BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Louis Saha went close with a snap shot in tonight's game (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Everton 0 Villarreal 1
Guiseppe Rossi, once of Manchester United now of Villarreal settled the final game of Everton's pre-season with an exquisite free-kick on 65 minutes to condemn Everton to defeat in an open game which will mostly be remembered for a disgraceful late scything tackle by Villarreal hard man Carlos Machena which saw Seamus Coleman limp off and go straight to hospital where, fortunately for Everton the damage was revealed to not be a fractured ankle.
Everton started brightly but produced little against disciplined, strong opponents. The player to catch the eye in the Blue side was youngster Ross Barkley who looked busy and inventive but the visitors maintained a strong back line. The best chance Everton created was a neat move ending in a snap shot by Louis Saha which the visiting keeper, Diego Lopez, did well to turn aside. Apart from an excellent run by Leighton Baines early in the 2nd half which ended with a weak shot from close quarters Everton were short of ideas in the final third of the pitch. The visitors grew in confidence as the game continued and from a free-kick, conceded by Distin on the edge of the box, Guiseppe Rossi delivered the perfect dead ball into the top right hand corner of the net which the home crowd generously applauded. Further chances arrived for the visitors and but for a combination of good keeping by Howard and some prolifigate shooting the lead could have been increased.
Everton made a number of changes as the game continued including the enforced introduction of Tim Cahill shortly before the break after Coleman was the victim of a shocking tackle by Machena. This sort of tackle may be commonplace in top leagues, particularly in important duals, but really should not be part of pre-season action. Sadly the referee thought better of producing a much warranted red card for the challenge and even resisted the atypical response of officials in pre-season fixtures to recommend his immediate substitution.
There were some positives from the game for the Toffeemen: Jagielka, Howard and Fellaini all had decent games as well as Barkley who is set for a bigger role when the main action comes round. He was substituted after another encouraging performance - in time we can hope for a full 90 minutes worth of his talents (but he does have to avoid those lapses in concentration which cede possession - he's learning fast at the sharp end but for now he looks the real deal.