Saints took an early lead, before surrendering 3-1 to an impressive Everton side. The visitors had their moments, but there's no question the better team won. Nigel Adkins sprung a few surprises in selection. In-form Jason Puncheon dropped out in favour of Jay Rodriguez. Adkins switched up the formation too, reverting back to last season's favoured diamond midfield. Steven Davis was deployed as the anchor man in front of the back four, with James Ward-Prowse on the right, and Adam Lallana on the left. Gaston Ramirez was given creative freedom through the middle, behind front two Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert. Rodriguez was granted license to drift out wide. It was a bold decision by Adkins to name such an attacking line-up, but initially it looked as if the gamble would pay off.
Both teams made a positive start to the game. Everton were very direct in the first 15 minutes. The Toffees took a while to find their rhythm, and Saints capitalised. The away side won a corner in the 6th minute after a terrific forward run by Maya Yoshida. Lallana drifted the ball into the back post, allowing unmarked Ramirez a simple header for 1-0. Everton stepped it up after that, but it wasn't all one-way traffic. Saints continued to create openings, with the best falling to Rodriguez. The former Burnley front-man really should have made it 2-0 on 12 minutes when he went one-on-one with Tim Howard, but he dragged his effort wide.
Everton found a lot more joy when they switched to a shorter passing game. The energy and intensity from the Toffees was frightening at times, with Saints forced into mistakes as the Goodison Park side steamed forward. Everton were especially threatening down the left, with Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar causing all sorts of havoc. They were completely dominant during the final 20 minutes of the first half. It was only a matter of time before the goals arrived. Leon Osman equalised on 25 minutes. A cross from Kevin Mirrallas eventually fell to Osman inside the area, with the Toffees midfielder smashing the ball into the back of the net. The hosts took advantage of a leaky Saints midfield, creating chance after chance before half-time. When Everton scored to make it 2-1 on 32 minutes nobody was surprised. Mirrallas played in Nickica Jelavic, who cut a low ball across goal past Paulo Gazzaniga. Jelavic added a third on 38 minutes, powering a header past Gazzaniga. Everton could have easily extended their lead further prior to the interval. Marouane Fellani hit the bar with a fierce effort.
Saints were much improved after the break, with Everton lowering the intensity. Rodriguez dropped deeper on the right when the hosts had the ball to give Frazer Richardson some much needed protection. On 49 minutes Adkins' men put together a decent passage of play, which resulted in Rodriguez shooting straight at Howard, following good work from Lambert. Everton soon came back into it however, with Fellani and Osman firing narrowly wide. Saints had plenty of possession in the final third, but little cutting edge. On 68 minutes Ramirez came close to pulling a goal back, dinking the ball just past the post. The game petered out slightly towards the end. Rickie Lambert had the final major opportunity of the game on 84 minutes, heading on to the fingertips of Tim Howard.
Saints shouldn't be too concerned about the result or performance. It was always going to be tough against an Everton side who have dominated the likes of Man United and Newcastle at Goodison this season. Their team is packed full of quality, so it would be unrealistic for us to expect much from the game. If Rodriguez had put away his chance to make it 2-0 perhaps things could have been different. We created enough chances, but weren't clinical enough. In games like this you can afford little margin for error. It's another lesson in how ruthless this league is. The loss of Morgan Schneiderlin to injury was a huge blow too. The Frenchman would have given us a lot more defensive steel in midfield. Some will question Adkins' decision to play such an attacking line-up, but credit to him for giving it a go and trying something different. To get a result in these types of fixtures you need a huge amount of luck, and we didn't quite have it today. There were still positives however, and the fixture list looks a lot more promising now.
Gazzaniga: 6. Made a couple of brilliant saves during the first half Everton onslaught, but possibly slightly badly positioned for one of the goals.
Richardson: 6. Tried his best, but was given a tough game, by the deadly duo Baines and Pienaar. Made a few good tackles and forward runs, but also got skinned on a couple of occasions
Fonte: 6. Made one particularly brilliant tackle during the first half. Looked slightly iffy for one of the goals, but overall ok
Yoshida: 7. Getting better all the time. Looks comfortable on the ball and calm under pressure. Did well bringing the ball out from defence
Clyne: 6. A bit of an up and down game. Some expertly timed tackles, but one or two defensive errors as well
Davis: 7. Did a decent job sweeping up in front of the back four. Could have done with more help though
Ward-Prowse: 7. Slightly below his best in the first-half, but arguably Saints' best player in the second. A great range of passing as you would expect
Lallana: 6. Looked bright early on against the team he supports, but didn't offer much in the way of defensive cover
Ramirez: 7. Bit of a mixed game. Great to see him get off the mark, but then fairly quiet after the goal in the first half. Much more involved after the break, with a few moments of genius. Perhaps should have scored a second
Rodriguez: 6. Got himself in decent positions which is encouraging. Vision and movement very good, just a shame about the finishing, but that will come. Plenty of positives for sure
Lambert: 7. Some good link-up play throughout
Reeves: Premier League debut for the youngster who was playing in his original position of left-back
Mayuka: A few decent touches during the closing stages
Chaplow: Good to see him get a brief run-out