Everton 3 - 1 Southampton
Rafael Benitez began his reign with a rousing season-opening victory over Southampton as Everton welcomed a practically full house back to Goodison Park for the first time in almost 18 months.
The Blues were booed off by some at half-time as the team trailed to a sloppily-conceded Adam Armstrong goal but the Grand Old Lady was bouncing by the end as a comeback, inspired by the indefatigable Richarlison, ended 3-1, the first time an Everton side has won when trailing at the break for six years.
The Brazilian returned to Finch Farm in midweek straight from his international adventures at the Copa America and the Tokyo Olympics and it was his equaliser two minutes into the second half that sparked Benitez's side into full life.
Abdoulaye Doucouré then put Everton ahead and Dominic Calvert-Lewin wrapped things up with a striker's header.
The win was hugely important, not only for Benitez's need to get off to a positive start but because the Toffees came into the first game of the season with five players in isolation due to possible exposure to Covid-19 and another still on bail pending a police investigation.
James Rodriguez and Ben Godfrey were the key absentees from the squad but the new manager was able to deploy both of his new signings, with Andros Townsend lining up wide on the right, Richarlison on the left and Demarai Gray playing off Calvert-Lewin in the middle.
Buoyed by a positive reception for Benitez from the fans, Everton made a positive start, setting the template for their performance by getting the ball forward early and Allan had an early sighter of goal but it was too close to Alex McCarthy in the Saints' goal before Gray picked Calvert-Lewin out with a cross but he couldn't keep it down.
Southampton played their part in what was largely an open game, with new signing Tino Livramento at right-back a particular stand-out but it was another new arrival, Armstrong, who profited from a horrendous error by Michael Keane.
The defender, playing alongside Mason Holgate with Yerry Mina on the bench due to his lack of pre-season activity following a delayed return from the Copa America, was caught dallying on the ball midway inside his own half and was robbed by Che Adams. He prodded it forward to release Armstrong who made no mistake, lifting the ball past Jordan Pickford and into the top corner of the goal.
Richarlison was booked for simulating a foul with half and hour gone as the Blues tried to force their way back into the match but they went into the interval a goal in arrears and with the displeasure of Goodison ringing in their ears.
Benitez's half-time talk and a tactical shift that swapped the positions of the two centre-backs and moved Gray to the left with Richarlison into the centre did the trick, however, in spurring his charges into more purposeful action. Gray won a 47th-minute corner that was only cleared as far as Townsend. He nodded a looping header back towards the six-yard box where Richarlison anticipated the opportunity, stole behind the static Mohammed Salisu and stabbed it into the roof of the net.
That ignited the home crowd but it would take another half an hour for the next goal to arrive as Southampton responded in what was a very even encounter until 15 minutes from the end. Even so, despite a couple of nervy moments claiming aerial balls from a flurry of Saints corners, Pickford didn't have a save of note make after denying Armstrong in the first half.
Instead, it was McCarthy who was picking the ball out of the back of net following a wonderful strike by Doucouré. Operating much closer to the opposition box than was the case in the latter stages of Carlo Ancelotti's tenure, the Frenchman was involved in the build-up to the goal when he fed the ball out to Seamus Coleman on the right flank.
The Irishman's scooped pass found recent substitute Alex Iwobi who headed it back to Doucouré just inside the area. He took one touch to turn his marker and then unleashed a fabulous effort into the top corner to make it 2-1.
That became 3-1 in the closing stages and Iwobi was involved again. Picking up the ball on the right from Richarlison, he then threaded a perfectly-weighted pass between two defenders and the Brazilian whipped a peach of an early cross to the six-yard box where Calvert-Lewin stooped to force a diving header into the net off McCarthy to set the seal on a superb afternoon for Everton.
It was a performance wholly at odds with the team's struggles at home under Benitez's predecessor and a victory earned by playing to the Blues' strengths as a side.
