A year on from the infamous 9-0 home shellacking by Leicester, this was stirring evidence of Southampton’s impressive transformation under Ralph Hasenhüttl, whose side ended Everton’s unbeaten start to the season as fine goals by James Ward‑Prowse and Che Adams brought Carlo Ancelotti’s side back down to earth with a bump. Everton were insipid from the moment they fell behind and Lucas Digne’s red card for appearing to rake his studs down Kyle Walker-Peters’ achilles with around 20 minutes to play compounded a frustrating trip south. For the Saints, this was the closest thing to a complete performance.
With 39 minutes played, Stuart Armstrong, the beneficiary of Adams’s endeavour and awareness, thought he had added a third. At that point Ancelotti removed his hands from the pockets of his royal blue trench coat and made his feelings known, berating Jordan Pickford for failing to hoover up the initial pass downfield to Adams, always a willing runner. Pickford argued there was no such problem and, as it happened, the assistant referee flagged for offside and the goal was disallowed, but it was an episode symbolic of the kind of chaos that ensued as Southampton carved Everton open.
Ancelotti revealed James Rodríguez had barely trained this week after sustaining a knock against Liverpool last weekend and, while he conceded the Colombian was undercooked, that was the least of the manager’s concerns. Everton were two goals down inside 35 minutes, with Ward-Prowse arrowing in across Pickford after a neat give-and-go with Danny Ings. Ward‑Prowse hooked the ball over Allan before Ings slipped in the midfielder, who finished emphatically.
Adams, who has often slogged without reward, doubled the advantage just eight minutes later. Ings again turned provider, scooting away from Ben Godfrey and Yerry Mina before hanging a cross towards the back post, where Ward‑Prowse was waiting unmarked. But Adams, too, was lurking and, with the Everton defence having gone walkabout, he smashed in via a Gylfi Sigurdsson deflection.
Given Everton have never won a Premier League game when trailing by two or more goals at half-time, it is fair to say Ancelotti had work to do. He tweaked personnel at the interval, introducing Bernard in place of Alex Iwobi, one of three substitutes from the Merseyside derby promoted to the starting lineup, but little changed. They sorely missed the suspended Richarlison – they are yet to win a Premier League game without the Brazilian since he signed two years ago – and the isolated Dominic Calvert-Lewin cut an aloof figure aside from an initial spurt, but it was the absence of Séamus Coleman, who was forced off against Liverpool, that told most dearly.
Godfrey again deputised at right-back but the £25m signing from Norwich never looked comfortable. Twenty-eight seconds into the second half Everton were fortunate not to trail by a bigger margin after Adams comfortably eluded Godfrey inside the channel but the striker dawdled before getting a tame shot away.
At least Godfrey tried to atone for his errors, racing back to regain possession after losing the ball upfield early in the second half. The body language of Digne and Sigurdsson, who had the captain’s armband until being withdrawn on the hour, was not so reassuring. Everton were lethargic and lukewarm at best. Sigurdsson came close to opening the scoring after a swerving shot from distance skidded off the top of the Southampton crossbar, cutting inside after collecting a Rodríguez pass, bringing a chorus of gasps from the Everton dignitaries and substitutes scattered across the stand.
Everton’s appetite appeared to wane but Southampton were relentless and strode forward with the tempo the animated Hasenhüttl conducts on the touchline. He bounced around the technical area to roar his players on, yelping in disbelief as Armstrong’s cross somehow eluded Ings in the six-yard box. Southampton were supercharged, but not by any ghosts of that Leicester game. “It’s not interesting for us,” Hasenhüttl said. “We are so concentrated on what we have to improve all this time; we don’t have time to speak about anniversaries. The way the guys managed this was game outstanding.”
It was a similar story in the first half, when Nathan Redmond dragged wide after meeting a cross by Ryan Bertrand, again overlooked by the England manager, Gareth Southgate, this month. Moments later, a Bertrand cross pinballed around the Everton penalty area before Michael Keane eventually averted the danger after Walker-Peters recycled possession. But that was just the start of things to come, not that Southampton will be resting on their laurels any time soon. “If you lean back a little bit, you immediately get the bill for it,” said Hasenhüttl. “We have to keep on working and keep on being focused. It seems we have definitely done some big steps forward.”