Steven Gerrard praised the character and resilience of his Aston Villa players after they defended with their backs against the walls to grind out
Steven Gerrard praised the character and resilience of his Aston Villa players after they defended with their backs against the walls to grind out a 1-0 win at Goodison Park. The former Liverpool captain was facing a hostile atmosphere on his return to Merseyside as the Everton supporters made their feelings clear towards the Villa boss, as he renewed old rivalries.
But his side stood tall and made themselves counted in a feisty contest that was eventually edged by the visitors courtesy of Emiliano Buendia’s glancing header.
The joyful Villa players were then struck by missiles in the corner as they celebrated the goal.
Lucas Digne – on his return to Goodison – and Matty Cash went to the ground after being hit by a bottle.
Everton have since confirmed Merseyside police have arrested a supporter in connection with the incident.
READ MORE: Everton fans pelt Lucas Digne and Maty Cash with bottle and coins after Aston Villa goal
Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Gerrard hailed the effort from his players, who hung onto all three points via a clean sheet.
“It’s a big win for us. Credit to the players. It was a different style of game for us, especially in the second half,” he said.
“It was a case of us having to roll our sleeves up, stand up and be counted and really put our bodies on the line.
“It’s difficult to rehearse what came our way in the second half. It was direct, it was coming regularly so we had to fight and compete and win second balls. And every single person stood up to that.
“In football there’s different ways to win. but if you’re not prepared to compete, especially away at Goodison, you’ll be found out.
“We expected Duncan to pour more fuel on the fire in the second half. We played big today and I’m really proud of the players.
“This performance was about grit, about steel. I asked the players to really commit because this game was going to ask us something quite alien which is defend long balls constantly and that’s what we did.”
Gerrard stared and smiled at the Everton supporters as he left the pitch at half-time with his side 1-0 to the good.
He even taunted the furious Gwladys St end as he left the field at full-time, sticking his tongue out at supporters after applauding the travelling Villa fans.
Villa captain Tyrone Mings was furious with the incident that saw Digne and Cash struck by objects, claiming it was part of Everton’s plan to intimidate his side.
“They did and it was disgusting really, it is about all they have got… they tried to make it ugly, tried to make it an intimidating atmosphere and we came and got the three points. That will hopefully be dealt with but all you can do is get up and carry on,” Mings said.
“I am really excited, I love being a part of this club, love being captain, love everything this club stands for both on and off the pitch. I think we have made some brilliant signings, a fantastic squad.
“The club is going in the right direciton, we have stability, owners that want to take the club to the next level and players that want to push each other. It is a pleasure to be a part of.”