Southampton beat Everton 2-0 at St. Mary’s on Saturday, as two first half own goals saw the Toffees shot themselves in the foot and deal a huge blow to their hopes of finishing in the top four.
Saints were 1-0 up inside the first minute, as an incisive move down the left saw Rickie Lambert cross into the box and back up Everton center back Antolin Alcaraz somehow headed the ball into his own net after just 58 seconds.
Everton tried to atone for that early error but Saints were buoyed by going ahead as Steven Davis really should have put them 2-0 up but he slotted wide. Soon after Everton continued to implode, as a right wing cross from Nathaniel Clyne saw both Alcaraz and John Stones miss the ball and Seamus Colman headed past Tim Howard to make it 2-0.
After that calamitous opening, Everton failed to recover and their dreams of making the UEFA Champions League now look to be all but over as Arsenal can take a four point lead by beating Newcastle on Monday. With the win Saints stay in eighth on 52 points, equaling their record points tally from 2000-01 and 2002-03, and Everton remain in fifth on 69 points with two games to go.
Southampton took a dramatic lead as the Toffees gave the ball away straight from the kick off and Saints pounced to punish the away side. Good build up play from Adam Lallana released Lambert on the left and his curling cross was inexplicably headed into his own net by Alcaraz who was under no pressure. It was a dream start for Saints, as Everton’s stand-in central defender was guilty of a major miscue.
Everton almost got themselves into more trouble early on, as the Toffees tried to play themselves out of danger as Saints pounced to nick the ball back and had appeals for a penalty kick against a potential handball from Stones turned down. The Toffees came back into the game with various set piece opportunities but failed to carve out a clear cut opportunity in the opening stages.
Saints should have gone 2-0 up after 21 minutes, as Lambert was again set free down the left and he put the ball on a plate for Steven Davis but the Northern Ireland captain slotted his effort just wide of the far post. Everton whipped in some good deliveries but Saints defended them well and on the half hour mark Everton’s day went from bad to worse. A surging right wing run from the impressive Clyne saw his cross somehow missed by both Alcaraz and Stones as the ball ricocheted off Coleman’s head and into the far corner of the net. Southampton were 2-0 up… and none of their players had even scored. The home side were buoyed by that second goal, as Lallana appealed for a penalty after another handball from Stones was waved away from Michael Oliver. At the other end Steven Naismith felt Dejan Lovren handled in the box but Saints saw out the half 2-0 up.
After the break Saints continued to press Everton as Lallana cut inside and smashed over, while the home side continued to win all of the second balls in midfield. Everton brought on Leon Osman at half time and Aiden McGeady on the hour mark to try and freshen things up. In the 60th minute Saints were close to a third as Lambert deceived everyone by whipping a 25-yard free kick around the outside of the wall but the ball clipped the outside of U.S. national team ‘keeper Tim Howard’s left-hand post as Everton survived.
A huge moment of controversy arrived soon after, as Osman was brought down in the box by Dejan Lovren who slid in dangerously but the referee booked Osman for diving as Everton’s players were incensed. Saints pushed hard for a third, as Lallana appealed for yet another handball against Stones as the home side looked to put the game to bed. Good work from McGeady on the left found Romelu Lukaku in the box but the big Belgian striker headed straight at Saints’ ‘keeper Artur Boruc.
Late on Saints pushed hard for a third but Howard came up with some big saves but his side still suffered a demoralizing defeat in their hunt for a top four spot.
Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Wanyama, Cork, S. Davis (Do Prado, 90′), Lallana (Reed, 86′), Lambert, Gallagher (Ward-Prowse, 76′)
Subs: Ward-Prowse, Guly, Chambers, Hooiveld, Targett, Reed
Goals: Own goals – Alcaraz (1′), Coleman (31′)
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Baines (Garbutt, 90′), Stones, Alcaraz, Barry, McCarthy, Naismith, Barkley (Osman, 45′), Lukaku, Deulofeu (McGeady, 58;).