Shane Long strikes to lift Southampton and add to listless Everton’s worries
Frank Lampard did not return to the dugout for a relegation scrap but Everton are firmly in danger after falling to an insipid defeat at Southampton. Stuart Armstrong struck before the Southampton substitute Shane Long sealed victory less than two minutes after stepping off the bench, heading in with his first touch to register his first Premier League goal in almost two years.
Jordan Pickford, who ensured Everton went in at half-time with the score blank, had a face like thunder. Southampton, meanwhile, can start thinking about making a play for the European places. At the final whistle, a smiling Ralph Hasenhüttl doffed his baseball cap towards a largely happy directors’ box.
Lampard made no attempt to sugarcoat what was a wishy-washy and, to use his words, eye-opening performance that allowed Southampton to stroll to victory. Everton have not won away from home since August. For Lampard, whose side face Manchester City next, the task is to find answers and quick after three of the four teams beneath them gained ground to narrow the gap to the relegation zone to four points.
“Our league position explains a lot,” Lampard said. “The table doesn’t lie to that effect and we’ve not been getting results away from home for a while. What we’ve seen in the away games is that when we’ve been in games – not flying, but in them – when we go behind there hasn’t been a reaction. We stopped trying to play. When the game turned we reverted to long balls, lacking belief in each other to getting around the press. A lot of things have to improve to get results away from home.”
For Everton, an achingly poor display was typified by the manner of Southampton’s opener seven minutes after the interval. Oriol Romeu, who has made light of his supposed shelf life in the centre of Southampton’s midfield this season, stole possession from Everton’s half-time substitute André Gomes and found Ché Adams, who shuffled the ball on. Armstrong took one touch to compose himself and coolly picked his spot, curling it inside Pickford’s near post.
Everton could not argue it had not been coming and they had Pickford to thank for preventing James Ward-Prowse and Tino Livramento, the former from a rasping free-kick, from scoring in the first half.
For Romeu and Ward-Prowse, it was another authoritative midfield performance and their energy overawed Everton. Allan was booked for a crude challenge on the marauding Kyle Walker-Peters, who was again excellent at left-back, and was fortunate to avoid a second yellow card moments later. Donny van de Beek was overrun and among those left chasing shadows. Gomes, Allan’s replacement, wilted, while another substitute, Dele Alli, offered nothing after being introduced late on. Lampard in effect said his players could not handle things when the going got tough.
“It is a blind understanding,” Hasenhüttl said of a midfield pairing that offered all the might and discipline Everton did not.
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Lampard spent much of the first half wandering around the Everton technical area, shielding his eyes from the low sun and waves of Southampton attacks. Armando Broja was superb in attack, dragging a shot narrowly wide with nine minutes to play and also producing a first-half effort that was saved by Pickford after the Everton captain, Séamus Coleman, often exposed by Southampton’s quick thinking, did enough to deny the striker a clean shot. A couple of minutes later Broja put Jonjoe Kenny on all fours before winning a corner, from which Jan Bednarek headed against the crossbar.
Mohamed Elyounoussi should have doubled Southampton’s lead before Long leapt above Coleman to head in Livramento’s hanging cross. Ward-Prowse’s free-kick was, typically, on the money and Elyounoussi easily slipped Coleman, who totally lost his man at the back post. But the Norway midfieder, perhaps distracted by Mohammed Salisu’s desperate attempt to reach the ball, headed against the bar.
Southampton won this fixture last season too, when Everton were at the summit under Carlo Ancelotti. These days they have more pressing concerns. “There was never a magic wand,” Lampard said. “I think it’s very clear what’s in front [of us]. The position we are in is clear to see.”