Last season's games in an empty home stadium were too often a story of capitulation and attacking ineptitude but today the character and response from the team was exactly what was required.
Much was owed to Richarlison who was excellent in the second half and a driving force in attack but both new signings played important roles and the new boss got his tactics spot-on on the day.
More importantly, true football was back with the return of a ground full of supporters who were treated to a stirring victory that will begin to banish the cloud of pessimism with which many fans approached the 2021-22 season.
Reader Comments (57)
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1 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:12:33
I hope this comeback win is the first sign of an increased fitness level of our players. It was the first time we have won a game since 2015 after being a goal down at half-time.
I really liked Iwobi's playing as an inside forward, he really made us fluid in the second half. Also, there seemed to be that little extra bite in our tackles... the lads played like they wanted to win. Rafa was the 12th man!
2 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:22:43
3 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:30:59
A very satisfying afternoon which gave us all a much-needed boost. Some very good performances on the day but Man of the Match for me was Rafa Benitez.
4 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:32:13
I do not think the Keane - Holgate combination will ever work. I have always felt that, so Keane's slip only supports this opinion. The two new lads, Townsend and Gray, really did offer some much-needed speed and trickery.
Up front, Richarlison played far better than most of the times we saw him last season. Really dynamic in all parts of the field. Superb goal by Calvert-Lewin but I still think he needs to take a more active role in the regular play.
Doucouré played exactly as most fans expected when we signed him... well done. The rest of the team made a valid contribution although the team were still prone to giving the ball away too easily.
Benitez would have come in for harsh criticism if we had lost. Considering the choices he had, that would have been unfair. He was modest about what he must have done at half-time because a new team came out. Well done!!!
Lastly, it was so nice to win at home and every Evertonian can have a pleasant weekend.
5 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:34:24
6 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:36:56
To me, there was improved pace and commitment too but I do hope for one or two more signings and departures (but I don't mean to HMP Walton!) before the window closes.
7 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:48:39
I'm gonna stick my neck out and say "very, very good" with regard to Gray. I think the penny has finally dropped with the lad and he realises this is a huge opportunity for him to prove himself to be the player he can be.
I get the feeling he now knows hard work and dedication are the minimum requirements to make it at the top level.
Not bothered about being right for my own ends but for the benefit of our club, mate.
8 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:51:09
Last season, when Richarlison moved inside, there was no-one to replace Richarlison down the left side, which affected the way that Digne played. By buying Gray, he has found the solution.
It would interesting to know who was the architect of that move. Gray never seemed to get much of a chance at Leicester and disappeared off the radar by moving to Bayer Leverkusen. He couldn't have been doing much there as they let him go for peanuts. So congrats to whoever realized he has a talent that could solve one of our problems.
Yesterday certainly wasn't perfect but it was much much better than we saw at the end of last season. I must admit I got tired of Carlo's demeanour on the touchline when things were not going well. Rafa looked very interested, as a manager should do, and he seemed to be listening to Dunc – whether he understood what he was saying could have been a different matter! But it did appear they were a team... again, something we didn't see last season.
So plenty of hope and positives after only one game!
9 Posted 15/08/2021 at 16:52:58
10 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:05:44
Good report, Lyndon. I tend to exaggerate the importance of any game but that was so important. Rafa Benitez is a hard man to warm to (one of his attributes?) but I warmed to him. I think that was a great day at Goodison Park.
Brian, I agree about Gray; I always thought we needed to get lucky and find a lost talent with something to prove... also, the right coach to spot it. Fingers crossed, have the stars aligned here?
By the way, Brian, now that you are on this thread, hope you are well, and I really hope you will be at the Bramley-Moore on 25 September. Look forward to meeting you again.
11 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:11:30
I'll be there at the Bramley-Moore. Looking forward to seeing you again too, mate.
Still remember the look on your face when you walked in the Excelsior after the 4-0 against Man Utd. 💙💙💙💙
12 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:12:54
Early days but a very good result, so now for Leeds.
