Southampton 0 Everton 0: Lessons as Pochettino’s side earn a point
Southampton 0 Everton 0: What lessons did we learn as Mauricio Pochettino's side picked up a valuable point at St Mary's?
Adiós Adkins – Saints start Pochettino reign in style
If there were any doubts to how the Southampton players would react to the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino, they were put emphatically to bed following a bustling first-half performance from the Saints. The 40-year-old stuck with the players who had performed so admirably in recent weeks under deposed manager Nigel Adkins. In particular, the front three of Gastón Ramírez, Rickie Lambert (who was restored to the starting line-up) and Jason Puncheon caused the Toffees real problems with their interaction, directness and pace. In the seventh minute, Puncheon cut in from the right wing and looked to test Tim Howard with his goal-bound effort deflected wide for a corner. The winger has been one of Southampton’s standout performers this term, offering plenty of pace and power, while he can also finish – the 26-year-old has scored three Premier League goals this season. Southampton’s record signing Ramírez showed that he too possesses a cunning side – like his compatriot Luis Suárez – when the Uruguayan attempted to catch Howard out with an audacious attempt direct from a corner. The £12m signing fronted a sweeping counter-attack which almost led to Lambert scoring the opener, before Ramírez’s darting run before half-time required another sharp shave from the American. The home side were impressive, and the bright start ensured Southampton supporters got behind their side – and the new manager – avoiding scenes reminiscent of Stamford Bridge when Rafael Benítez took charge of his first Chelsea match after replacing Roberto Di Matteo.
Lambert left to lament misses
Puncheon and Ramírez may have missed decent chances, but it was the Saints captain Lambert who was wasted the pick of the bunch in the opening half, denying Pochettino a dream start at St Mary’s. The 30-year-old has scored four goals in his last five Premier League matches – only Robin van Persie (six) and Suárez (five) have more since Christmas Day – but the Southampton striker was misfiring in the first half. In the 20th minute, Lambert’s superb free-kick was pushed onto the upright by Howard, who was at full-stretch. The former Bristol Rovers man was at the heart of another Southampton move when he raced onto Ramírez’s through pass, beautifully duped Phil Jagielka with a subtle shimmy, before being denied by Howard – again. There was still time in the opening half for Lambert to miss another – even with the Everton goalkeeper beaten – as his header from close range flashed past the visitors’ right post. With the Toffees much-improved after the interval, Lambert was left to rue those first-half chances, readily admitting his disappointment in a post-match interview, as Southampton moved four points clear of the relegation zone – their biggest cushion of the season.
Everton’s key men stutter at St Mary’s
With Southampton supposedly in disarray following the departure of Adkins, there was a big chance for Everton to make it three successive away victories in the Premier League. But the visitors were off-the-pace, with their key men struggling in particular. Perhaps most alarmingly, Nikica Jelavic appears to be suffering from second season syndrome, similar to Papiss Cisse at Newcastle United. The Croatia international has only scored once in 12 appearances for the Toffees. He had chances to end that duck against the Saints but fluffed an early header before tripping over his own feet with only Artur Boruc to beat midway through the second half. Jelavic – and Moyes – will be hoping that the striker can rediscover his form from the second half of the season, akin to 2011/12 campaign which saw him net nine goals in 13 appearances after swapping Rangers for Everton last January. When Jealvic hasn’t been firing this season, Marouane Fellaini has come to the Toffees’ rescue, but the Belgian also struggled at St Mary’s. He failed to beat the Saints goalkeeper from nine-yards out before his mistimed free header was straight at Southampton’s Boruc from the ensuing corner. Even the ever-reliable Everton double act of Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar struggled to produce their usual combinations, which have helped unlock opposition defences this season. Moyes will have been content with a point – and the return of the energetic Kevin Mirallas.