Everton 1 Southampton 0
Ralph Hasenhüttl filled Goodison Park with a one-word swear word when Moussa Djenepo squandered a glorious chance to level late on for Southampton at Everton. It was a perfectly understandable response from the Southampton manager given both the quality of the opportunity and the seriousness of the predicament confronting his team.
Another defeat, this time courtesy of Richarlison’s early strike for Carlo Ancelotti’s team, made it eight defeats in nine league games for Hasenhüttl’s side. The seven-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone offers only limited comfort on a run such as this.
Djenepo sidefooted wide with only Jordan Pickford to beat when Stuart Armstrong released the winger inside the Everton area with six minutes remaining. In stoppage time Jannik Vestergaard had another fine chance to level following a spot of pin-ball inside the home box. Pickford denied the defender at close range and Southampton's hopes of taking only a second point from the last 27 available were over.
For Ancelotti, this was the result if not the performance he had demanded after Everton’s long-awaited win at Liverpool last time out. A nervous finale from his players was to be expected as they held on to a slender lead to secure their first Premier League home win of 2021. After three successive league defeats at Goodison, aesthetics will not concern the Everton manager but there remains a stark contrast between his team’s performances home and away.
Southampton enjoyed plenty of possession in the early stages with Nathan Redmond and Ryan Bertrand prominent on the left but Everton enjoyed an early lead from their first meaningful attack. It was a fine goal produced by a combination of steel and silk.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, making a first start in four games following a hamstring injury, won a towering header against Mohammed Salisu as the pair challenged for a Pickford clearance. Calvert-Lewin proved too strong for Salisu and James Ward-Prowse in winning the second ball too.
A touch off his shoulder dropped to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who threaded a perfectly-weighted pass behind Vestergaard for Richarlison to round Fraser Forster and score from an acute angle. It was the Brazil international’s fifth goal in five games and a finish that confirmed the striker’s confidence has been fully restored. That said, he could and perhaps should have doubled his tally before the interval.
The visitors conceded a series of free-kicks in dangerous wide positions and flirted with danger at each one. Their offside trap worked on the first occasion, catching Richarlison straying too early as he sprinted for Sigurdsson’s set piece and tested Forster with a diving header.
They just got away with Everton's next free-kick from the right, although that was mainly due to VAR and a training ground routine confusing those in blue as well as red. Sigurdsson shaped to take the free-kick but left it for Lucas Digne, who floated a delivery to the back post where Mason Holgate headed back across goal and Michael Keane bravely finished as Forster's fists flew towards his face. Holgate, however, had strayed offside by the time Digne eventually delivered and VAR disallowed Keane's header while both teams were preparing for the restart.
Everton’s third free-kick routine, again from Sigurdsson on the right, should have brought a second goal for Ancelotti’s side. This time Richarlison did escape Southampton’s offside trap but, launching himself at the cross, he miscued from close range and the visitors were reprieved.
Everton were the more dangerous team by far in the first half but, without the luxury of a second goal, were never comfortable against a Southampton side that refused to let them settle on the ball and carried a threat of their own from set pieces.
James Ward-Prowse's deliveries always offered Hasenhüttl's team hope and it required a vital intervention from Calvert-Lewin to prevent Che Adams connecting with his captain's free-kick towards the near post.
In the second half, Salisu went close with a near-post header from a Ward-Prowse corner. It was the defender's final contribution before being replaced by Nathan Tella as the Southampton manager sought to inject more creativity into his midfield.
It was a necessary move. The visitors continued to see plenty of the ball, while the movement of Danny Ings and Adams regularly stretched the Everton defence, but Pickford was rarely tested in the home goal. – Guardian