Aston Villa were pushed closer to the relegation trapdoor on Tuesday as the Premier League’s bottom club slumped to a miserable 3-1 defeat against Everton.
Remi Garde’s troubled side were crushed by goals from Ramiro Funes Mori, Aaron Lennon and Romelu Lukaku as they surrendered in front of their furious fans at Villa Park.
Villa’s fourth defeat in their last five league matches was played out against the dispiriting backdrop of a 74th minute walkout from supporters in protest at their club’s humiliating decline.
Villa last played in the second tier in 1988 but they remain eight points from safety and with games against Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea still to come this month, their fate could effectively be sealed before Easter.
Everton’s victory — their fifth in their last six games in all competitions — was the ideal way to welcome Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri, whose multi-million pound arrival as majority shareholder over the weekend has raised hopes of an exciting new chapter in the club’s history.
Villa’s last home game had ended in their worst defeat at Villa Park for 81 years as Liverpool romped to a 6-0 victory that prompted Garde to question his players’ commitment.
There was little reason for Garde to rethink that criticism after another lackluster display against a team from Merseyside.
Villa’s problems began in the fifth minute when Everton capitalized on woeful defending to take the lead.
An Everton corner should have been dealt with easily by the Villa rearguard, but they made a hash of it and Funes Mori was left completely unmarked to smash home from close-range.
Villa fans have grown increasingly mutinous in recent weeks as they see relegation looming large at the end of a dismal campaign and they had held up banners calling for the board to sell up before kick-off.
Funes Mori’s goal did little to improve their mood and jeers and abuse was cascading down from the stands towards Garde and his team.
Villa briefly sparked into life when Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles made saves to deny Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Westwood.
Micah Richards fired narrowly wide moments later and Leandro Bacuna saw his effort kept out by Robles, but Villa’s pressure proved a false dawn and Everton doubled their lead in the 30th minute.
Ruthlessly exposing Villa’s fragile defense, the visitors broke with speed and purpose as Ross Barkley released Kevin Mirallas and the Belgian teed up former Tottenham winger Lennon to finish from close range for his fourth goal in his last six appearances.