Southampton vs Everton report: Graziano Pelle, Maya Yoshida and a Romelu Lukaku own goal give Saints first win in seven

Southampton 3 Everton 0

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The Independent Football

Southampton gave an emphatic answer to those who felt they had been found out in recent weeks, crushing a disappointing Everton to end a run of five defeats and win for the first time in seven games.

After a sequence of results as bad as the pundits had predicted in the summer after Saints sold almost half the previous season’s first team, what had come to be normal service over the first three months of the campaign was resumed.

Or, perhaps, improved upon. This was a first victory since the arrival in the summer of manager Ronald Koeman over a team that finished above Southampton last season.

A few weeks ago, a victory over an Everton side whose form had been less than impressive might have been nothing to shout about. But after such a potentially confidence-sapping run it offered a restoration of faith and avoided a sixth successive defeat, which would have been their worst sequence since 1957.

They were sent on their way when Romelu Lukaku headed the ball past his own goalkeeper, the third own goal by an Everton player in the past two matches between the two teams. Second-half goals by Graziano Pelle and Maya Yoshida secured the points that were a reward for a gutsy performance and a bold decision by Koeman to change his formation to accommodate three central defenders for the first time, giving them a more solid look.

“It’s typical football that one day it’s black, the next day it’s white,” said Koeman. “The best medicine to have, really, that confidence to play football is winning games. And in the last few weeks we maybe lost a bit of confidence in our way of playing. Today it was different, a different game, a different system, but the win was very important.”

Everton were woeful, especially in the first half, but Roberto Martinez, their manager, focused on their defending of routine set plays and crosses, which led to all three goals. “I never felt we were outplayed,” he said. “It was a matter of a way of defending our 18-yard box, an attitude rather than a tactical concept.”

Saints’ win was impressive in view of the injuries and suspensions that had tested the depth of Koeman’s squad, and forced him to give a first start to 19-year-old Harry Reed, who patrolled the area in front of the back four like a veteran and helped subdue Samuel Eto’o and Ross Barkley. But it helped that they were handed the opening goal after 25 minutes by errors from defenders and officials.

As Shane Long nipped in front of Phil Jagielka as he attempted to volley away a dropping ball, Jagielka’s foot made clear contact with the forward, and the ball bounced away off Long’s chest. It was a penalty, or perhaps a goal kick, but Jon Moss, the referee, awarded a corner and there was a sort of instant and very rough justice when James Ward-Prowse’s kick missed its intended targets, hit the unsighted Lukaku and bounced into the net. “It was never a corner,” Martinez complained. “Shane Long took advantage of that contact that was always going to happen so it wasn’t a penalty either, Romelu was impeded and it’s an own goal.”

Everton surely had to improve, but an impressive array of attacking talent on paper made little impression on the pitch. Southampton showed more enterprise and spirit, and were rewarded after 65 minutes. Nathaniel Clyne beat Leighton Baines and crossed from the right, Long got above Jagielka and Seamus Coleman, and his header reached Pelle, who forced his way ahead of Sylvain Distin to hook it past Tim Howard.

Howard delayed the third with a diving save from Jose Fonte’s header,  from another set play, and Fraser Forster leapt high to his right to turn aside a swerving 25-yard effort from Lukaku before Southampton made it 3-0, Yoshida getting between Gareth Barry and Baines to head in Steven Davis’ delightful cross with the outside of his right foot.

Forster then denied Lukaku even a consolation goal from close range in the final minute. “In the second half we thought we had Southampton where we wanted them but it was a day when nothing went in our favour,” Martinez added. “The difference between the two sides was in the boxes.”

Southampton: (3-5-1-1): Forster; Fonte, Alderweireld, Yoshida; Clyne, Ward-Prowse (Targett, 80), Reed, S Davis, Bertrand; Long (Gape, 89); Pelle.

Everton: (4-2-3-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Besic, Barry; Naismith, Eto’o, Barkley; Lukaku.

Referee: Jon Moss.

Man of the match: Long (Southampton).

Match rating: 7/10.