Everton’s Spanish manager, Roberto Martinez, has developed into something of a Eurosceptic after blaming his side’s poor Premier League campaign on the exertions of battling as far as the the last 16 of the Europa League.
Based on that experience he warned Southampton they might find it harder going next season if they qualify for Europe for the first time since 2003, although it is hard to imagine Ronald Koeman believing Martinez had done his side a favour by costing them the chance of moving back above Liverpool and up to fifth place in the table.
The Saints still have every chance of ending Koeman’s first season in charge with some tangible reward but the Dutchman admits at best that now will be a place in the Europa League with any hopes of what would have been a remarkable top-four finish seemingly over after Everton made it three wins in a row for the first time in a year.
“It is not realistic at this moment to think of the first four positions of the table,” said Koeman. “It is more realistic to think about the Europa League, although the Europa League for us is like the Champions League for Arsenal and Manchester United.”
Everton’s domestic form had made their concern the bottom end of the table but thanks to an early goal from captain Phil Jagielka, who then superbly galvanised his defence, nerves have been further calmed.
“We coped with playing at Goodison,” said Martinez, who, like his players, has not had the easiest ride from supporters in recent months.
“We felt at ease playing at home and that’s how it should be. As a team we defended very well and when you see that sort of performance it shows how much we have learned from a tough season.”
Southampton had not won at Goodison Park since 1997, an unsuccessful run now stretching to 10 games, and after just five minutes it looked as though this would again not be their day thanks to an outstanding save from Tim Howard, who clawed away a delicate flick from Graziano Pelle, who has not scored a Premier League goal in 14 outings since finding the net against Everton in December.
Jagielka had been on the receiving end when Pelle did score for Italy against England in midweek but got his revenge when he then swept home his fifth goal of the season after Gareth Barry had pulled the ball back following a corner.
Howard saved Everton again when he kept out a curling shot from James Ward-Prowse and despite dominating possession in the second half, Southampton never went as close again to an equaliser.
The home side, therefore, did not miss injured top scorer Romelu Lukaku, with Martinez again attempting to play down fears that the striker’s link-up with new agent Mino Raiola and subsequent transfer speculation would spark a summer departure for the club’s record signing.
“For me there is not an issue,” Martinez said.
Everton: (4-1-4-1) Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; Barry; Lennon, McCarthy, Barkley (Besic, 70), Osman; Koné (Naismith, 70).
Southampton: (4-2-3-1) Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Alderweireld (Duricic, 82), Bertrand; Wanyama, Schneiderlin; Long, Ward-Prowse (Mane, 61), Elia (Tadic, 61); Pelle.
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Jagielka (Everton)
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content