Everton moved to within two points of fourth place in the Premier League, and UEFA Champions League qualification, with a 1-0 victory over Southampton at Goodison Park on Monday.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
Richarlison scored the game’s only goal early in the first half, and the Toffees were never tested or threatened from that point forward.
Mired in an abysmal run of results, Southampton suddenly find themselves just seven points (and four places) above the relegation zone.
3 things we learned: Everton – Southampton
1. Everton struggling for open-play chances: Everton proved on Monday they are quite dangerous from set pieces and also fairly adept a long-ball/knock-down situations in their bid to create scoring chances. Other than that? Yikes, it’s been anything but great from Carlo Ancelotti’s men. James Rodriguez being injured doesn’t help, but who didn’t know that would be the case when he was signed? Allan has only recently returned from his own injury and, while he will undoubtedly play a massive part in Everton building more meaningful possession, a defensive midfielder won’t unlock the cupboard to champagne football. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison is certainly a robust partnership up top, but again offers more in the air than anywhere else.
2. Southampton shrink at first sign of adversity (again): It’s been quite difficult to explain just how Southampton, a side that played such good football early in the season, have managed to lose eight of their last nine Premier League games (0W-1D-8L, including a recent run of six straight) since beating Liverpool on Jan. 4. Injuries have played an undeniable part, but perhaps even more so Monday demonstrated once again a weak-minded mentality. With exception of the 1-1 draw with Chelsea (their only point in two months), Southampton have held two leads in nine games — the first, against Wolves, was erased in a 13-minute period that decided the game; the second, against Arsenal, lasted all of five minutes. Every other game has seen them go behind first, and they never once looked like recovering after the first sign of adversity.
3. Condensed season, fixture congestion played a part: By the end of the game, these teams were, in a word, dead. 15 combined shots (6 of which came from Southampton in the final 20 minutes, and just 2 on target) between the sides is a solid indicator that some teams are simply desperate for the final day of the season.
Richarlison made it 1-0 after nine minutes, before Everton had ever faced a threatening sequence at the other end of the field. Gylfi Sigurdsson slotted a simple through ball and the Brazilian was in on goal with only Fraser Forster to beat. Rather than fire far post and lift the ball over Forster, Richarlison opted to round the goalkeeper and hammer the ball home from a tight angle.
Everton looked like going 2-0 ahead in the 26th minute as Micheal Keane bundled the ball over the line from a free kick, but Mason Holgate, who flicked the ball on before it reached Keane, was a half-body width offside when play restarted.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
The first decent scoring chance of second half, by either side, came in the 84th minute. Moussa Djenepo went quite close with a first-time strike, but pushed his effort agonizingly wide of the far post.
Southampton’s golden chance in the 90th minute was particularly cruel, as Jordan Pickford denied Jannik Vestergaard from inside the six-yard box. The ball pinged around the goal-mouth and eventually fell to Vestergaard with a seemingly open look at goal, but Pickford scrambled across quickly and made a fantastic reaction save above his head to preserve the points.