The Jekyll and Hyde Blues re-appeared on Saturday as after trouncing Leeds, Everton largely failed to turn up at St.Marys and duly went down without much of a whimper to Southampton.
Everton in 16th place travelled to Hampshire and the return fixture of the opening day of the season with opponents Southampton lying comfortably in a mid-table 10th place. Everton came from behind back in August and following an impressive performance against Leeds headed south in good heart and looking to complete a league double over the Saints.
Southampton though, under Austrian head coach Ralph Hasenhuettl, have been in good form themselves recently with a draw at Old Trafford preceded by a deserved come-from-behind win over Spurs at the new White Hart Lane, and progression in the FA Cup by beting Coventry to set up an all Premier League 5th round tie against high-flying West Ham.
The Saints had no new injury concerns heading into the visit of Everton, although Nathan Tella is still sidelined, they had Nathan Redmond back in training, and Jan Bednarek and Mohamed Elyounoussi were available after being forced off against Manchester United.
And Hasenhuettl believes the recent consistency of his squad has been a major factor in their recent good form and results. “I tried to give the team that did well at Tottenham the same chance again, the confidence was there and that’s the reason why we played a good game against United also,” he commented on Friday. He added, “I have alternatives in every position, it’s always up to me to decide what I need in what game and this is a good thing. But we’ve found a core now who are definitely showing they’ve developed their game massively and the others have to follow. We’ve had some tough games in the past weeks and lost only against Wolves. The rest were very rough against Manchester City, Tottenham and Man United. Staying unbeaten was a massive step forward for us.”
Hoping for revenge for that August defeat at Goodison, he named his starting line-up: Forster, Walker-Peters, Bednarek, Salisu, Livramento, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Elyounoussi, Broja and Adams.
Coming into just his third Premier League fixture as Everton boss Frank Lampard was still without Demarai Gray, Yerry Mina, Ben Godfrey, Tom Davies and Fabian Delph but, was boosted by the availability of Vitaliy Mykolenko after isolating due to Covid and the good news that influential midfielder Abdouaye Doucoure is making excellent progress in his recovery from injury.
In the aftermath of the convincing win over Leeds, Lampard knew he might have a tough task selecting his side to face Southampton and he commented, “I have to make choices and we’ve been thinking about it all this week. There’s an argument for going with the same again – we kind of felt similarly going into Newcastle [after the 4-1 FA Cup win over Brentford] and it didn’t quite work. So, it’s not a statement of fact [that we will be unchanged].He expanded further saying, “All of the players have to feel through the week that they can find a way into the team, or if we have to change our approach for the opposition because, going from Leeds to Southampton, they two very good teams in lots of different ways. I’ll consider that as we go – and the good thing is we have got players who are playing well and we have got players who are hungry to get into the team. That’s exactly the environment that you want.”
The boss was also quick to praise the effort against Leeds that produced the first clean sheet in ages when he said, “It was [a priority] amongst others. The important thing is winning games in the Premier League and, with the level of it, you can concede goals. “You just try find a way to limit the opportunities of the other team and one of the big plusses of the Leeds game is that we pressed well in their half. We didn’t allow them territory, which they generally have in their games against opposition in possession, and that meant they stayed far away from our goal, and only had a couple of long-range efforts.”
Knowing another clean sheet against Southampton would be the perfect platform for his side, Super Frank named his starting eleven: Pickford, Coleman (c), Holgate, Keane, Kenny, Gordon, Allan, van de Beek, Iwobi, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
At a somewhat windswept St.Mary’s Stadium, our referee was Andy Madley.
A bright start by the Blues saw Richarlison have an early shot blocked and then appeal for a fifth minute penalty as a cross from Seamus Coleman appeared to hit Romeu on the arm but, the referee and VAR decided otherwise. Broja with the first effort from the Saints saw Jordan Pickford make his first save of the game. A free kick for a foul on Richarlison saw Southampton scramble the centre from Gordon to safety and Salisu denied Gordon played in by Donny van de Beek.
Allan was booked on the quarter hour for bringing down Walker-Peters and he was somewhat fortunate a couple of minutes later when he brought down Armstrong and Ward-Prowse saw his shot well saved by Pickford at the expense of a corner that JP gathered easily.
Southampton had weathered the bright start from the Blues and were looking to impose themselves as th home side and Livramento was enjoying his duel with Anthony Gordon. Walker-Peters away from Richarlison looked to play in Adams and Mason Holgate slid across to concede a second corner, and again Pickford claimed the centre from Ward-Prowse comfortably.
Pickford found DCL with a long ball and the Blues poured forward in support with Coleman, Iwobi, van de Beek and Gordon all involved with the latter seeing his effort dealt with by Forster in the home goal. Romeu on a break played in Elyounoussi on the left but, his weak shot didn’t trouble Pickford. The wind was causing both teams problems as Southampton put together a good move that the Blues managed to stifle and the next Saints attack saw Coleman get in a good block to set Everton on a counter that was abruptly halted by a foul by Ward-Prowse that went unpunished.
