Closed doors could be considered a blessing for Carlo Ancelotti and his Everton players, as a packed Goodison Park would not have been slow to voice disapproval at this dismal showing against Southampton. Talk of Europa League qualification among the Everton ranks should now be muted.
A superb equaliser from Richarlison extended Everton’s unbeaten home run to 10 Premier League games and ensured Ancelotti is yet to taste defeat at Goodison since succeeding Marco Silva as manager. But the Brazilian’s intervention and the Goodison statistics were the gloss on a troubling evening for the veteran Italian.
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Southampton were superior in every department, dominating the first half and playing with an intelligence, vibrancy and composure that their hosts struggled to match. Danny Ings scored his 19th league goal of the season to bring him level with Mohamed Salah and three behind Jamie Vardy in the race for the Golden Boot.
It should have been much more. Ings also hit the bar while James Ward‑Prowse missed a penalty as Ralph Hassenhuttl rued the failure to secure what would have been a merited ninth away win of the season. Only the top three in the Premier League have more.
“So frustrating,” the Southampton manager said. “In the last game we gave Manchester City a lot of chances and they didn’t score one. Tonight we gave Everton two chances and they scored one. We were dominant.”
The visitors should have been out of sight before half-time. Stuart Armstrong had the ball in Jordan Pickford’s net after the prominent Ings crossed for Che Adams to tee up the midfielder, but he had strayed offside. Ward-Prowse had a powerful drive blocked by his own player, Adams, after another flowing move by the visitors and a free-kick tipped over the bar by Pickford as the pressure built on Everton’s goal.
The home side, over-run in midfield and defensively ragged, were being outclassed by a side beneath them in the table. “We left too much space between the lines and we didn’t defend well in the first half,” Ancelotti said. “We were lucky to draw the first half but the second half was much better.”
Pickford produced a superb reaction save from the corner that followed the Ward-Prowse free-kick, also taken by the Southampton midfielder. Ings connected with a near-post header that the England international tipped on to the crossbar with his right hand. The rebound struck his left arm and the bar for a second time, but Everton failed to capitalise on the reprieve.
Ryan Bertrand delivered a deep cross back into the area where Ward-Prowse was sent tumbling by a clumsy Andre Gomes challenge. The referee, Lee Mason, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, Everton players offered few complaints but escaped punishment once again when Ward-Prowse drove his penalty against the bar.
“The guy who is fouled shouldn’t take the penalty,” Hassenhuttl said.
Even then there was no reaction from Ancelotti’s team. Southampton finally took the lead in suitably chaotic style when Armstrong mis-kicked an attempted shot from 20 yards out. The ball trickled through to Ings, played onside by Seamus Coleman, who rounded the startled, static figure of Pickford before tapping into an empty net. A goal straight out of Sunday league football.
Remarkably, and completely against the run of play, Everton went in level thanks to a moment of individual excellence from their Brazilian forward. Gylfi Sigurdsson, a replacement for the injured Gomes, released Lucas Digne in space down the left and the full-back pierced the Southampton defence with an inch-perfect delivery from deep. Richarlison controlled superbly before beating the advancing Alex McCarthy with an emphatic finish.
Ancelotti reverted to a five-man defence for the second half with a right-back, Djibril Sidibe, replacing a right winger in Alex Iwobi. The former Arsenal player forced McCarthy into his first save of the contest but was otherwise anonymous, as has been the case too many times since his £35m transfer last summer.
Everton had brighter moments on the counter-attack after the break. Dominic Calvert-Lewin squandered a fine opening created by Tom Davies and Jan Bednarek halted Richarlison’s run with a decent tackle that Mason deemed worthy of a booking. But their manager’s priority was to stifle a sharper Southampton side and, in that respect, his tactical switch succeeded.
The visitors did not extend Pickford to the same degree in the second half but should have had the points sewn up long before.
7EvertonOff target11Southampton4EvertonOn target4Southampton
21 Andre Gomes
10 Sigurdsson (s 42′)
19 Sidibe (s 46′)
20 Bernard (s 74′)
27 Kean (s 68′)
7 Long (s 70′)
23 Hojbjerg (s 69′)
27 Smallbone (s 88′)