It was just as well that those disgruntled Everton fans who hired a plane to trail a banner over St Mary’s prior to kick-off reading “Kenwright & Co #timetogo” had not booked the pilot for a repeat run at the final whistle.
By then the sentiment would have appeared strange. Romelu Lukaku, at £28million Everton’s record signing, and Ross Barkley, a potent symbol of their investment in youth development, had combined to blow away a summer of discontent – until next week at least.
“I never saw [the banner], what I saw today was a day to celebrate for Everton,” said manager Roberto Martinez. “We are a big club with big history and incredible expectation. As a manager and the players we embrace that expectation. The way to get everyone happy is to perform as we did on the pitch. We need to be together, to push in the same direction. Bill Kenwright is an incredible Evertonian, he has done a fantastic job over the years.”
The fly-past was in stark contrast to a pre-match tribute by Saints to Markus Liebherr, the Swiss who rescued the club in 2009 before dying of a heart attack five years ago. The Liebherr family continue to invest under daughter Katharina, but no more than Everton. The Blues, however, have a more glittering past, so fans bemoan their modest summer spending.
Martinez added: “It seems you need to win games in the media depending how many signings you bring in. This group of players came fifth two years ago, we have continuity and we give young players opportunity.”
One of those is Barkley, who is flourishing this season. Besides his well-taken goal, Everton’s third, he was involved in both Lukaku’s efforts and his performance will have delighted Roy Hodgson, here to watch a cluster of English players.
Martinez said: “His goal showed his top player quality and when he is running with the ball, with power, pace and quality, there are not many like Ross.”
The manager, his customary positivity fully justified this time, added: “I thought we were outstanding from the first minute, we defended really well, we controlled the game when we had the ball, we looked unplayable on the counter-attack.
That was certainly the case when Everton, wearing ugly olive green shirts, struck after 22 minutes. From a Southampton corner, prompted by Tim Howard making a fine save from Saido Mané, Everton broke through Barkley and Arouna Koné whose cross was headed in brilliantly by Lukaku.
Seven minutes later Lukaku set up Barkley but his poor shot allowed Maarten Stekelenburg to save. Everton, playing an adventurous formation with Barkley supporting Koné and Lukaku, remained dominant. As half-time approached Lukaku robbed Victor Wanyama in midfield and fed Barkley before bursting forward to take and convert a perfectly judged return pass.
At the break, Saints manager Ronald Koeman introduced his ninth and newest summer signing, Oriol Romeu, and switched to a 4-1-2-3 formation in an attempt to curb Barkley’s influence, but he could not stop the Englishman adding Everton’s deserved late third, driven in after Lukaku and Seamus Coleman had opened Southampton up again.
The most eye-catching aspect of the Saints was the groundsman’s creative grass-cutting and Koeman, after the worst result of his tenure, said: “In the first home game you expect a different result. The team were not aggressive or compact enough, too much went wrong in the first half. But we need to be patient. I believe in the players and their spirit.”
Just like Martinez, whose belief in his squad was rewarded.
Southampton: (4-2-3-1) Stekelenburg; Cedric, Yoshida, Fonte, Targett; S. Davis (Ward-Prowse, 79), Wanyama; Tadic (Romeu, h/t), Mané, Long (Rodriguez, 72); Pelle.
Everton: (4-3-1-2) Howard; Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Galloway (Browning, 88); McCarthy, Barry, Cleverley; Barkley; Koné (Naismith, 79), Lukaku (Deulofeu, 88).
Referee: Mike Oliver
Man of the match: Barkley
Match rating: 7/10Reuse content