Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill hailed the continuing emergence of Gabriel Agbonlahor as a major force after he was again a chief thorn in Everton’s side.
Agbonlahor took his tally against the Merseysiders to three goals in four games with the decisive second after 62 minutes in a 2-0 home win.
He showed his growing maturity with superb control and awareness before slotting the ball past the despairing dive of Everton goalkeeper Stefan Wessels. O’Neill said: "Gabby’s goal was fantastic. It came from a great touch. It showed just how much he has progressed.
"He is getting stronger. In training he is lethal. He wants to play centre-forward but he has also done a job for us out wide and still managed to get a couple of goals when out there.
"I’m very pleased with him and he is determined to build on the form he showed last season."
O’Neill also backed Agbonlahor, who was involved in a verbal spat with his team-mate Marlon Harewood at the final whistle.
Harewood was incensed that Agbonlahor chose to try to run down the clock rather than attempt to play him in behind the Everton defence in the closing seconds of the game.
O’Neill said: "I see it from Gabby’s view because there are two minutes to go and we are 2-0 up. Why give the ball away?
"That’s what we were taught years ago and if you do that you put yourself under pressure. I can understand the centre forward’s thinking that he might be in with a chance of a goal but Gabby made the right decision and things are fine between them."
The major downside for O’Neill was a suspected knee ligament injury to striker John Carew after he had scored the opening goal - his first for Villa this season.
Carew will have a scan tomorrow to determine the extent of his injury but O’Neill admitted: "It doesn’t look great and it’s a shame for John.
"The goal had given him a big boost in terms of confidence. Centre-forwards say they are happy doing work outside the area but scoring goals is the most important thing for them.
"John was very strong and when he got that goal he was even stronger. We just hope he isn’t out for too long."
Everton boss David Moyes admitted his side were second best and had no complaints about the final outcome.
He said: "We played better than recently but it was powderpuff stuff. I have no complaints about the result.
"We passed the ball better than Villa and created more today than we have done recently - but the defending for the two goals was terrible.
"Villa got their goals from a cross and a scramble and another one which may have been offside. There are a couple of players not playing as well as they should be.
"But let’s put things into perspective. It’s the first time for a long time that we have conceded more than one goal in a game away from home."