04/04/2015: Everton 1-0 Saints
Saints went down to a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Everton. Aside from a brief period early on, the game was fairly flat. Saints were pedestrian going forward, and Everton weren't much better. Ronald Koeman's men are certainly out of the Champions League race now, if they weren't already.
Perhaps inspired by Graziano Pelle's midweek headed goal against England, Koeman placed a big emphasis on wing-play early on. Shane Long and Eljero Elia got the nod ahead of Sadio Mane, starting on the right and left respectively. Saints started the game fairly brightly, distributing the ball quickly in the final third and pressing well.
The first 15 minutes were really end-to-end. Kelvin Davis had Leon Osman's 2nd minute effort well covered. Pelle's looping header from Long's cross looked to be heading in, only for Tim Howard to pull off a miraculous save. On 11 Ross Barkley volleyed wide from outside the area.
Everton took the lead on 16. Saints have conceded precious few goals from set pieces this season, but were undone at a corner on this occasion. Phil Jagielka turned the ball into the corner of the net following Gareth Barry's cutback.
Everton did well to nullify Saints after the goal. Barry was particularly effective, sitting in front of the back four. The home side took the sting out of the game, but not before James Ward-Prowse got a few good efforts at goal. The England U21 international's 25th minute free-kick went just wide of the post. Ward-Prowse then stung Howard's gloves with a swerving shot. At the other end Arouna Kone lent back to head wide of goal.
Saints saw more of the ball in the 2nd half, but the build-up play was too slow. Chances were at a premium. Long's weak header went wide from a corner on 64. Pelle had a slightly better chance 10 minutes later, side-footing wide of the near post following Dusan Tadic's run down the right. On 78 Jose Fonte shot over inside the area following a short corner. Saints had a series of corners late on, but none of them came to anything. There wasn't much urgency during the closing stages. On 89 Pelle was waived offside after being put through by Morgan Schneiderlin.
One of the least entertaining games of the season. Saints did have enough chances to get something from the game, but the overall performance still wasn't great. It's easy to say in hindsight perhaps, but it probably wasn't the right decision to leave Mane on the bench, given he's been our most effective attacking outlet of late. As far as the bigger picture is concerned, things haven't changed much. Saints will finish somewhere between 5th and 7th, with Liverpool and Tottenham also now out of the Champions League race.
Davis: 6. One poor clearance, otherwise didn't have much to do
Clyne: 6. Steady in defence. Didn't offer too much of a threat going forward
Fonte: 6. Made a couple of good blocks
Alderweireld: 6. A couple of misplaced passes, but not troubled too much defensively
Bertrand: 6. One excellent goal-saving challenge in the first-half
Schneiderlin: 6. Not at his very best by any means, but did ok on the whole. A good range of passing
Wanyama: 7. Came out better in several 50/50s
Ward-Prowse: 7. Had Saints' best chances. Started brightly with some quick footwork, but drifted out of the game later on
Long: 6. Very bright early on, peeling off down the right. Didn't see as much of the ball later on and some disappointing delivery
Elia: 6. Didn't do a lot wrong. Often had the beating of his man out wide, but couldn't really get involved closer to goal
Pelle: 6. Had a couple of chances, but didn't get much service
Tadic: 6. Played on both flanks. Saw a fair bit of the ball and got in a couple of crosses
Mane: 5. Made a few positive runs, but not quite as explosive as he usually is
Djuricic: Didn't really do anything of note
Everton - Jagielka (16)
Attendance - 39,390
Referee - Lee Mason
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines, Barry, McCarthy, Osman, Lennon, Barkley (Besic 71), Kone (Naismith 70)
Subs not used: Robles, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Pienaar, Mirallas
Saints: Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld (Djuricic 82), Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Wanyama, Ward-Prowse (Mane 61), Long, Elia (Tadic 61), Pelle
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Yoshida, Targett, Reed