REPORT | Southampton 2-1 Everton
Everton turned in another underwhelming mid-season performance as a consolation strike from Gylfi Sigurdsson was not enough to to put his side back in the game following a 25 yard wonder goal from James Ward-Prowse; and a Lucas Digne own-goal from about the game range.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton responded their knockout from the FA Cup via penalties midweek with an inspired counter-press from the front two of Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond- to which Marco Silva’s possession orientated Everton had no answer to. Unchanged from the side that started in last weeks 2-0 home victory over Bournemouth, the visitors failed to retain the ball well particularly in the first half thus failing to squash Southampton’s relentless press which the St, Mary’s crowd looked to feed off.
As both Bernard and Lookman were denied any decent service out wide, long balls up to Richarlison were eventually the port of call- all of which the Brazilian forward failed to hold-up in his central role- making that five appearances (in all comps) since his last goal. At the other end of the pitch, Kurt Zouma and Michael Keane struggled to keep tabs on Southampton’s pacy forward duo, who found space to exploit in behind with relative ease, Redmond would fire a warning shot, connecting with the outside of the post when one on one with Jordan Pickford just before half time.
Despite the England number one’s best efforts in the first 45 minutes- which included a fantastic reaction save from a Jan Bednarek header, there was little he could do to avert Ward-Prowse on 50 minutes in. His run from deep was unsuccessfully dealt with by those in a blue shirt as space opened up for the Englishman to fire a rocket beyond the reach of the goalkeeper albeit against the current run of play.
Silva responded to his side going a goal behind by replacing Andre Gomes with recently named England u23s mens player of the year Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Changing from 4-3-2-1 to a 4-4-2, spearheaded by Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin. This didn’t bring the desired effect as now deeper in midfield- Gylfi Sigurdsson couldn’t utilise his ability to play in behind due to his added defensive responsibility. While Bernard and Lookman alternated flanks and Digne tried to find the perfect cross onto an Everton head, his defensive performance fell foul to misfortune. Attempting to intercept Nathan Redmond who shaped to shoot from range, the ball took a misleading deflection of the Frenchman’s boot angling too far to Pickford’s bottom corner for him to reach. Everton’s forth own-goal in four years when visiting St Mary’s on the south-coast
2-0 down with just over an hour played, Silva would turn to Cenk Tosun to replace the out of sort Richarlison. Yet Everton failed to muster anything of real conviction as Calvert-Lewin headed over with little time to play. An eventual seven minutes injury time would see Sigurdsson become the joint-highest Icelandic goal scorer in the Premier League levelling Eiður Guðjohnsen on 55 goals. His 9th of this season- Sigurdsson tried to power a lose ball on the edge of the box towards goal as time ran out, the ball fell kinder for him as he took no mistake on second attempt, a more precise, guided shot would find the back of Alex McCarthy’s goal- too little, too late.