Everton recorded their first home league victory of 2021 after a dull 1-0 win against Southampton at Goodison Park.
Ahead of a busy week, Carlo Ancelotti made a handful of changes to the side that secured all three points at Anfield last weekend, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson all returning to The Blues’ starting eleven in place of James Rodríguez, Seamus Coleman and Tom Davies respectively.
The Toffees started brightly and were rewarded with another Richarlison goal after just nine minutes. Dropping into the position occupied by Rodríguez in the Merseyside Derby, Sigurdsson slipped a delightful ball past the Southampton backline and into the Brazilian, who danced around Fraser Forster before finishing with aplomb. It was a lovely goal, both in its composition and execution, and a further example of how effective Richarlison is in the role of a central striker, particularly when presented with opportunities of that quality.
The evening nearly got even better for the hosts when Michael Keane diverted the ball home from a cleverly worked set-piece. However, replays showed that Mason Holgate, the man who nodded the ball back into Keane’s path, was offside.
The Saints responded well to the cancellation of Keane’s effort, playing some tidy, typically-Hasenhüttl football in their opposition’s territory for much of the rest of the half. However, bar a few decent crosses from the ever-dangerous James Ward-Prowse and good presses from the front two of Danny Ings and Che Adams, the visitors failed to build anything of real note.
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Whilst the same could be said of the hosts, it felt at half-time that Everton had Southampton at arms’ length and could put proceedings to bed if they stepped their game up a gear or two in the second half.
Half-Time: Everton 1-0 Southampton
The second half was a non-entity for the most part. Everton continued to look comfortable but clumsy whilst Southampton moved to within a pass of a good position but could not find that allusive ball.
They were presented, however, with two huge chances in the final ten minutes of play. The first fell to Moussa Djenepo. After some nice, intricate build-up play, the visitors threaded the ball through to the winger, who blazed high and wide past Jordan Pickford’s left post. The second saw The Saints test the England goalkeeper. Following another hectic piece of Everton defending from a Ward-Prowse corner, the ball fell kindly to the towering Jannik Vestergaard, whose effort on the stretch was smothered superbly by Pickford.
It was an outstanding piece of goalkeeping and exactly what The Toffees needed at that point in the match to stem Southampton’s momentum. Whilst there is still a lot more Pickford needs to do to allay Evertonians’ fears about his reliability as their number one, he has shown outstanding levels of maturity in the last two games and is enjoying arguably his best spell as The Blues’ goalkeeper.
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A few inviting corner kicks aside, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s men made little of the closing stages of the match, with Everton able to see out the last few minutes with relative ease. Whilst it wasn’t a performance the manager, the players nor the fans will look back on with a great deal of fondness, The Toffees did what they needed to do tonight, which considering their recent rut at home and the unrelenting pressure from the chasing pack is all Evertonians could have asked for.
— Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) March 1, 2021
Full Time: Everton 1-0 Southampton
James’ Everton Man of the Match: Richarlison