Everton 3 - 1 Southampton
Everton moved into second place in the Premier League with their fourth win in six games with another three-goal blast — but it required an impressive recovery from a sluggish start that saw them fall behind to Southampton as early as the sixth-minute.
Nikica Jelavic marked his return to the starting line-up with two goals before half time, building on Leon Osman's 25th-minute equaliser, but he will have to wait for a first hat-trick in the Royal Blue Jersey after David Moyes's side took their foot almost entirely off the pedal in the second half.
With Darron Gibson and Tony Hibbert out injured, Moyes returned to his strongest available XI but his team were slow and disjointed out of the gates, prompting early fears that the League Cup disaster at Leeds United on Tuesday was still preying on the players' minds.
Southampton were exhibiting signs that manager Nigel Adkins had tasked them with having a go at their hosts and their energy in the opening few minutes yielded a corner that was dispatched from their left by Adam Lallana to the back post but close enough to Tim Howard where a routine punch might have cleared the danger.
The American appeared derelict in his duties, though, misjudging the flight of the ball and allowing Gaston Ramirez a routine header to put Saints 1-0 up. Howard's decision-making and lapses in aerial control of his six-yard box remain a concern, as does the Blues' propensity to give away sloppy goals this season.
Indeed, with better finishing by Jay Rodriguez after he had burned John Heitinga for pace and set up a one-on-one confrontation with Howard, Saints might have stunned Goodison by doubling their lead after 10 minutes. The striker shot across the face of goal, though, and the Blues escaped further damage.
Redemption at the other end, though, is always possible when you can create and score goals and when Everton eventually found their feet mid-way through the first half, the visitors' resistance was shattered by three strikes in 12 minutes.
It took the abandonment of the questionable, ineffective and unnecessary long-ball game for the Blues to shake off their early lack of fluidity going forward and both Osman and Kevin Mirallas came into their own with the ball now being pinged around on the deck.
The Belgian, always a danger with his quick thinking and speed, surged down the right and fired a cross towards Jelavic near the six-yard box. While the ball fell a little behind the Croatian and appeared to come off the back of his heels, it fell in invitingly into the path of Osman steaming in on the follow-up and he scooped it into the roof of the net from close range after 24 minutes.
Seven minutes later, the game had been turned on its head as the Blues carved through Southampton's midfield on a quick counter-attack. Marouane Fellaini fed Mirallas who threaded it through to Jelavic who looked to have made the chance harder by drifting too far wide in the box but he smacked a perfectly-hit shot back across Paolo Gazzaniga and home to make it 2-1.
Everton were firmly in control again and exhibiting more of that crowd-pleasing football that has been a hallmark of their best performances so far this season. And it took a great save by Gazzaniga to deny Jelavic a second nine minutes before the break when he pawed the Croatian international's header away from its intended destination in the top corner of the goal.
The inevitable was delayed for only a few more seconds, though; Everton kept the ball on their right where Seamus Coleman skinned his marker, whipped in a deep cross and Jelavic powered a header in at the back post that the 'keeper couldn't prevent from finding the net despite getting both hands to it.
Two quick headed chances for Fellaini — one despatched straight at Gazzaniga, the second bouncing off the crossbar and behind — threatened to embarrass the newly-promoted Saints before the break but Adkins' side managed to escape into the dressing room without further damage to the scoreline.
The second half eventually became a decidedly less entertaining affair as complacency crept into an Everton side that is clearly getting to like the feeling of winning, but there were opportunities to extend the Blues' lead and evoke memories of that famous 7-1 drubbing of Southampton under Joe Royle 16 years ago.
Fellaini saw an excellent effort from distance deflect inches past the post and Heitinga's side-foot effort from the resulting corner was also prevented from creeping inside the post by a defender's leg. Osman then tried to bend home his second goal of the game from the edge of the area but he too had to watch his effort flash the wrong side of the post by the slenderest of margins.
Mirallas tested Gazzaniga with an impressive low shot mid-way through the second period and Steven Pienaar ruined a really promising breakaway with Southampton short on numbers with a loose pass that ruined the chance for Fellaini.
