Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson pace Everton attack in win over Southampton
Southampton providing the opposition in both the final home game under Sam Allardyce last season and the first under new manager Marco Silva on Saturday added fitting context to the result as Everton ran out 2-1 winners at Goodison Park.
Booed off after limping to a barely deserved 1-1 draw in the corresponding fixture in May, Everton were unrecognisable from that dismal display, even though the once-again impressive Richarlison was the only new addition in the starting XI.
Thanks to a proactive approach, Everton resembled a team again and the supporters united and got behind the efforts of the players. All of those aspects scarcely existed last season, so while there is no doubt Everton remain a work in progress, the early signs are promising.
Perennial slow starters last season, failing to score in the first half of any of their final six home games, Everton ended that sequence in emphatic fashion with two goals before the interval, the first of which from a well-worked free-kick routine, highlighted the more inventive approach apparent under Silva.
But while inventiveness in possession added a flourish to the victory, increased work rate and pressing without the ball were the starting point for this home win. Everton forced opposing players into mistakes, chased lost causes and helped ease the pressure on a defence that still has some teething issues to work out.
Everton had established a level of control and comfort by half-time but failure to press home their advantage in the second half allowed Southampton back into the match. Missed chances in attack contributed to a nervy finish in defence as a stream of crosses into the penalty area caused the home defence problems throughout the second half.
The home side must also improve their set-piece defending after an unsightly goal gave the away side a lifeline.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Attacking substitutions even as the away side pushed for an equaliser sent the right message as Silva worked to ease the burden on his defence rather than invite further pressure.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 6 -- A wonderful save to recover his own error encapsulated an eventful afternoon as the England goalkeeper mixed some convincing goalkeeping with other erratic moments.
DF Seamus Coleman, 7 -- A popular choice for the captaincy in the absence of the suspended Phil Jagielka, Coleman delivered a typical performance on his 200th league start for the club, offering a reliable and industrious presence down the right flank.
DF Mason Holgate, 7 -- Distribution requires fine-tuning but defending is the priority and the 21-year-old delivered an accomplished performance at the heart of the defence.
DF Michael Keane, 6 -- Threatened from set pieces in the opposing penalty area but defensive concerns persist as suspect positioning and awareness saw Southampton frequently attack the space in behind him. One timely block denied Danny Ings a certain goal at the start of the second half.
DF Leighton Baines, 7 -- Competition for places has had the desired effect in this case as Baines has begun the season in fine form, linking well with Richarlison on the left side.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 7 -- Lethargic and indecisive early on before regaining his composure as the match progressed. His improvement proved timely with the injury to Morgan Schneiderlin disrupting the midfield setup.
MF Morgan Schneiderlin, N/R -- A productive start included a nicely weighted assist for the opening goal before injury curtailed his afternoon with barely 20 minutes on the clock.
MF Theo Walcott, 7 -- An impressive first half before dramatically tailing off in the second, that may just be down to a player working his way back to fitness. While a goal and assist highlighted the first half, a glaring miss and a lacking defensive effort defined the second.
MF Gylfi Sigurdsson, 8 -- Everton were defending from the front with their No. 10 leading the charge, ceaselessly pressing, and driving his teammates forward. Neat touches in possession and quality from set pieces also punctuated this effective outing.
MF Richarlison, 8 -- Always a threat in possession, but his ability to attract opposing defenders toward him and free up space for others is just as valuable. Another goal added to his tally capped this latest productive showing.
FW Cenk Tosun, 6 -- Tosun offered a bullish presence in the final third, never giving the Southampton centre-backs a moment to relax, but there were few sights of goal throughout the match.
MF Tom Davies, 6 -- A solid but unspectacular presence in central midfield.
FW Dominic Calvert-Lewin, N/R -- A willing runner but did not always have the composure to match.
FW Oumar Niasse, N/R -- Late cameo brought its obligatory mix of work rate and nuisance.