13 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:15:24
14 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:18:51
Joking aside (I wasn't), really looking forward to the Bramley-Moore meet.
If it's anything like the feeling when Z-Cars started yesterday, I'll need some Kleenex.
Talk about choked up, for fuck's sake!
15 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:20:48
People were saying the squad were terrible last season. Really? Are James, Digne, Richarliosn, Allan, Calvert-Lewin, Godfrey etc not enough to beat Sheffield United, Fulham, Newcastle and Burnley at home?
As for yesterday's game, Keane and Holgate are not good players and abysmal when paired together because none of them takes control. Mina and Godfrey both do and are much better as a pairing.
Rafa is already getting more out of Richarlison, Doucouré and Iwobi (not saying we shouldn't sell Iwobi though).
16 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:35:56
It made me sad to see how much the Old Lady has really aged in the time we've spent away, even though it's still a beautiful, special place that will be very hard to leave once the curtain comes down for good.
17 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:40:47
After 30 minutes, someone was shouting “Get Iwobi on” but I'm glad Benitez waited a bit longer – even though Iwobi, did very well yesterday.
18 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:47:05
19 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:53:51
Brian W., hope you're kidding about the shoes comment... you are 100% fine, aren't you?
And Brian and Andy, I hope you're right, but please keep in mind that the history of Gray's career is the penny dropping... followed shortly thereafter by the penny rolling away on the floor and falling down a sewer grate. If he's playing this way after 10 or 15 games, then I'll get excited about him.
20 Posted 15/08/2021 at 17:58:53
Will James stay to fill it or are we looking within the squad or elsewhere to fill it?
21 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:02:22
Norwich City midfielder Billy Gilmour, who was playing for the newly promoted club on loan from Chelsea, was allegedly targeted by homophobic chanting by some Liverpool fans during the visiting team's 3-0 win at Carrow Road on Saturday. "Great result today marred by homophobic chanting by some of our fans targeting Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour," tweeted Kop Outs, Liverpool's LGBT+ Fans Group. "If you can't support without resorting to bigoted nonsense, you don't understand YNWA," concluded the tweet, a reference to the club's "You'll Never Walk Alone" anthem. Liverpool FC's Twitter account said the chant was "offensive and inappropriate -- a message we have repeatedly communicated alongside Kop Outs." "We urge supporters to remember the inclusive values of the club and to refrain from using it in the future."
"Great result today marred by homophobic chanting by some of our fans targeting Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour," tweeted Kop Outs, Liverpool's LGBT+ Fans Group.
"If you can't support without resorting to bigoted nonsense, you don't understand YNWA," concluded the tweet, a reference to the club's "You'll Never Walk Alone" anthem.
Liverpool FC's Twitter account said the chant was "offensive and inappropriate -- a message we have repeatedly communicated alongside Kop Outs."
"We urge supporters to remember the inclusive values of the club and to refrain from using it in the future."
Yep, urging them to refrain should work.
22 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:04:16
New shoes NOT a waste of money.
All good, mate, but you know I appreciate your concern. 👍
As one of my idols sung: "Only the Good Die Young."
I'm golden on that!
23 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:12:41
24 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:15:35
25 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:17:29
I said it last season: To get the best out of Doucouré, you have to play him higher up the pitch, and not in a defensive role; we have Allan who can do the Gareth Barry type duties.
The two additional players in Townsend and Gray are giving us options to get crosses into the box.
I expect a few more bargain signings to come in at little cost. I have to admit the news of us sailing close to the wind on FFP may actually work in our favour; a few tweaks here and there, a couple more cheeky signings, build our FFP numbers back up instead of wasting millions on at-best average players.
When you look at the players who were missing as well, I fully expect both Moise Kean and Rodriguez to be gone this window.
Raffa will install belief and players hungry to succeed. I personally think we will see little game time for the above-mentioned and Delph.