In between, Southampton regained a little composure and tried to find a way back into the match, perhaps sensing that another goal would sow some seeds of doubt in an Everton side clearly content to canter home in the closing stages.
Ramirez smashed a swerving shot that Howard did well to hold in the 69th minute and the goalscorer very nearly doubled his tally for the afternoon a minute later when he was put in behind the defence by Ricky Lambert's pass but his dinked shot looking for the far corner dropped the other side of the far post. And Howard had one more save to make with six to go when he beat Lambert's powerful header away to safety.
In terms of full entertainment, the home crowd might have come away a little disappointed because Southampton were clearly there for the mauling. Second place in the Premier League, ahead of the Manchester clubs and the media darlings from London, more than makes up for that, though — indeed, it just makes one ponder the what-ifs of that refereeing debacle in the Newcastle game that robbed the Blues of the two points what would have had then joint-top with Chelsea.
Knowing that Moyes's thrillingly dynamic and dangerous attacking unit can now create and score goals from both flanks really helps fuel the optimism for what can be achieved this season if the injuries remain light and infrequent. Still too soon to be getting carried away, of course, but this is a great start and, with just one defeat in the last 16 stretching back to the end of last season, it keeps the momentum established in 2012 going.
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239 Posted 01/10/2012 at 09:26:58
(1) The centre back pairing is looking unsettled
(2) Lack of squad depth cruelly exposed by the debacle at Leeds
(3) Wasteful in converting opportunities (Newcastle, Swansea, Southampton)
(4) Potential squad disruption in the January transfer window
(5) Lack of youngsters coming through
But it is a good time to be an Evertonian. Maybe we need a bit of luck and everybody pulling together to achieve something special this season.
242 Posted 01/10/2012 at 09:40:01
Great first half but really would have liked the mauling you mentioned Lyndon!
270 Posted 01/10/2012 at 12:56:16
277 Posted 01/10/2012 at 14:27:23
293 Posted 01/10/2012 at 16:39:24
Its a shame we havent gone for Michel Vorm at Swansea as he is a top keeper and was near the end of his contract until recently
299 Posted 01/10/2012 at 16:46:32
As for the question "where is the money gonna come from", my reply is...sell these players:
Howard: 2 mill.
Neville: 1 mill.
Anichebe: 2 mill.
Vellios: 1 mill.
Gueye: 1 mill.
The remaining money will be from our beloved chairman's own savings.
301 Posted 01/10/2012 at 17:21:31
You have a wonderful sense of humour
302 Posted 01/10/2012 at 17:22:57
305 Posted 01/10/2012 at 17:33:06
I have been unsure about Howard for years. He's not been bad but he's not been great. I would put him around halfway in the Premier league GK list. Now that we have genuine aspirations of top 4 I think we could use a little better than that. Butland looks like a good shout but will surely cost a few pennies...
308 Posted 01/10/2012 at 17:40:18
316 Posted 01/10/2012 at 18:21:38
Howard is so so inconsistent; he needs to be more vocal and more of a leader in the box; and he flaps at crosses like a headless, silly Dai-Davies like, Larry Graysonite, gawky berk. I would like a goalie in the next window who could start straight away, not twiddle his gloves on the bench.
A real rival, a real alternative, a real option, a real goalie. Butland, hmmmm Enough experience????? I'm afraid no-one springs to mind right now...
I'm still in a haze after spending yesterday at the Ryder Cup and getting slaughtered in down-town Chicago last night – fair bit of bitters, by the way. But – you listening Pete Barry – fluttering, flailing, flapping, tottering, timid, taciturn, troubled, taxing, thrashing Timmy needs a kick in the ass and no guaranteed place for EFC.
447 Posted 02/10/2012 at 11:01:46
450 Posted 02/10/2012 at 11:27:42
Yet you want to buy a Russian goalkeeper?
Akinfeev is great (in Football Manager)... but still prone to the same mistakes as other keepers are in real life. I've seen him have a stinker or two.
461 Posted 02/10/2012 at 13:09:25
463 Posted 02/10/2012 at 13:35:00
465 Posted 02/10/2012 at 13:51:15
468 Posted 02/10/2012 at 14:43:40
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