran Clark with ease before driving a low shot beyond Brad Guzan and into the far corner of the net.
Everton were deservedly level for all their play, but Moyes’s side fell behind once more three minutes later after Ashley Westwood whipped over a devilish cross from the right which Agbonlahor met with a firm header to beat Howard and restore his side’s lead. It was the forward’s seventh goal against Everton.
There was an injury scare for the Toffees as Fellaini clashed with Clark deep inside the Villa half and limped off temporarily, but Moyes wisely decided to keep the midfielder on the pitch to see if he cold run it off. Despite the Belgian moving gingerly for a good 10 minutes, the decision to be patient reaped its rewards later in the game.
Weimann should have extended Villa's lead with just the keeper to beat in the 51st minute, but he lost his composure and blasted a poor finish high and wide after being slipped through by Agbonlahor.
Everton continued to have the better of the play, but Villa were the more dangerous in attack with Benteke leading the line, and the striker stooped low to head beyond Howard for his second of the afternoon just after the hour mark after Weimann had played a slick one-two with Matthew Lowton in what was a very fine team goal from the visitors.
But Villa’s two goal cushion lasted for all of eight minutes as Fellaini exchanged passes with Anichebe and continued his run before a ruthless finish to beat Guzan at his far post and reduce the deficit to a single goal.
Everton’s pressure on the Villa goal was relentless, and the visitors could not hold on during six minutes of stoppage time as Fellaini rose from within a crowded penalty area to net his second of the game with a powerful header from a corner to deny Villa a crucial victory.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Christian Benteke – Aston Villa: The striker may have been denied the status of match-winner by the equally imposing Fellaini, but he led the line with supreme presence with very little support, and scored two well-taken goals.
EVERTON: Howard 6, Baines 7, Gibson 6, Heitinga 5, Jagielka 6, Mirallas 6, Distin 6, Osman 6, Pienaar 6, Fellaini 8, Anichebe 7. Subs: Jelavic 6, Oviedo 6, Naismith 6.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan 6, Lowton 7, Vlaar 7, Clark 6, Bennett 6, Westwood 7, El Ahmadi 6, Agbonlahor 7, N'Zogbia 5, Weimann 7, Benteke 8. Subs: Sylla 7, Holman 6, Baker 6.