Aston Villa were denied a precious Premier League lifeline against Everton on Thursday evening as a late Theo Walcott header (yes, REALLY) prevented the Villans from taking all three points.
While Dean Smith looked evidently deflated in his post-match interview, the Villa boss will head back home with a small crumb of comfort that his team boasted the standout player at Goodison Park.
Douglas Luiz produced a scintillating performance, almost single-handedly dragging his side forward as he displayed no signs of the burden placed upon his young shoulders.
The 22-year-old has recently been linked with a move back to his former club Manchester City, after Pep Guardiola insisted on a buy-back clause being included in the deal which saw him depart the Etihad Stadium.
On this performance, it’s not difficult to see why Guardiola wants him back.
With the clock ticking down and the scores locked at 0-0, certain members of the Villa XI were beginning to show clear signs of buckling under the pressure with Premier League survival on the line.
But Douglas Luiz showed no signs of such strain.
Demanding the ball, shouting out orders, and driving his side forward at any given opportunity, the Brazilian displayed the type of leadership Villa are going to need if they are to somehow escape the increasingly likely fate of relegation.
His forward thinking and neat passing between the lines provided rare glimpses of quality in a game utterly bereft of any class.
Not only was the former City man a threat going forward, he was a constant safety net in front of a vulnerable Villa backline.
Smith’s side have yet to keep a clean sheet away from home all season - undoubtedly a major factor in their current standing of 19th in the table - so keeping a solid unit at Goodison Park would be imperative if they were to take anything from arguably their biggest game of the season.
Everton will no doubt be criticised for their lack of attacking threat, but in truth the reason the home side were stifled was because of Douglas Luiz.
Pepe Reina barely had a save to make all evening, with the midfielder sniffing out any sign of danger and cutting it off at the source. More than just a tough-tackling display, the Brazilian then displayed the nous and ability to cleverly pick out the likes of Anwar El Ghazi and danger man Jack Grealish as the visitors pushed for an opener.
Much has been made of David Silva’s departure from the Etihad this summer, though at 35 years of age midfield metronome Fernandinho’s City career is also well into its twilight.
The holding midfielder has been instrumental in City’s success over the past seven years, and a successor to his holding role will no doubt be top of Guardiola’s wishlist when Fernandinho does leave the club.
In Douglas Luiz, City could well have a ready-made replacement for his compatriot. Someone who has experienced life at City, knows all about the club and clearly has the ability to fill immense void that Fernandinho will leave behind.
Not only does the Villa man have the ability to play a holding role, his display against Everton proved that he can push on when called upon, and could be key to breaking down so-called ‘lesser sides’ who visit the Etihad and look to sit deep.
Guardiola clearly didn’t want Douglas Luiz to leave the club last season, and he could do a lot worse than to be reunited with his former midfielder.