Good grief! An away win.
This was an absolutely vital victory in the context of Everton’s Premier League survival as it lifted them six points clear of the drop zone with around a third of the season gone but the performance that underpinned it was largely unconvincing in terms of advancing Marco Silva’s claim to be the man to realise the club’s ambitions at the top end of the Premier League.
It’s true that the Portuguese would have expected more from his attacking unit than a mere five shots on target from 24 efforts at goal in the 90 minutes (just one fewer than Leicester’s shot tally in their 9-0 win here two weeks ago) but in many ways that was down the personnel selected.
Because Silva seemed to have looked at the formula that Leicester used to inflict that Premier League record away win — pace and direct running — and opted for something very different, dropping the quick-footed Alex Iwobi to the bench in favour of the pedestrian Gylfi Sigurdsson, deploying the willing but one-paced Cenk Tosun up front and leaving Moise Kean, a player who could have used a cameo off the bench had Everton been sufficiently ahead by that time to start rebuilding his confidence, out of the squad altogether.
The result was dominance by the Blues in the first half in particular but a familiar lack of the kind of cutting edge and decisiveness in the final third that would have seen them out of sight by half-time against a Saints side that felt like it was teetering on the edge of another capitulation for most of the first half after Tom Davies had nodded the visitors into the lead.
By the end, after Richarlison had restored Everton’s lead, Silva had resorted to throwing Michael Keane on as the “Moyes sub” to shore things up and the Toffees were hanging a bit for the final whistle. And with some justification because, worryingly, on the very few occasions that Southampton showed the merest gumption, managed to put together some concerted pressure and play some football, Everton looked vulnerable and there was a depressing inevitability and familiarity about the equaliser early in the second half.
Ultimately, it was Everton’s superior quality that told, securing a first away win since March and providing a platform from which to try and build a run of form.
With André Gomes out for the next few months, Davies will almost certainly form an important part of that platform and, together with Mason Holgate, the young midfielder once again grabbed his chance to impress with an assured performance, not to mention his first goal for two seasons.
The pair combined in the fifth minute after both Richarlison and Sigurdsson had had shots charged down and the latter’s effort went behind for a corner. Lucas Digne’s delivery from the right was headed towards the far post by Holgate where Davies stole in untracked to head home.
There was a couple of moments in the next 10 minutes where the Blues’ rearguard looked a little open and uncertain but in one instance Djibril Sidibé, deservedly starting again in place of Seamus Coleman, was in smartly to snuff out the danger posed by Nathan Redmond and Everton comfortably dealt with the resulting corner.
At the other end, Theo Walcott was in purposeful mood and he sent Tosun in behind the defence but Jack Stephens denied him with a sliding block before the winger was fouled by Yannik Vestergaard and Sigurdsson’s wicked free-kick just eluded the extended foot of Mina.
In between, Walcott and Tosun had combined nicely with a one-two move that ended with the former chipping a cross to the back stick for the Turk but he couldn’t keep his header down and a gilt-edged chance to add to his goal last Sunday against Spurs went begging.
Walcott forced Alex McCarthy in the Southampton goal to beat away his cross from the byline, Davies’s sliced cross almost drifted into the top corner before the keeper tipped it over to safety and Digne scooped over with his weaker foot after Sigurdsson had played him in with a neat pass.
Overall, however, the feeling at half-time was that Everton were standing over a wounded animal but without the wherewithal to deliver the killer blow and the fear, of course, was that it would come back to haunt them in the second half.
It took just five minutes for that sense of deja vu to set in. Sofiane Boufal, a change made at the interval by Ralph Hasenhüttl, had an instant impact on the context, forcing the first save of the afternoon from Jordan Pickford and then serving up yet another goal against Everton for Danny Ings.
As Southampton collected Mina’s clearance from a corner, the Moroccan easily drove along the byline past Schneiderlin and when his low centre took a deflection off Mina, the ball fell to Ings almost on the goal-line and he couldn’t miss to level the match at 1-1.
Rather than stumble, however, Everton responded by going back on the offensive but after McCarthy pushed Sigurdsson’s strong shot over, the Blues were again let down by poor decision-making in the final third.
Tosun dragged a shot across the face of goal with three team-mates queuing up in the middle looking for a square pass and Richarlison squandered a great chance with an hour gone when he was sent away down the left channel but he elected not to shoot, tried to drag it back onto his right foot and had the ball taken off him.
Back at the other end, meanwhile, Mina was fortunate not to be penalised when he unnecessarily flung Moussa Djenepo aside in his own box seeing the ball behind for a goal kick before Sidibé chopped the same player down on the edge of the area and James Ward-Prowse arrowed a free-kick towards the top corner only to be foiled by a flying save from Pickford.
