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Benitez insists Everton are work in progress after collapse against Aston Villa


Boss Rafael Benitez insisted Everton remain a work in progress after the Toffees’ collapse at Aston Villa.

They shipped three goals in nine second-half minutes to fall to a 3-0 defeat on Saturday.

Matty Cash sparked a goalrush as Lucas Digne’s own goal and Leon Bailey’s strike condemned the visitors to defeat.

It ended Everton’s unbeaten start under Benitez and they were without the injured Jordan Pickford, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison.

“What we cannot forget about us is that we are a team who finished 10th last season with a new manager,” said Benitez.

“What we did in the window was for reasons everyone knows, we need time to improve, time to work together and I am happy because the commitment of the players is there for everyone to see.

“It’s too early for me as a manager, you have to adapt, change things and improve.

“If you win everyone will have more confidence but our starting point is what it is. Today is an example we can compete, even missing players, but we have to always do right if we want to stay there [near the top of the table].

“We will have situations where we will do better and situations where maybe we cannot. I’m confident we can do it but the players will do their best and hopefully we can cope.

“The reality is with so many problems I was really pleased with the first half. We were making mistakes in decisions in the final third but we were dangerous in the counter attack.”

Asmir Begovic brilliantly denied Tyrone Mings when his reaction stop kept out the defender’s early header.

Salomon Rondon just missed Demarai Gray’s cross and John McGinn shot wide as the first half failed to ignite.

McGinn was then forced off with concussion – having initially felt fine following a blow to the cheek.

Villa had struggled to breach the Toffees but they suddenly ripped through the visitors with three quickfire goals after Demarai Gray missed Everton’s best chance.

Leon Bailey wrapped it up for Villa (Tim Goode/PA)

(PA Wire)

Cash – who has been approached to play for Poland as he qualifies through his mother – broke the deadlock after 66 minutes when the right-back beat Digne to Ezri Konsa’s pass to cut inside and rifle high past Begovic.

Digne then glanced Bailey’s corner into his own net three minutes later and Bailey grabbed his first Villa goal since a £25million move from Bayer Leverkusen when he raced onto Danny Ings’ crossfield ball.

Substitute Bailey was on the pitch for 20 minutes before being forced off after suffering a quad injury while scoring.

Boss Dean Smith said: “Leon is going to be a crowd favourite here. He has great ability, scored a great goal and he gets bums off seats and that’s what supporters at this club want to see. I always said we can’t replace Jack Grealish but we can improve the squad.

“We have got great depth of squad at the moment. There was no need to change the line up apart from Emi [Martinez] being back.

“After we got the goal it was all guns blazing and we scored two other good goals as well. We want to be challenging Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United next week.

“They had a spell of pressure for five minutes before we scored which made everyone a little bit edgy but the goal lifted the roof.”

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