An early Richarlison goal was enough for Everton to take all three points against a Southampton side who have now lost eight of their last nine Premier League matches.
An injury hit Southampton side yet again started the game with a makeshift back four, with Jan Bednarek filling in for Kyle Walker-Peters at right-back. Hasenhuttl opted to play three wingers in midfield, with Djenepo, Redmond and Armstrong partnering the ever-present James Ward-Prowse. The Saints faced a tough test against an in-form Everton side who knew a win would take them just a point outside the top four.
Southampton outclassed in first 45′:
The first half at Goodison Park was as a clear representation of the respective clubs’ form in recent weeks. Everton played with an air of confidence whilst the Saints looked shaky at the back and failed to muster any significant chance in front of goal.
With less than 10 minutes on the clock, the Saints fell behind. A long punt forwards by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford was won in the air not once but twice by Dominic Calvert-Lewin who was too strong for Mohammed Salisu. The ball eventually fell to the feet of the creative Gylfi Sigurdsson who found it all too easy to play through Richarlison. The Brazilian expertly took the ball around Fraser Forster before finishing into an empty net from a tight angle.
Midway through the first-half the Saints were given another warning sign. Everton defender Michael Keane headed in from close range after a cleverly worked free-kick routine by Lucas Digne. The Toffees thought they had their second of the night, but for the VAR to rule the goal out moments later after a marginal offside on Mason Holgate in the build up.
What will be most worrying for Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl is how easily his side’s defensive line was breached in the first half. More often than not, it would take just one pass from an Everton midfielder to slip in either Richarlison or Calvert-Lewin. The (admittedly) injury-hit Southampton defence is now merely a shadow of its former self early on in the season when they were on a good run and kept numerous clean sheets. Unfortunately in this moment in time, the harsh reality is that opposition strikers must be loving the prospect of facing such a weak Saints back-line. Unlike last season when the infamous 9-0 loss to Leicester resulted in a huge turn around at the club, this season’s 9-0 loss at the hands of Manchester United on 2nd February has seemingly stripped the Saints of any confidence, defensive stability and enthusiasm that was apparent in their play earlier in the season.
Saints late push counts for nothing
The second-half had a scrappy nature about it. Everton seemed content with just the singular goal and, until the final few minutes, Southampton did not quite have the attacking impetus to go and push for an equalizer.
The two chances Southampton did create at the death were squandered. Firstly, brilliant build up play by Stuart Armstrong led to him finding space on the edge of the area. The former Celtic player may well have had a shot but instead picked out Moussa Djenepo unmarked on the right-hand side of the Everton box. The Saints winger powerfully hit the ball first time but blazed his shot just high and wide of the top corner. Ralph Hasenhuttl understandably reacted with a cry of anger.
With just seconds to play, the best opportunity of the game for the Saints fell to the unlikely source of Jannik Vestergaard. Having come up for a corner the centre-backs eyes lit up as, after a number of deflections, the ball fell perfectly into his path right in front of goal. However, his shot was smothered by the onrushing Jordan Pickford who just saved his side two points.
The game finished 1-0, leaving the Saints in 14th place and needing a result against their next opponents Sheffield United on Saturday to avoid being dragged into an unlikely relegation battle.
Ralph Hasenhuttl was understandably concerned with what he saw at Goodison park, the Saints boss said:
“Not a good start, first goal, first chance, long ball and we don’t defend it well. We have seen the same goal against Liverpool, it is strange we cannot defend it. We had a few chances from set-pieces but are in a moment we cannot score.”
FT: Everton 1-0 SOUTHAMPTON (Richarlison 9′)
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey, Digne, Allan, Doucoure, Andre Gomes (Iwobi 87′), Sigurdsson, Richarlison (King 90+1), Calvert-Lewin. Unused subs: Nkounkou, Bernard, Astley, Broadhead, John, Neves Virginia, Onyango.
Southampton: Forster, Bednarek, Vestergaard , Salisu (Tella 63′ (booked)), Bertrand, Armstrong (booked), Ward-Prowse, Djenepo, Redmond (Watts 88′), Adams (N’lundulu 77′), Ings. Unused Subs: McCarthy, Stephens, Ramsay, Ferry, Jankewitz, Chauke.
Wessex Scene Man of the Match: Richarlison (Everton)
Referee: Martin Atkinson