Then, just before Silva made a double substitution that introduced Iwobi and Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the expense of Walcott and Tosun, Holgate went close to scoring his second Everton goal when Digne’s long throw-in bounced over Stuart Armstrong but the defender’s header dropped onto the roof of the net.
Iwobi had barely been on the pitch a minute before playing an important role in the winning goal. His pass released Sidibé down the right wing and the Frenchman whipped in a peach of a cross behind the home defence that was met on the volley and steered in by Richarlison.
Iwobi himself almost made it 3-1 after Digne had cut the ball back from the byline but the Nigerian’s shot on the turn was deflected inches wide and his attempted volleyed pass back towards the six-yard box from a free-kick a few minutes later was deflected onto the outside of the post by a Saints defender.
And Iwobi was involved again five minutes from the end when his slide-rule pass split the defence for Calvert-Lewin but Vestergaard did well to get back and slide in to block the striker’s shot behind for a corner.
While the elusive third goal never arrived and the slender lead meant that the closing stages weren’t comfortable, Everton were able to see the match out and secure what were three hugely important points for Silva.
The result leaves the Blues sitting just three points off fifth place but that is a reflection of the poverty of the clubs outside the top four — this Everton side as it is currently playing and being managed shouldn’t belong in any conversation involving European qualification. And, yet, a win over Norwich at Goodison Park in a fortnight’s time would have them very much in the mix; it’s the difficult run of fixtures looming in December that will be the real test, though, and Silva has plenty of work to do convince supporters and the Board alike that he can deliver over the medium to long term.
Everton make the long trek down to the south coast for the third time this season as they take on fellow strugglers Southampton.
Marco Silva's midfield challenge, deepened by the tragic loss of Andre Gomes to a fracture-dislocation of his ankle last weekend, has not risked Fabian Delph, who joins Jean-Phillipe Gbamin on the sidelines. Morgan Schneiderlin and Gylfi Sigurdsson are recalled, with Cenk Tosun up front, leading the line.
Anthony Gordon is on the bench. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Alex Iwobi join the 18-year-old, with Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Michael Keane and goalkeeper Jonas Lössl rounding out the list of substitutes.
Richarlison collapsed under minimal pressure, a light hand on his shoulder, Paul Teirney surprisingly giving Everton an early free-kick, then penalizing Richarlison as the ball came in. The same situation in reverse at the other end, Richarliso fouling and Everton having to defend an early set-piece but turned into a nice counter, although Walcott and then Sigurdsson decided to faff around rather than shoot at goal. But from Sigurdsson's corner, Tom Davies ran around the far post and headed home very confidently, a brilliant finish to a fine ball on from Holgate at the near post.
Southampton were stunned but tried to restructure and push the Blues back, Redmond being snuffed out well by Mina and Holgate. Digne won a second corner on 10 mins, this time from the left, which Davies tried to do something with but Southampton broke again, and there was some lively open running.
Sigurdssson tried to release Tosun but his through ball was intercepted. However, Tosun got a chance to chase a ball in on the home side's goal only to see a defender across quicker to block his weak half-shot on the stretch.
Tosun got through again, after flicking the ball beautifully to Walcott who set up a looping ball for him to finish with a powerful header into the roof of the net... NO! He made a total mess of it and missed completely!
Walcott was fouled, by Vestergaard, setting up another opportunity for Sigurdsson, curled in superbly but just a little ahead of the Blue line and no end product.
Everton were looking pretty comfortable despite a poor wayward kick into touch from Pickford. Richarlison then tried to be too clever and let the ball roll out of play but the Blues were quick to regain possession. But passing was wayward in the final third, as if they were perhaps a little too comfortable.
Walcott did very well to skip past Stevens but went too close to the byline and could only shoot at McCarthy from a narrow angle. Better from Richarlison on the other side, running strong and winning a corner, Davies trying a clever cross-shot to the top corner that McCarthy tipped behind for another corner, Digne's third, lopping too high defended away. Walcott then wasted another attack with an overhit deep cross of his own.
A really nice move through the middle saw Sigurdsson feed Digne who tried to find the far top corner but was well off target. Everton were in total control but the final ball always letting down some really good build-up work. Sloppy passing from Davies let Southampton counter but Holgate was all over the striker.
Tosun went over easily and again won the free-kick, Digne delivering this better but, in the subsequent phases, no-one could muster a clean shot despite the panic created in the Saints defence. The stats showed 11 attempts on goal from Everton at this point: zero from the Saints, whose fans were not happy, to say the least. Repeated forward balls from their stars overhit and going behind for goal-kicks.
