REPORT: Saints 2-0 Everton
The success saw Saints equal the club’s record points tally in the Barclays Premier League as they moved onto 52 – the same amount which secured eighth place in 2003,something the current crop now remain on course to do this season.
The first half goals put Saints in control in this game, with the perfect start going their way as Everton’s Antolin Alacaraz put through his own net with just 54 seconds on the watch. He headed Rickie Lambert’s cross past his own keeper to stun the visitors.
If they were alarmed by that setback, they were dumbfounded again on 31 minutes when Seamus Coleman repeated the trick with a nod home at the near post to double the hosts’ lead.
In a game which was all important to Everton’s Champions League hopes, it was Saints who managed to avenge a 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park in December with a priceless win.
Everton have now not won in five attempts at St Mary’s, with 2002 the last time they were successful on the south coast.
Mauricio Pochettino was without Morgan Schneiderlin who missed out with a dead leg, so made two changes to his side from the team that faced Aston Villa.
Jack Cork returned in midfield to partner Victor Wanyama, while Sam Gallagher was also handed a start with James Ward-Prowse dropping to the bench. Young full back Matt Targett was involved in his first Premier League squad too.
Everton meanwhile, were without regular centre back pairing Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, so John Stones and Antolin Alcarez deputised at the back for the visitors.
The Toffees got the game underway, with Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku taking kick-off, attacking the Chapel stand in the day’s lunchtime kick-off at St Mary’s.
After winning the ball in midfield, Saints took the lead within a minute of the game -54 seconds to be precise - through their first attack of the match. The move came from the left as Lallana found Cork, who played the ball down the channel for Lambert,a nd it was the striker’s cross aimed at Sam Gallagher which was nodded in past his own goalkeeper by Antonlin ALCARAZ.
The early goal came as a blow to the visitors, who had barely settled into their rhythm as they looked to force the issue with possession football.
They created a good half chance for themselves when Seamus Coleman got down the right to cross low into the path of Lukaku, whose first time shot blazed over the crossbar from the edge of the area.
Saints continued to pose an early threat though, with Gallagher’s running causing problems for their opponents. He got in behind John Stones to unsettle the Toffees backline, before Lambert was flagged for a foul in trying to turn the ball home.
Lambert took aim from distance soon after, with his long range strike taking a large deflection off James McCarthy before falling into the grateful arms of Everton keeper Tim Howard.
It remained an end-to-end battle though, and Luke Shaw recovered well in the tenth minute to block Steven Naismith’s low cross, while on the other flank, Nathaniel Clyne marshalled the threat of Gerard Deulofeu, the attacking midfielder on loan from Barcelona.
Boruc gathered a strike from Deulofeu at an awkward height, as Everton continued to be restricted to ambitious attempts.
They were hampered further whilst Naismith was down to receive treatment as Saints broke again down the right flank, with the ball eventually finding its way to Jack Cork, whose long range strike was collected well by Tim Howard.
Saints could have doubled their lead on 20 minutes when Shaw and Gallagher interchanged on the left to find Lambert, whose cutback to the edge of the area found Steven Davis, but the pace on the cross and the closing down from Everton meant that Davis couldn’t quite direct his strike on target as it flew wide of the right post.
The hosts’ high tempo pushed Everton further back, and they were rewarded with another prolonged stint in the Toffees half which they earned a corner from when Lambert fed Lallana down the left, leaving Coleman to take evasive action.
As the game ticked toward the half hour mark, Everton won themselves a free-kick when Deulofeu went to ground under a tangle with Clyne. Baines whipped in the set piece from the left of the area, and Lambert cleared with a stooping header.
On 31 Saints scored again, though once again it was with a helping hand from Everton’s backline. Nathaniel Clyne’s cross from the right flank went into the centre, where a disoriented Seamus COLEMAN nodded the ball into the bottom of the net for a second own goal from the visitors.
The second own goal prompted a comical chant from the home supporters along the lines of not needing Jay Rodriguez when Saints have Everton’s back four in reference to the helping hand the team had received in spite of the top scorer’s absence through injury.
Saints pushed for a goal to claim as their own though when Lovren got a header in at goal which Howard got his body behind to prevent the game from escaping Everton’s clutches completely.
The Toffees briefly showed signs of life at the other end when Deulofeu switched flanks to cross for Lukaku, but the close range header from the Belgian was way off target.
