EVERTON 3 (Osman 25, Jelavic 32, 38) – SOUTHAMPTON 1 (Ramirez 6)
For the visit of Southampton David Moyes reinstated Nikica Jelavic at centre-forward following his injury lay-off, selected Johnny Heitinga ahead of Sylvain Distin and, thanks to his growing confidence in Seamus Coleman at right-back, was able to field Phil Neville as his holding midfielder. A near capacity crowd at Goodison for a fixture that in recent years would not have attracted such a following bore witness to the excellent start the Blues have made and to the growing feeling that this season might deliver something special. Nigel Adkins’ team arrived on Merseyside on the back of an impressive 4-1 demolition of Villa last weekend and a midweek League Cup win and signalled their intention not to park the bus by fielding strikers Rodriguez and Lambert with their attack-minded Uruguayan record signing Gaston Ramirez in the hole.
The early exchanges were won by the visitors with Ramirez pulling the strings; the Blues looked sleepy and quickly found themselves a goal down. After six minutes Adam Lallana’s deep corner was misjudged by Tim Howard and found Ramirez unmarked on the far-post, a chance which a player of his obvious quality took with aplomb, heading powerfully into the net. Five minutes later it was Jay Rodriguez speed-testing Heitinga, and winning, but he put his shot wide of Howard’s right-hand post. At this point the question was – how would Everton respond? The answer, which demonstrated their increasing maturity and self-belief, was not long in coming and came in two parts: First they refused to panic; second they stepped up the tempo of their play and went for Southampton in a superb demonstration of attacking football. It was a chapter of play about twenty-five minutes in duration, the like of which has not been witnessed by this observer during the Moyes years: Fellaini was virtually unplayable, his control on the deck, and especially off his chest allowing him to smuggle and hold the ball at will; Mirallas was intelligent and quick; Coleman back to his most penetrative; Neville prompted while Pienaar jinked and dummied; Leon Osman covered acres of space and was Alan Ball like in his passing and running – no higher praise can we give him. During this period up to half-time Everton used the ball beautifully and scored three goals but it might have been more.
On twenty-five minutes Mirallas collected Neville’s clever pass, beat Clyne for pace and sent in a low cross which Jelavic was unable to fully control, but which took his markers, Yoshida and Fonte, out of the game leaving Leon Osman, following up behind, free to drive the ball into the roof of the net for the equalizer. Seven minutes later the Toffees were ahead. A delightful Belgian interchange with Fellaini put Mirallas free down the middle, he found Jelavic with a perfect pass; the centre-forward bamboozled Yoshida and left Fonte trailing, before passing the ball into the far corner. A few minutes later came the coup de grace when the excellent Coleman, on one of his rampaging trade-mark runs, beat Lallana all ends up and put in an inch-perfect cross which Jelavic, rising at the far post, met with the sort of header which even his illustrious predecessor Joe Royle could not have bettered. It could easily have been four when Fellaini rattled the bar just before the break while Pienaar and Mirallas missed acceptable opportunities. The second half was played out at a slower tempo with the visitors threatening occasionally and Everton enjoying long passages of possession.
Throughout his short career, which has now encompassed 55 appearances, Seamus Coleman has usually played on the right flank of midfield – it was operating here that he first built his reputation the season before last. It was always expected that he would eventually revert to the right-back role once his defensive abilities were honed and once he had earned the trust of David Moyes. This was his second appearance in that position in the league this season. Tony Hibbert has been injured which has helped facilitated these appearances but by the look of pride and the applause offered by his manager watching from the touchline we suspect Tony Hibbert will have a battle on his hands to get back into this team. Coleman put in another highly visible and effective defensive display yesterday – allied to his attacking, which was back to its best. Back in the mists of time, before the war, the full-back positions were occupied by the least skilful members of a team. Nowadays they are defenders and attackers in equal measure, providing width deep into the opposition half and it is a position occupied by only the most versatile of players. In Leighton Baines Everton possess, the statistics show, THE most creative player in the league; we suspect, if he remains on this trajectory he will soon have a challenger in Seamus Coleman. Trapattoni probably hasn’t noticed, but David Moyes has.
EVERTON (4-1-4-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines; Neville ©; Mirallas (Oviedo 79), Osman (Distin 90+1), Fellaini, Pienaar; Jelavic (Anichebe 75)
Unused subs: Mucha, Gueye, Vellios, Duffy
SOUTHAMPTON (4-1-2-1-2): Gazzaniga; Richardson, Fonte, Yoshida, Clyne (Reeves 81); S Davis; Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Chaplow 89); Ramirez; Rodriguez (Mayuka 81), Lambert
Unused subs: K Davis, Hooiveld, do Prado, Puncheon
Referee: Lee Probert