London: Everton salvaged a point against Aston Villa in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Goodison Park, with Marouane Fellaini netting an equaliser in injury-time.
Villa took an early lead through Christian Benteke, but were soon pegged back through Victor Anichebe before Gabriel Agbonlahor restored the visitors’ one-goal advantage before half-time.
Benteke added Villa`s third early in the second half as they looked to be cruising towards a valuable three points, only for Fellaini to score twice in the final 20 minutes to hand Everton a share of the spoils.
The hosts` only change saw Phil Neville drop to the bench for Darron Gibson, who made a return from injury, while Anichebe continued in attack as Nikica Jelavic started among the substitutes.
Paul Lambert made a couple more changes than his opposite number, with Nathan Baker, Barry Bannan and Darren Bent being replaced by Karim El-Ahmadi, Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann.
Villa came into this match with little confidence having won just one of their last 11 Premier League games, but got off to the perfect start when Charles N`Zogbia cut in from the right and fed Benteke to slide a shot into the far bottom corner, giving the visitors a second-minute lead.
They had the lead, but there was not much Villa could do to prevent Everton`s ensuing superiority as David Moyes` side dominated possession and created several opportunities.
And the hosts eventually found an equaliser when a neat counterattacking move saw Kevin Mirallas find Anichebe with his back to goal inside the area. The striker held off Ciaran Clark with ease and slid the ball under Brad Guzan.
With that, the match looked like it would only go one way, but there was another twist as Lambert`s team took the lead for the second time just minutes later.
Everton failed to clear a corner properly and the ball found its way to Ashley Westwood on the right flank. The midfield whipped in an inviting ball and Agbonlahor nodded it past a rather helpless Tim Howard.
Anichebe & Co. continued to press for a goal and dominated for the rest of the half, but failed to restore parity again before half-time.
The second half seemed to follow a similar pattern to the first as Everton pushed and pushed for an equaliser, but Villa looked imperious on the counterattack and a good pass through to Andreas Weimann from Agbonlahor should have resulted in a third, only for the forward to blast over when one-on-one.
Nevertheless, it was not long before Villa had their third. Matthew Lowton put in a great cross from the right and Benteke saw off Heitinga’s challenge to glance the ball into the bottom corner with a header.
Everton were in disarray, and when Moyes replaced dangerman Mirallas plenty of boos were audible around the ground, but they grabbed a lifeline soon after.
Bryan Oviedo played a pass into the area for Fellaini from the left, and after a one-two with Anichebe the midfielder powered a shot past Guzan.
Nerves set in for Villa and, as the full-time whistle drew nearer Everton continued to camp in the away side’s half.
Six minutes of added time were issued and Fellaini almost immediately rescued a point for Everton as he headed in Baines` corner to complete a remarkable comeback.
First Published: Sunday, February 03, 2013, 08:48