The dark clouds that loomed over the Everton manager, Marco Silva, may have subsided but the pressure has not abated but rather intensified on Ralph Hasenhüttl, whose Southampton side are in grave trouble. The outlook for the Saints is considerably gloomy given defeat here means they have now lost six of their past seven Premier League matches. This was yet more anguish for disenchanted Southampton supporters, who have not seen their team record victory on home soil since April. Hasenhüttl grimaced as Richarlison struck the winner and, up in the director’s box, food for thought for Katharina Liebherr, the former majority shareholder who remains on the club’s board.
This victory hoists Everton up into mid-table but Southampton remain in a precarious predicament, a point off the foot of the table with eight points from their opening 12 matches. For so long, Southampton’s turgid buildup play matched the terse atmosphere in the stands. They recovered from an abysmal first-half when Danny Ings cancelled out Tom Davies’s opener but Everton kept knocking in pursuit of a winner, and found one when Richarlison volleyed in Djibril Sidibé’s cross late on.
For Southampton’s supporters and players alike, this must have felt as though they were returning to the scene of a heinous crime, a fortnight on from that harrowing 9-0 shellacking to Leicester City. Since then Hasenhüttl’s side have been clinging on to the positives having twice avoided humiliation in consecutive defeats at Manchester City but this was back to square one and another largely spineless performance. Everton, too, have endured a rough ride of late, winning one of their five previous league matches, but only one team here appeared bereft of belief and cripplingly low on confidence.
It took Everton just 360 seconds to breach a desperately frail defence. It was an alarmingly soft goal from a Southampton perspective, with Mason Holgate beating the tallest player on the field, 6ft 6in Jannik Vestergaard, to a header from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner. He flicked on towards Davies, who popped up at the back post to nod in unmarked. With four minutes played one could forgive Saints supporters for fearing the worst given it took Leicester twice as long to open the scoring en route to that trouncing. As it happened, Southampton were fortunate to trail by a single goal at the interval.
Cenk Tosun and Sigurdsson, both of whom were promoted to the starting lineup, were influential and the former should have headed in following a neat one-two with Theo Walcott, only to direct his effort over the bar. Two minutes later Yerry Mina came within inches of latching on to a delightful Sigurdsson free-kick, which bounced inviting on edge of the six-yard box. Walcott tested Alex McCarthy from an acute angle before Davies’s overcooked cross from the right forced the Southampton goalkeeper to tip over.
In his programme notes Hasenhüttl thanked those hardy supporters that stuck it out until the bitter end against Leicester and there was also a Saints scarf bearing the club’s ‘We March On’ motto waiting on each home fan’s seat, but it required something more substantial to pacify crestfallen supporters. Cue the arrival of Boufal, largely an enigma since joining for a then club-record fee three years ago. The Moroccan replaced Cédric at the break and instantly generated their first shot on target, a curled effort that generated warm, if not ironic, applause.
Southampton had weathered the storm, with Moussa Djenepo drilling down the left flank and Boufal drifting in off the right. Boufal beat the former Southampton midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin, who was loth to foul the forward. His low cross from the right trickled off Mina and into the path of Ings, who lashed in.
But back came Everton: Jan Bednarek gifted Sigurdsson a free hit which flew straight at McCarthy, while Tosun also drove wide. Up the other end, Jordan Pickford made a superb two-handed save to prevent a James Ward-Prowse free-kick finding the top corner. But, in the end, Everton gleaned what they deserved with Richarlison striking the winner.