Blues disappoint again as Austin strikes early blow

Sunday 27 November 2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]
Southampton 1 - 0 Everton

Koeman made just one change to the team that started against Swansea and was met with a similarly ineffective performance

Everton's poor sequence of results continued with a dismal 1-0 defeat on the south coast on Ronald Koeman's return to St Mary's Stadium.

For the seventh time in 13 Premier League games, Koeman's side dug themselves a hole by conceding the first goal but, unlike last week, they were unable to claw themselves out of it as Charlie Austin's first-minute header proved decisive.

The striker was on hand to nod home almost on the goal line with just 42 seconds gone as the Blues' defence failed to deal with a cross from the right after they had lost the ball from their own kick-off.

Everton's attempts to drag themselves back to parity were disappointing, particularly during a familiarly anaemic first-half performance, but two good opportunities were spurned when Idrissa Gueye spooned a first-time effort high over the crossbar and Gareth Barry could only steer a free header above the target from a free kick.

Ross Barkley also missed badly with a header while, at the other end, Josh Sims was picked out in the centre by Nathan Redmond but the youngster was unable to get enough power on his header to trouble Maarten Stekelenburg.

If Koeman had tried to inspire a noticeable turnaround in his players' display at the interval, it was met with only a modest uptick in Everton's intensity in the second half and they could easily have been two goals in arrears before the hour mark.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg hammered a shot off the outside of the woodwork four minutes after the restart and Austin might have doubled his tally in the 58th minute were it not for a brilliant save from Stekelenburg who dived to his right to turn the header around the post.

In between, the ineffective Romelu Lukaku had swept a direct free kick over the bar after Gueye had been chopped down on the edge of the box and Yannick Bolasie's solo charge had ended with him firing across goal and wide from a similar range.

The Congolese forward had what would have been the visitors' first effort on target a few minutes later when he met Seamus Coleman's cross from the right with an acrobatic overhead kick but referee Craig Pawson whistled for a push.

Koeman made his first move to try and change the game mid-way through the second half when he withdrew Aaron Lennon in favour of Gerard Deulofeu and then Barkley for Kevin Mirallas but it was the home side who looked far more likely to score the next goal, particularly in a three minute spell starting in the 78th minute.

First, Leighton Baines had to be alert to divert a goal-bound shot by Sims away from danger, then Stekelenburg spilled a shot by James Ward-Prowse but was relieved to see the Southampton midfielder fail to properly connect with Austin's square pass with the goal gaping in front of him. Finally, Stekelenburg had to intervene again as Ward-Prowse chested down another deep cross from the right but the Dutch ‘keeper got his gloves to his subsequent shot and Baines hooked the ball off the line.

Everton pressed in the closing stages as Enner Valencia was thrown on in place of Baines but there was little coherent about their approach and apart from a Coleman shot that was blocked and a Valencia header that dropped inches wide, they didn't manage a shot on target until the third minute of injury time when Barry's tame effort was easily gathered by Fraser Forster.

The result means that the Blues have now won just once in nine games in all competitions but remain seventh thanks to favourable results elsewhere this weekend. Question marks remain, however, over the mentality of Koeman's team and the manager's ability to get the best out of them while adhering to the same system.

Full details: ToffeeWeb match page