On 39 Saints should have been awarded a penalty when Stones handled Lallana’s cross inside the area, but referee Michael Oliver was having none of it, much to the disbelief of the players around the incident.
To their credit, Saints maintained their professionalism, which is more than could be said for Everton who had Gareth Barry correctly booked for a foul on Gallagher when the youngster tried to force a quick breakaway in the closing stages of the half.
One minute was added on for stoppages, with Naismith asking for a penalty for the visitors when he played the ball off Lovren, but again the match official stood firm.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 EVERTON
Everton made a change to their team at the break with Leon Osman replacing Ross Barkley for the second 45 minutes as the visitors sought a way back into the game.
The switch saw Naismith push further forward for the Toffees, with Lukaku and Deulofeu taking up wider positions, the latter of whom was now giving Luke Shaw a new challenge to deal with.
Shaw almost teed Gallagher up for an acrobatic effort on goal just seconds into the new half, with the striker’s presence forcing an early corner off Baines too.
Shaw continued to take great strides further forward and was able to beat Deulofeu and Coleman to find Cork who couldn’t quite direct his 52nd minute shot on target.
Cork played a pivotal role inside his own area to block Naismith’s low drive which went out for a corner, though Saints remained comfortable in the opening exchanges of the second 45.
The hosts were strong in the midfield battle, as Lallana grew into the game with some dynamic play to open up the visitors even further.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez acted by making another change on 58 minutes, with Aiden McGeady replacing Deulofeu out wide on the left, as Lukaku moved across to the right.
On the hour, Saints were awarded a free-kick around 25 yards out in a central position which invited Lambert to strike at goal, and the frontman’s effort clipped the post on its way out of play.
A few minutes later, half-time sub Leon Osman looked for a penalty when he went to ground under a slide from Lovren, but the referee quickly made the right call to book Osman for diving in an attempt to win the spot kick on the left side of the area.
After Wanyama had conceded a foul, Everton went back on the offensive and in the 64th minute they created their first shot on target of the half when McGeady’s trickery on the left allowed him to cross for Lukaku, but from six yards out, Boruc made a fine save to deny the striker a certain goal.
On 73 Saints had another bid for a penalty denied when Lallana latched onto Davis’s pass inside the area, and the skipper lifted the ball up towards waist height, where Stones blocked it, but only a corner was awarded.
Two minutes later, Boruc was almost embarrassed when Baines sent a deep cross towards the far post, but fortunately, the ball dropped far enough wide of the post not to trouble the goalkeeper’s net.
Saints made their first change on 76 when Gallagher was replaced by James Ward-Prowse, a move which allowed Lallana to support Lambert in attack for the final quarter of an hour or so, where the hosts looked to secure the three points.
Inside the last ten minutes Everton got a corner on the back of a wayward clearance from Cork, but the hosts responded with a superb spell of keep-ball, much to their opponents’ frustration.
In what seemed to be the theme of the day, the visitors then looked for a spot kick when McCarthy lost out to Lovren on the byline where a block was made, but the referee once more saw nothing in it.
Saints now looked on course for the victory, and with four minutes remaining Harrison Reed came on for Lallana, with the skipper’s armband handed over to Lambert.
It was another promising performance from Lallana in front of the watching England manager Roy Hodgson, who will surely have been impressed with the way the midfielder handled another big occasion against a side chasing a top four place.
Guly do Prado was added to the ranks late on, with the Brazilian replacing Steven Davis, whilst Everton also introduced Luke Garbutt in place of Baines with two minutes remaining.
James Ward-Prowse stung the hands of Howard as the rain began to fall, and after three minutes of added time, Saints’ 14th win of the season was confirmed.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 EVERTON
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Victor Wanyama, Jack Cork, Steven Davis (Guly do Prado 88), Adam Lallana (c) (Harrison Reed 86), Sam Gallagher (James Ward-Prowse 76), Rickie Lambert
Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Jos Hooiveld, Calum Chambers, Matt Targett
Goals: Alcaraz (o.g), 1; Coleman (o.g), 31
Everton team: Tim Howard (c), Seamus Coleman, John Stones, Antolin Alcaraz, Leighton Baines (Luke Garbutt 88), James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Ross Barkley (Leon Osman 46), Steven Naismith, Gerard Delofeu (Aiden McGeady 58), Romelu Lukaku
Unused substitutes: Joel Robles, Tony Hibbert, Tyias Browning, Ryan Ledson
Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 31,313 (3,142 away)