It is only one game, but we now have a manager who will act, change the system if needed, and not sit back for the last 20 minutes protecting a game.
Last season at 2-1, had we even managed to draw level first, Carlo would have thrown at least two defensive subs on to close the game out.
After Saturday, you can see a different mentality on the touchline. Make no mistake, with the lack of funds available, we are very lucky to have a manager who is hungry for success, and a will to win attitude.
Well done, Rafa.
26 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:36:36
27 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:37:43
I saw that too. I saw another post from a different club calling out some supporters for racist chanting as well. Say what you like about gesture politics etc but I like this shift in culture and calling out pockets of supporters for ignorance.
It's not enough to just be 'not racist and 'not homophobic'; to challenge ignorance, we have to be 'anti-racist' and 'anti-homophobia'. I applaud the LFC response to it.
On a different note Mr Gaynes, I see we are linked once again to the USA lad Hoppe, any good?
28 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:38:44
29 Posted 15/08/2021 at 18:43:28
30 Posted 15/08/2021 at 19:33:04
Richarlison – what a player we have on our hands! You gotta love his attitude – he's played 15 international matches during the shortened summer, and some of them went into overtime. He played in the heat of Tokyo's summer and then jetted across some 12,000 miles to train and play for Everton barely a week later! Hope he has a storming season and we get to keep him for as long as possible.
Lyndon, yes, I too liked the look of the Saints' Livramento – a superb player, wish we had gone in for him. I also liked Djenepo on their left side, although he dilly-dallied on a few occasions and the chances went abegging, luckily for us. Coleman is looking like our weak spot, sadly, and teams have been exploiting us down that flank for a good 2 seasons. If Brands has money for only one position, I would put all of that into finding Seamus's successor.
Well done to Rafa as well, I will admit he was never my choice and I was shocked when Everton went in for him. It was a brave decision, and the board seem to have ignored the noise and made their decision with single-minded coldness – may turn out to be a very good decision. And kudos to the Everton fans for being fair-minded and giving him a chance to succeed. Everton do have one of the most demanding fanbases in football, but also a very knowledgeable one. COYB!
31 Posted 15/08/2021 at 19:44:09
32 Posted 15/08/2021 at 19:45:48
The final league table usually correlates exactly to the budgets of the clubs.
33 Posted 15/08/2021 at 19:50:51
34 Posted 15/08/2021 at 19:54:12
35 Posted 15/08/2021 at 19:56:31
I doubted Benitez, hated his appointment,but, I am much happier that he is our coach than the coward that is Ancelotti.
36 Posted 15/08/2021 at 20:02:19
37 Posted 15/08/2021 at 20:21:31
38 Posted 15/08/2021 at 20:35:57
I think Michael's and Lyndon's reports reflect those different but equally important sensations. Michael's "emotion-in-the-moment". Lyndon's cooler-headed analysis that has the advantage of time to reflect.
It's the old Footie Echo, on the streets within an hour of the game. Plus the next day's "quality" papers on the game.
Both have a place; both are quality in their own way.
39 Posted 15/08/2021 at 20:54:48
40 Posted 15/08/2021 at 21:13:11
41 Posted 15/08/2021 at 21:22:32
42 Posted 15/08/2021 at 21:34:38
43 Posted 15/08/2021 at 21:43:05
44 Posted 15/08/2021 at 21:50:38
, my God we have been spoiled. Hope Ken and Paul are okay. Steve, I guess, is busy but he will be at the Bramley Moore?
45 Posted 15/08/2021 at 21:59:23
46 Posted 15/08/2021 at 22:18:05
Comments in the thread appearing immediately after his report, also reflect the emotions of the game, only becoming a little more calm as time goes by.
Lyndons report is far more considered simply because his report comes sometime after he has relaxed with a hot toddy but in its own way puts everything into real perspective. Both are a vital contribution to TW each in its own way.