A mistake by Holgate and Cedric saw his chance but Davies was in quickly with a fine tackle to stop him in his tracks. Djenepo then fouled Sidibe at the end, to a chorus of boos and jeers from the St Mary's faithfull.
Everton had played well enough, but the reason was that Southampton had been desperately poor, and the inability of the Blues to run up a cricket score by half-time told the full story of their current inadequacies when it comes to the vital on-field endeavour of scoring goals.Southampton made a change afyer the break, and Sidibe's aggression in defence yeilded a free-kick from wich Boufal fired in but it was an eeassy save for Pickford off their first attempt. The ball ran upfield for Richarlison who utterly wasted it.
Walcott and Sidibe contrived to surrender a great position on the right, and Southampton surged forward, winning their first corner, headed away by Mina. But Djnepo drove back in, winning another corner, Mina again defending it but Boufal galloped through three blues defenders, his cross defected by Mina into the path of Ings 1 yard out and a shockingly soft goal given up by the Blues, who had been caught totally napping since the break, a poor surrender of their total first-half dominance.
A great run from Richarlison but he overcooked it; however, the ball came back to Sigurdsson who curled it goalward but too central for McCarthy, who tipped over for an Everton corner. Sigurdsson drove the short corner in but McCarthy punched it away.
Tosun tried to fire on across goal and inside the far post but it was off target, Richarlison hanging too far back to tap it in. Everton, however, had realised their predicament and were at least trying to get inside the Southampton area, but poor passing accuracy again yielding possession at key moments, causing attacks to break down before. Richarlison wanted far too much time instead of shooting, and Sigurdsson was no better when nicking the ball from the Brazilian.
Mina was very lucky not to be called for a penalty when he clumsily barged Djnepo off the ball in the corner of the Everton area. A clear and obvious error? No intervention from VAR. Sidibe then body-checked Djnepo right on the edge of the area, gifting Southampton another set-piece opportunity. Ward-Prowse lashed it at Pickford, who was well-enough positioned to punch it away, but Everton were under a lot of pressure from the corner, this half a complete contrast from the first, Everton well under the cosh. Ings fumbling a cross in, but no VAR check. More corners for the home side ensued.
Everton finally broke out but Sigurdsson's clever ball straight through the defence was scoffed at by everyone and allowed to roll harmlessly through to McCarthy.
Richarlison got free again but Ings was in on him quickly to deny the shooting chance at the expense of a corner that ended up as a long throw by Digne, which bobbled off the top of Holgate's head and onto the roof of the net.
A bold double move had been in preparation from Silva for at least 10 minutes, Walcott and Tosun finally dragged off to be replaced by Iwobi and Calvert-Lewin in a desperate bid to save something from a game that showed every sign of ending up like so many away games for Everton.
Miraculously it paid off when, out of nothing, a fine cross from Sidibe to the far post where Richarlison, somewhat uncharacteristically was in the right place to hit it first time into the back of the net, a very fine finish fro only his 3rd goal of the season.
Richarlison drove forward and played in Sigurdsson nicely, the ball squirming back for Iwoboi to swivel and shoot, his shot deflected inches wide of the post. Everton kept pushing for a more decisive third goal to prevent a Brighton recurrence, Iwobi coming wide to cross in a free-kick from Digne but it struck a defender.
A great build-up saw Iwobi feed Calvert-Lewin but he could not get the shot off. Everton were camped in the home-side half, determined not to give up this one, but it was time for Richarlison's dead swan impression as he twitched in agony, awaiting the last rights, Paul Tierney finally stopping the game because Richarlison was grasping his head... just pathetic from the (hopefully) game-winner.
Michael Keane was brought on in an effort to preserve the precious lead, Richarlison going off.
Boufal won a soft free-kick to send nervous fears through Blues hearts and Romeu got on the end of it but could not make anything of it as Davies went down with cramp. The Blues incredibly played out the 5 minutes of added time to finally secure a precious historic, ground-breaking away win.
Scorers: Ings (50'); Davies (4'), Richarlison (75')
Southampton: McCarthy; Bednarek, Stephens, Vestergaard, Cédric (46' Boufal); Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Armstrong (90 + 1' Obafemi), Djenepo; Ings, Redmond (81' Adams).
Subs not Used: Yoshida, Gunn, Danso, Valery.
Everton: Pickford; Sidibé, Mina, Holgate, Digne; Schneiderlin, Davies, Walcott (74' Iwobi), Sigurdsson; Richarlison (89' Keane), Tosun (74' Calvert-Lewin).
Subs not Used: Lössol, Coleman, Baines, Gordon.
Referee: Paul Tierney
Everton make the long trek down to the south coast for the third time this season as they take on fellow strugglers Southampton.
