20/12/2014: Saints 3-0 Everton
Saints got back to winning ways with an accomplished display against Everton. Ronald Koeman mixed things up prior to kick-off and was rewarded with a much improved performance.
Saints lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, with wing-backs Nathaniel Clyne and Ryan Bertrand staying back and pushing on when appropriate. Harrison Reed made his first start sitting in front of the back three, with James Ward-Prowse and Steven Davis playing just ahead. Shane Long was positioned just behind centre forward Graziano Pelle.
The home side were perhaps understandably a bit cautious early on. Everton had plenty of possession and attempted to play their way through the middle. The Toffees struggled to find a way through the home side's compact setup, however. Koeman's formation gave Clyne and Bertrand greater licence to attack. On 11 Pelle missed a great chance, heading wide from Clyne's cross.
Saints grew in confidence as the half went on and started to play a bit more expansively. Long should have had a penalty when he was booted up in the air by Phil Jagielka. In the end it hardly mattered, with Saints taking the lead moments later. Romelu Lukaku inadvertently nodded into his own net under pressure from Jose Fonte from a corner. Saints finished the half strongly, with Pelle hitting the side netting from Bertrand's assist on 41.
Everton had spells where they dominated possession in the first half, but Saints were very much in control after the break. Pelle had another chance, before Davis' through ball to Long was intercepted by Tim Howard. The pressure from the home side eventually told, with Saints doubling their lead on 65. Clyne got to the byline before crossing for Long. The Irishman nodded down for Pelle, who hooked the ball into the net from close range.
Everton never looked like mounting a comeback, only briefly threatening Fraser Forster's goal at the end of the game when the outcome was settled. Saints could have had more. Howard saved well from Jose Fonte's stooping header. Clyne then shot wide from distance. Lukaku almost pulled off a brilliant piece of magic from outside the area, curling towards the top corner. The ball looked to be heading in before Forster pulled off an astonishing save.
Saints made in 3-0 on 82. Maya Yoshida started and finished the move, playing the ball out wide to Davis before heading in from close range from the delicious cross. Bertrand could have made it 4-0, poking the ball wide, having broken through in the box. Davis also went close from distance. Everton looked to be in for a consolation in stoppage time, only for Seamus Coleman to slice his effort high and wide.
An excellent response to the last two dreadful displays on the road. Koeman deserves plenty of credit for mixing things up. He implemented a new system which suited Saints down to the ground. The home side were well protected at the back and had a clear plan going forward. Saints adopted a slightly more direct approach, with the full-backs providing width for the front two of Long and Pelle, who fed off each other well. It was fairly straight forward, but effective. With Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin due back for the trip to Crystal Palace, Saints now have a plethora of options in midfield. Saints may have to ditch 3-5-2 with Jose Fonte now suspended, however.
Forster: 7. Made one brilliant save towards the end of the game, plus a few more routine stops
Fonte: 7 Completed a few well timed last ditch challenges
Alderweireld: 7. Stood up well to the physical threat of Lukaku and others
Yoshida: 8. Showed class on the ball throughout. Really deserved his goal
Clyne: 8. Brilliant at both ends, but particularly going forward. Provided plenty of great crosses
Bertrand: 8. Another positive showing. Attacked with real purpose
Reed: 8. Fantastic first league start. Read the game well and broke up play regularly with some strong tackles
Ward-Prowse: 7. Took a while to get up to pace with the action, but set-piece delivery can't be questioned
Davis: 7. Got up and down the pitch well and some great passing, particularly for the 3rd goal
Long: 7. Got in behind the Everton defence on a number of occasions, using his pace to good effect
Pelle: 7. Movement very good. Always well positioned and rewarded with another goal
Targett: Slotted in fairly comfortably during the last 10, as Bertrand moved to midfield
Gape: Another debutant. Put in a few decent tackles at the end of the game
Saints - Lukaku OG (38) Pelle (65) Yoshida (82)
Attendance - 31,475 (2,553 Everton fans)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Saints: Forster, Fonte, Alderweireld, Yoshida, Clyne, Bertrand, Reed, Ward-Prowse, S Davis, Long, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, McCarthy, Mane, McQueen, Seager
Everton: Howard, Coleman, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Besic, Barry, Naismith, Barkley, Eto'o, Lukaku
Subs not used: Robles, Alcaraz, Stones, Garbutt, McGeady, Pienaar, Kone