Southampton 0 - 3 EvertonIt’s a long way from St Domingo to St Mary's, and with protest in the air... but, after a very good display and a comprehensive victory, it does not seem as far homeward bound.
The team selection reached us via electronic means and it was noticeable that we were wingless wonders. Well, if Alf Ramsey could win the World Cup with that approach, then I was sure we could beat Southampton away for the first time since Carsley and the Gravedigger starred and Watson got the winner.
Everton kicked off in our new green strip on a lovely sunny day but quickly gave the ball away and Soton attacked; Howard had to be sharp in the save. They attacked again and this time Jags made a great interception and strode forward and found Lukaku on the left touchline. The big Belgian set off at an alarming pace and firstly completely out-ran and out-muscled his first opponent and headed directly toward the box only to be brought down from behind. ‘Penalty!!!’ yelled the faithful; 'No' said the ref, it was on the edge of the box, so a free kick it was.
Barkley took it but clipped the top of the wall and it was deflected for a corner which caused a spate of attacking but, after two corners, it sort of petered out. However, no moaning and groaning as I think most of us were delighted with the strength, pace and power shown by Lukaku which, although there was no end product, set the tone for our excellent display and changed the mood of those assembled markedly.
We started to grow in confidence and Jags built on that with a tremendous block tackle that stopped a dangerous move in its tracks. We next had a move of joined-up stuff that saw us keep the ball for quite a spell and move it forward a lot whilst we looked for that chink in their armour to deliver the killer pass; alas it did get cleared eventually but I must say a passage of play worth witnessing.
Around 20 mins in, I noted that we had not done so much keep ball at the back today... when Coleman was caught messing about at the back, resulting in Mane taking the ball right into the heart of our box for a free shot that Howard did really well to get a foot to and send out for a corner. They had tall players to send into the box so many a Blue heart was in mouth but, as the corner was delivered, out strode Barkley with the ball and found Kone further forward; he set off to the right of goal and looped one in to find his partner who rose like a swan and headed the ball beyond the keeper to nestle into the top corner -- cue wild celebrations... and to think we scored from their corner, happy days!
"Shall we sing a song for you?" the Blue fans belted out, which was great to hear as it is usually the away fans singing that to us at Goodison Park.
The half-hour mark arrives and Kone and Lukaku combine well down the right-hand side and Lukaku picked out Barkley all on his own less than 12 yards out, "So go on, son, fill yer boots," we thought... but he got it wrong and merely passed the ball back to the keeper, most unlike Ross, as he was to demonstrate later in the game.
The first half wore on with us keeping a good shape for defending and looking to break with quick counters that certainly gave the Saints food for thought. The clock showed half-time and 3 added minutes and I was grateful to go in one up when, from more good defensive work, Barkley strode forward with the ball and made one of his surging runs with Lukaku running off him; as he neared their box, he measured a pass of exquisite weight to the feet of Lukaku who, from about 18 yards, slotted home. A peach of a goal that was royally celebrated by all of a Blue persuasion.
Added time almost up and to go in two-up was utopia on a ground where we get very little, especially not goals, so we just needed to see it out, lads. But it wouldn’t be Everton without giving us a scare and we got it when Barkley fouled and gave away a free kick and got booked. Breath was held but the kick was met by Howard’s fists and cleared and the half-time whistle duly went.
The half-time chat was in complete contrast to last Saturday, with most upbeat and remarking how well we had handled a tough away fixture so far.
Second half and the Greens made no changes while, as we suspected, words had been said in the Saints dressing room; they started at a fair pace with intent as their sub Romeu went right through McCarthy and got yellow. I have seen red flashed for less.
Saints pressed and won a corner, then another... thus ensuring good defending with concentration was definitely called for as a goal for them early on could well have changed the game. I found myself thinking "We need a good 25 mins here to take a bit of sting out of them." We achieved this with some excellent defending and breaking with pace when we could.
Although Lukaku was hardly seeing the ball, his channel runs were occupying two defenders and when Kone and Barkley surged we looked good and Saints fearful. In Stones and Jags, we had rocks protected well by all our outfield players to such an extent that, although Saints seemed forever in our box, Howard was rarely being called upon.
Barkley surged twice and twice he went down on the edge and twice the Ref merely told him to get up when a Blue army behind the goal was adamant he was wrong.
Time moved on and we were performing well enough for prayer beads to be put away as Lukaku tangled with Fonte and had a handbag exchange right in front of our fans. I did hope the Saints man did not understand ‘scouse’ as he may have needed a toilet break. The Ref had a word with both and both seemed pals again.
We passed the 70-minute mark and were looking more relaxed as a good portion of the sting had been pulled from the hosts. We had some more joined-up stuff and forced a corner which brought another corner but we let ourselves down with that one as we tried to work it from the flag and got caught offside. More work at Finch farm on that one, lads.
In our next attack, we got a tad over-confident and gave the ball away and the Saints set off at pace goalwards, forcing McCarthy to halt their effort by taking a yellow for the team. McCarthy then took one himself and the Saint Davis was booked. Saints fans leaving now but some were stopped in their tracks as Mane hit a rocket that Howard dived and pushed for a corner. It was a good height for him, as the pundits say... but they all need saving. The corner was cleared with ease.
On 80 minutes, Kone was replaced by Naismith and given a great send off; by hell, that was different to the noise he got when he came on last week! About 4 minutes later, we gain a corner and "Everton, Everton" tumbles down the terraces. The ball is regained by Lukaku who appears to go on a powerful mazy dribble that takes on the whole defence. The ball is worked across the box to find the lurking Barkley and, with a sublime one touch and shot, the net was troubled and the whole place exploded: Game Over!
Browning came on for Galloway, who had a good game but is still learning; I am sure this lad can come through. Also Deulofeu got his second Everton debut when replacing Lukaku, who got a hell of a Thank You from the hoards. 4 minutes added which soon passed and, at the final whistle, we are singing in the sunshine as the players came over and a love-in took place. Ahh... what a difference a week in football makes!
MotM – The Entire Team
Four points from two games; so we are two better off than this stage last season. It was heartening the way we played today but of course to get where we would like to be we will need today’s attitude and level on a consistent basis. If we do get the two players and of the class that the manager is talking about, then our outlook for the season will surely seem brighter.
I hope today’s display can get the home crowd back onside and who knows... a result from City is certainly possible and the Sunday roast will be complete. After watching today's Southampton display, I believe there is one important thing Everton FC can learn from them: Don’t sell your best players!
A good day all round and I wonder, could a goal-fest beat a pro-test?
UP THE BLUES