This part of England has not been a happy hunting ground at all for the Blues since first Southampton, in 2012, then Bournemouth and Brighton gained promotion to the top flight — in 15 visits over the past seven years, Everton have won just once, drawn four and lost eight times.
Apart from the three goals they put past the Saints in Roberto Martinez's final season in charge in August 2015, they've only scored twice at St Mary's, in seven games, conceding 12 and, of course, they've already let in three goals at the Vitality and Amex Stadiums already this season.
So it's hardly the ideal destination for Marco Silva and a team that as accrued just 11 points from as many matches and comes into the weekend sitting one place above the relegation zone. Just like last month, the Portuguese goes into what could potentially be a pivotal fixture in terms of his future at Goodison Park with a two-week international break looming beyond.
Defeat to a Southampton team that has yet to win at home this season and that was crushed 9-0 by Leicester City in their last game in front of their own fans really should be unthinkable for Silva and there are plenty who feel it could be the last straw for Farhad Moshiri and the Everton board but both teams could be galvanised by recent adversity.
Ralph Hasenhüttl rallied his team sufficiently last weekend to push Manchester City most of the way at the Etihad Stadium, with the Champions needing a late goal from Kyle Walker to overturn a 1-0 deficit and there is a danger that he could inspire the Saints to what would be only their third victory of the season this weekend.
Silva, meanwhile, will hopefully have been channeling a sense of anger among his charges following inexplicable injustice at the hands of VAR in the matches against Brighton and Tottenham, not to mention a sense of solidarity for André Gomes who begins his road to recovery from the fracture dislocation of his ankle he suffered at Goodison last Sunday.
The Portuguese underwent surgery to mend a fracture dislocation of his right ankle and was released from Aintree Hospital on Tuesday. While no official timescale has been put on his return, Everton's medical staff aren't ruling out Gomes seeing action again before the end of the season.
“It's not easy for us to give a sure date of when he will return but what's in our mind, from the feedback from our medical staff, is that it's possible he will be back playing again this season,” Silva said in his pre-match press conference.
“Everything went really well [with the surgery] and we hope we can see him playing again this season. Of course, it's not something we're 100% sure about but we have good possibilities [for him] to do that.”
The Toffees look likely to be without three important midfield players, then, as Fabian Delph battles a hamstring problem. The England international pulled up at the end of the 1-1 draw with Spurs clutching the back of his thigh and this latest soft-tissue problem means that he is a big doubt for the game at St Mary's Stadium.
“[Fabian] is a big doubt for the game,” Silva in his pre-match press conference today. Let's see tomorrow and after on the match day but I think at this moment he is a big doubt for the match.“
It would leave Marco Silva with just two senior players in that area of the pitch in light of Gomes's injury and Jean-Philippe Gbamin's long-term lay-off following surgery of his own on his thigh. Morgan Schneiderlin is fit again having shaken off a minor problem and would be the automatic choice as the holding midfielder while Gomes's absence hands Tom Davies the chance to get an extended run in the side and prove his worth in the middle of the park.
There has been a sense that Silva doesn't have full faith that the young homegrown talent is ready to hold down a permanent place in the side but, while Delph is sidelined and the transfer window doesn't reopen until January, the manager has little choice but to let him loose to see what he can do.
What formation he elects to use remains to be seen but it's likely to be a reversion to 4-2-3-1, perhaps with Alex Iwobi back in the No 10 role, flanked by Theo Walcott and Richarlison with one of Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Cenk Tosun leading the line.
The two strikers each stepped off the bench in the last two matches to score but Silva's propensity to chop and change up front makes it hard to know which player will get the nod. There's also a chance, of course, that Silva might restore Gylfi Sigurdsson to the starting XI, pushing Iwobi out wide and using Richarlison as the centre-forward.
At the back, Yerry Mina appears to be fit enough to start, despite being substituted against Watford in the Carabao Cup tie and hobbling his way through the closing stages of the Tottenham game, and is a good bet to partner Mason Holgate again while Djibril Sidibé continues at right-back.
Regardless of the mounting injury crisis afflicting Everton's midfield, Silva will still be able to field a team capable of beating a poor Southampton outfit whose frailties were ruthlessly exposed by Leicester a fortnight ago.
A draw and a committed, spirited performance is the very least that the travelling Blues would expect; the alternative, a sixth defeat in nine League games, would leave the manager in a perilous position.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 9 November 2019
Referee: Paul Tierney
Last Time: Southampton 2 - 1 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Sidibé, Holgate, Mina, Digne, Schneiderlin, Davies, Iwobi, Walcott, Richarlison, Tosun