47 Posted 15/08/2021 at 22:33:10
If we had had a good win, my Dad would toddle off to the newsagents across the road from The Bug around 6:45 pm and return with 10 copies and hand them around to all and sundry... 20 if the RS had lost!
Then, on Monday evening, we would read the calm analysis by Michael Charters.
48 Posted 15/08/2021 at 22:42:37
49 Posted 15/08/2021 at 22:57:06
50 Posted 15/08/2021 at 23:19:12
They both give us the ammunition for debate and discussion and, while both approaches are very different, they are both enjoyable and well written.
51 Posted 15/08/2021 at 23:28:40
George Green was one of the better known cartoonists in the fifties and sixties.
52 Posted 16/08/2021 at 01:42:40
In late October 1963, Blackburn came to Goodison to play the fragile, struggling current champions. If I recall correctly, Burnley and Bolton had both come early in the season and, with a mixture of skill, organisation and, by virtue of kicking lumps of us too, robbing us our invincible home record.
Blackburn turned up and, prompted by the brilliant Bryan Douglas, were soon 3-1 up, it finished 2-4, with Big Fred scoring a hat-trick.
So next season, Canny Catterick put Denis Stevens on Douglas to man-mark him, which was a bit revolutionary for the time... we'd already bought Fred from them by then... probably on the strength of his hat-trick. It worked... up to a point – we only lost 2-3 at home.
Anyway, the main frame of Green's cartoon commenting on this key tactical aspect in his own humorous manner, showed Douglas at the halftime tea kiosk saying... "Tea and a wad please" with Stevens right on his shoulder adding... "Twice"
Funny what sticks in your mind... I'll get me coat.
53 Posted 16/08/2021 at 04:17:27
Great story and information. Appreciate reading about a cartoonist who also had a humorous insight into football in those days.
54 Posted 16/08/2021 at 10:56:53
A few days to reflect but still smiling in a way my wife says I never did so on my wedding day.
Great day, great win. Not getting carried away, but the overarching thing for me was our willingness and ability to play on the front foot (second half). If we can do that more, not only will the results come, the crowd will be behind the team. Even if we don't win them all (and we won't), if we see that, we will get behind them.
If all fit, it has to be Godfrey and Mina for me as the centre-back pairing. Interesting point on Mina not being used because of the lack of pre-season activity due to Copa America. Fair one and understandable, but surely that demonstrates the attitude and sheer fitness levels of Richarlison. Not just to be available having played an entire summer of international football around the globe, but to put a shift in like that. Machine.
Looking back now, I didn't realise the simple but effective role Townsend played in the first goal. Put it back in the danger zone as they say. Not looking for anyone, just putting it back in the mix rather than lay off to the side. I thought Doucouré had lost the opportunity before he smashed it into the top corner and Richarlison's part in the 3rd was fantastic from the initial take, through to the lay-off and taking the return followed by the early low fizzing cross that invited Calvert-Lewin to a ball he couldn't refuse.
We have the wide options and we still have Gbamin and even James (?) to come back. Suddenly things don't seem too bad for a squad that narrowly missed out on Europe last season. Or finished 10th? Depends which way your glass is filled!
Brian @25. I was trying to figure out whether we had gone 4-4-2 in the second half. I don't think it was, but just couldn't figure it.
55 Posted 16/08/2021 at 11:02:11
I grew up reading George Green's cartoons, especially in the early edition on a Saturday when he gave a running story on the poor scruffy kids and their football team “The Back Entry Diddlers”. Tich was my favourite, a small schemer, the stories and the kids fitted in with life just after the war.
Then the football ones of Everton and Liverpool with the characters at the top of the pink echo depicting how the teams had got on, dancing for joy or gloomy faces.
Those were the days, brassic but happy.
56 Posted 16/08/2021 at 14:29:39
57 Posted 16/08/2021 at 17:49:53
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