These are the type of games that Carlo Ancelotti wants his team to win more; at Goodison Park and against teams further down the table.
That was despite Southampton only managing their first attempt on target in second half stoppage-time. Everton had gone ahead in the 9th minute through Richarlison but apart from some tantalising set-piece deliveries, the home side seldom went close to putting the game to bed.
This latest defeat means that Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side have lost eight of their past nine Premier League games, with the other being a draw. They are out of sorts and had they not accumulated points during the early part of the season they would be in much deeper relegation mire by now.
Story of the game
The breakthrough arrived early and was just what Ancelotti would have wanted. Jordan Pickford sent the ball up-field where Dominic Calvert-Lewin was too strong for James Ward-Prowse and Mohamed Salisu and beat them to two headers. The ball fell for Gylfi Sigurdsson who fed it on to Richarlison and the Everton striker rounded Fraser Forster to score.
That was the pinnacle of an opening half hour which the home side completely dominated. Salisu was struggling to handle Calvert-Lewin in the inside left channel and brought him down to present Everton with a free kick in a promising position. Sigurdsson curled it in and Richarlison’s diving header was heading for the bottom corner but Forster’s strong right hand turned the attempt away. A goal would not have countered as Richarlison was offside but the Southampton ‘keeper wasn’t to know.
Free kicks were the order of the day for Everton and when Lucas Digne delivered the next one, Ancelotti’s side went even closer to doubling their advantage but again the linesman’s flag was raised. Mason Holgate met the ball at the back post and headed back across goal to Michael Keane who bundled the ball in but both Holgate and Keane were beyond the last defender in Southampton’s high line.
The conceding of so many set-pieces must have dawned on the struggling Saints and the wake up call alerted them into a better finish to the half with a Ward-Prowse free kick being turned away from goal by a diving Calvert-Lewin header and Salisu fluffing a chance from six yards out.
Everton haven’t relented a half-time lead at home in the league in five years and despite the scoreline still being narrow, the home side must have felt this was their game to lose. Pickford did not have a speck of dirt on his gloves after a quiet half.
It was from another free kick, which the visitors inextricably allowed Keane free space in the area to head across goal, that Calvert-Lewin struggled to get purchase on an effort before Ben Godfrey swiped at the ball only for it to get deflected wide.
Everton were not particularly troubling Forster, who Ralph Hasenhüttl had opted to start in goal instead of Alex McCarthy. The home side were cruising through the game without necessarily being in total control.
Danny Ings had barely had a touch in the Everton area all game while Che Adams was often isolated in an advanced position on the right. Southampton’s creativity has clearly dried up and that told when their best chance so far had been when Salisu had miscued his jump and misdirected his header into the stands behind Pickford’s goal.
That said, the visitors did start to mount greater pressure late on and in the 85th minute Stuart Armstrong teed up Moussa Djenepo but he pulled his right-footed shot past the post. Hasenhüttl sent on 19-year-old Caleb Watts and fellow youngster Dan N’Lundulu in what was a further sign of the injury issues that have played a part in Southampton’s slide down the table.
It was when the clock was in the red that the visitors had their best spell - possibly taking more risks. A corner was kept alive and Jan Vestergaard found the ball at his feet only for his weak effort to be smuggled by the sprawling Pickford. That chance represented their first on target and only the second of the entire game after Everton’s early goal - the fewest in a league match this season. Everton didn’t care, they had their win.