Half an hour gone and a third corner for Southampton saw Jordan Pickford make a stunning, reflex save from Livramento and Keane hastily hooked the ball clear. The home side were coming on strongly and a long ball saw Broja get between Keane and Holgate, Seamus Coleman scampering back to make a telling challenge to avert the danger.
Jonjoe Kenny with two good blocks on Broja stopped another Saints attack at the expense of another corner, Holgate headed out only as far as Romeu who found Bednarek just offside and the threat subsided. DCL caught Salisu with an accidental challenge, the Saints player getting up and carrying on and as Saints poured forward, Walker-Peters put his shot wide of the target when he really should have at least forced Pickford into a save. VAR reviewed the DCL challenge and no further action was taken.
Richarlison got forward one on one and tried to find Iwobi, the ball eventually falling easily for Forster to gather and get the home side forward again, Romeu firing over the crossbar as they looked for the opening goal in the late stages of the half. Southampton were bossing the possession as they swarmed forward and Pickford did well to gather a cross from Ward-Prowse that Holgate climbed well to block.
Iwobi away from Salisu played in Allan saw the chance come to nothing and as Everton came again, Bednarek cleared from Gordon. An error by Southampton almost gave Everton a breakaway but when Alex Iwobi found Allan, his through ball intended for Richarlison was disappointing and went easily through to Forster and one added minute was announced.
Even stevens at the break with Frank Lampard probably the happier manager as his side had defended well under some pressure from the home side but, he will have wanted more composure on the ball for the second half.
Half Time: 0-0
No changes by Southampton for the second half but Frank Lampard made one, Andre Gomes replacing the booked Allan.
Another bright start by the Blues as Gomes fed Iwobi and he found DCL, his early shot going behind for a corner that was a bit of a mess and when a cross eventually came in, DCL dived to head home only to be adjudged offside. DCL hurt his lower back in the process of scoring the disallowed goal but was okay to carry on. Salisu prevented a cross from Gordon reaching DCL and Southampton managed to clear as Gomes and Richarlison tried to combine down the Everton left flank.
Great support from the travelling fans who had braved the elements and disrupted travel routes in order to reach St. Marys was ringing around the ground but, they were silenced on 52 minutes as Romeu latched onto a poor ball from Keane to gain the edge of the area and find Adams and his pass relayed onto Armstrong saw him curl a low shot inside the near post with Pickford possibly expecting the shot to go across goal.
Everton tried to hit back with Richarlison finding Iwobi, his cross came out to van de Beek who mishit his shot and it fell for Gomes and he sliced his effort well wide of the target. The goal saw Southampton now playing with that extra bit of confidence and another move saw Ward-Prowse pick out Adams in the area but, he couldn’t beat Pickford form close range. Pickford was by far the busier goalie and he had to go down to his left to make a save from Elyounoussi.
An hour gone and Everton were still to have an effort of the home goal, something that will have concerned Frank Lampard as he contemplated another change, his side lacking the fluency and drive that they’d shown against Leeds. Another Saints move saw them stretch the Blues and Armstrong eventually curl a shot just over the crossbar. Adams won a free kick for a foul on him by Keane giving the home side another opportunity to cross into the danger area, Ward-Prowse again the taker and incredibly, Elyounoussi saw his header from three yards go over off the crossbar.
Everton made their second change with Andros Townsend replacing Alex Iwobi on 64 minutes and a Blues attack ended disappointingly with a shot from Gordon easily gathered by Forster and on the counter Pickford needed to be quick off his line to prevent Broja getting through on goal. Gomes clattered Adams and was lucky not to see yellow and we hit the 70-minute mark with Southampton still looking the better of two abjectly average sides.
A slip from Coleman saw Walker-Peters get away on the left and cut inside to gain the area and see his shot deflected and well stopped by Jordan Pickford. Holgate with another good challenge prevented a through ball from reaching Broja and with a quarter of an hour remaining , the Blues third change as Dele Alli came on for Anthony Gordon.
Everton were hanging on now as Southampton strove for a second goal and Walker-Peters, found by Ward-Prowse, again got clear to force Jordan Pickford into another fine save low to his right hand side. Everton won a corner on the right as Benarek got to a ball from Dele Alli intended for Townsend but, the set piece was wasted.
Southampton withdrew Albanian forward Broja on 83 minutes, replacing him with Shane Long and his first involvement was to climb at the back post to head home the corss from Livramento – awful defending from Everton and Jordan Pickford had every right to complain about the defence in front of him.
Another free kick gave Ward-Prowse the chance to deliver another telling cross that Pickford gathered easily with the offside flag raised. Southampton weren’t sitting back on their lead and continued to work their way forward and we were ‘treated’ to four further added minutes. Alan Armstrong replaced Che Adams for the added-on time and Everton couldn’t capitalise on a poor clearance from Forster. A late corner for Everton was far too easily cleared and Gomes fouled Salisu to halt a breakout by the home side. Stuart Armstrong left the field to a standing ovation as he was replaced by Djenepo and the final whistle really couldn’t come quickly enough.
A very, very disappointing afternoon for Everton especially given the news of results elsewhere that again heightened the worries of relegation.