Southampton 2 Everton 0 match report: Antolin Alcaraz blunder sets the tone as woeful Everton make a fine mess

A pair of own goals from Alcaraz and Seamus Coleman hands Arsenal the advantage in the hunt for Champions League qualification

St Mary's

A game too far, a bad day at the office – pick an explanation. Porous in defence, ponderous in midfield and lightweight in attack, Everton were a pale shadow of the team that reeled off seven wins in a row to raise hopes of reaching fourth place in the Premier League, which Arsenal can now grasp even more firmly by beating Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium tomorrow evening.

Even a draw would have sent Everton above the Gunners yesterday but, 2-0 down after 31 minutes to comedy own-goals from Antolin Alcaraz and Seamus Coleman, the Toffees seldom looked like escaping from a sticky mess of their own making.

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Everton’s run of wins ended in a home defeat by Crystal Palace and although last weekend’s victory over Manchester United seemed to put them back on course, their performance yesterday raises questions. “Today we were looking forward to the game so much that conceding an own goal so early was a massive blow and to concede again psychologically affected our performance,” Roberto Martinez, the Everton manager, said. “Sixty minutes was long enough to get something from the game and we need to learn not to get frustrated, to get affected by it.”

Martinez pointed out that his team’s maximum points tally of 75 would have been enough to secure Champions’ League football in 14 of the past 15 seasons and he intends to reach it. “We’re going to give everything we’ve got, see how many points we can get on the 11th of May and look at the table and see what that means.”

 

The game could not have started any worse for Everton. Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert’s cross from the left was aimed at Sam Gallagher but Alcaraz, making his first start since January, dived in front of him at the near post to head the ball firmly past his own goalkeeper

That set the tone for an uncomfortable afternoon for Alcaraz and his central defensive partner John Stones, who looked uncertain and jittery. In the 31st minute, Nathaniel Clyne flighted in an excellent cross that Stones failed to clear, the ball rebounding in off the unsighted Coleman. The delighted home supporters chanted “Who needs [the injured Jay] Rodriguez, we’ve got your back four,” also crying “Shoot!” whenever an Everton player was facing his own goal. Merseysiders are more renowned for terrace wit than southerners, but the Evertonians had no reply.

Their team still had plenty of time to hit back, but Romelu Lukaku, who had destroyed Southampton in West Bromwich Albion’s 3-0 win at St Mary’s last season, wasted good crosses from Gerard Deulofeu and Aidan McGeady, and when Leon Osman fell under Dejan Lovren’s challenge, he was booked. “For me it should have been a foul,” Martinez said. “In the second half we faced adversity with bravery and we needed that little bit of luck to restart our performance but it wasn’t to be.”

Mauricio Pochettino, the Southampton manager, was understandably upbeat. “We created the chances to make the two goals happen,” he said. “We had an amazing game against a team trying to break into the top four. We’ve equalled our maximum points achieved in the Premier League and I’m happy for everyone at the club.” The only cloud was a vague response from Saints captain, Adam Lallana, to a TV interviewer’s question about reported interest in him from other clubs, including Manchester United. “I’m just concentrating on playing in a great team. We will sit down in the summer and see what happens,” he replied.

Pochettino stonewalled queries. “It’s not right at the moment to talk about the future,” he said. “We just want to enjoy the moment and feel happy with the victory.”

Line-ups:

Southampton (4-1-3-2): Boruc; Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw; Wanyama; S Davis (Do Prado, 89), Cork, Lallana (Reed, 86); Lambert, Gallagher (Ward-Prowse, 76).

Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Stones, Alcaraz, Baines (Garbutt, 90); McCarthy, Barry; Naismith, Barkley (Osman, h-t), Deulofeu (McGeady, 59); Lukaku.

Referee: Michael Oliver.

Man of the match: Davis (Southampton)

Match rating: 6/10

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