26/04/2014: Saints 2-0 Everton
Saints - Alcaraz OG (1) Coleman OG (31)
Attendance: 31,313 (3,142 Everton fans)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Saints got back to winning ways with a storming display against Everton. The home side had some help with two own-goals, but still dominated throughout and were well worthy of the three points. Saints are now virtually guaranteed an 8th place finish and have also matched their highest ever points total for a Premier League season.
Saints robbed Everton of possession within seconds of kick-off, setting the tone for what was to follow. The visitors were sent into further shock on 54 seconds. Rickie Lambert cut in from the left before neatly dinking the ball into the box, with Antolin Alcaraz heading past his own keeper. Sam Gallagher would have almost certainly been in for a good chance had the Paraguayan missed the cross.
Roberto Martinez deployed a fairly rigid setup. Saints in contrast were a lot more free-flowing and unpredictable. Everton did have a few counter attacks, but the home side always had enough men back to deal with the danger. Saints had a couple of long range efforts, before Steven Davis shot agonisingly wide on 20. The Northern Irish midfielder had been cued up by Lambert inside the penalty area.
The pressure from the home side continued to mount, with a second goal arriving in the 31st minute. Nathaniel Clyne brilliantly got the better of Leighton Baines down the right flank, before crossing towards the six yard box. This time it was Seamus Coleman who comically turned the ball into his own net with a downwards header.
Saints saw out the rest of the first-half fairly comfortably. The midfield trio of Jack Cork, Victor Wanyama and Steven Davis were a lot more dynamic than their Everton counterparts. Clyne and Luke Shaw provided plenty of attacking width. Romelu Lukaku - usually so deadly against Saints - was guilty of missing several good chances. Saints had a very good shout for a penalty turned down in the 39th minute when John Stones handled Adam Lallana's cross.
Everton made a few tactical changes at half-time, with Lukaku moving out wide to the left in place of Steven Naismith, who operated in a more central role. Leon Osman also came on, but didn't have the impact he usually does against Saints. The home side continued to dominate the midfield, without creating a plethora of chances.
The action remained compelling throughout the last 30 minutes. Lambert nearly made it 3-0 on 60, with a free-kick which clipped the outside of the post. At the other end Osman was booked for diving after going down under pressure from Dejan Lovren. Both teams had further penalty shouts turned down. With Everton pushing forward with greater vigour during the last 15 minutes, Saints found more gaps on the break. A number of moves broke down at the last minute. The home were extremely effective in keeping possession and seeing out time, although Everton remained fairly competitive until the very end. Substitute James Ward-Prowse had another good chance for the home team in stoppage time.
A very satisfying performance from Mauricio Pochettino's men. Just when the season looked to be fizzling out Saints put on a display worthy of such a talented group. Everton were the side chasing Champions League football, but you wouldn't have known it on that showing. There is so much potential within this already very talented squad. If the new regime is able to keep it together then exciting times are very much ahead. Saints are easily capable of pushing on to the level Everton are currently at without breaking the bank. We will probably never have a better chance. A testing summer awaits.
Boruc: 6. A fairly quiet afternoon for the Polish stopper. Made a couple of smart stops, but nothing you wouldn't expect him to deal with comfortably. Distribution a bit of a let-down once again
Clyne: 8. An absolute gem of a player. Got the better of his man every time, with countless well-timed tackles. Also thrived going forward, with a great assist for the second goal. Should be on the plane to Brazil
Fonte: 7. A couple of wayward clearances aside, an excellent defensive showing
Lovren: 8. As good as any of his early season displays. Made a couple of eye-catching last ditch tackles
Shaw: 8. Another assured display. Stood up to everything that was thrown at him with ease
Wanyama: 8. Protected the back-four brilliantly, and also kept the ball moving quickly
Cork: 8. Allowed a bit more freedom to advance forward with the inclusion of Wanyama. Always in the right place at the right time
Davis: 8. Integral to Saints' attacking play. Always showing for the ball and giving his teammates options. Effective as ever on the counter
Lallana: 8. Forced to do a bit more defensive work than usual, but still contributed going forward with several testing dribbles
Lambert: 7. Movement and passing very good
Gallagher: 6. Still very green, but did manage to force Everton into errors with some good pressing
Ward-Prowse: A decent run-out. Passed the ball about well
Reed: Looked lively, with a couple of rapid bursts down the flank
Guly: A solid cameo. Involved in a couple of counter attacks