Blues can't recover from self-inflicted wounds

, 26 April, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
Southampton 2 - 0 Everton
Everton's Champions League hopes took a potentially fatal blow at the St Mary's Stadium as two first-half own goals, one from Antolin Alcaraz and another from Seamus Coleman, left them with a mountain they never looked likely to conquer over the final hour of the game.

Needing to win to maintain the pressure on Arsenal in the chase for a top-four finish, the Blues got off to the worst possible start when Antolin Alcaraz headed Rickie Lambert's cross into his own net with just 53 seconds on the clock.

And things got worse for an Everton side already facing a difficult task against a well-organised and energetic Southampton side when Nathaniel Clyne's cross eluded both Alcaraz and John Stones and Coleman could only steer an emergency header back across goal and past the stranded Tim Howard.

Shorn of the injured Kevin Mirallas, Roberto Martinez had deployed Gerard Deulofeu on the left side of a front three that included Lukaku and Steven Naismith but the Spaniard struggled to make an impact, although he was central to Everton's best moments of the first half.

He bounced a shot from distance that was safely gathered by Boruc, drew a foul from Clyne from which Gareth Barry should have had a penalty as Jack Cork clearly tugged him back by the shirt, and served up a decent cross for Lukaku but the Belgian couldn't get over the ball and his header flew over.

Martinez made a first change at half time when he withdrew Ross Barkley in favour of Leon Osman but it was Naismith and Deulofeu who looked to have combined to carve out the Blues' best chance of the contest thus far. Unfortunately, an erroneous offside call on the Spanish forward pulled back play with Deulofeu set to bear down in a one-on-one confrontation with Boruc.

And there would be further outrage from Everton players and supporters alike when first Osman and then James McCarthy were denied penalties — indeed, the former was booked for diving despite being clearly caught late by Dejan Lovren.

Unfortunately, Southampton made life as difficult for Everton as possible and almost extended their lead when Lambert clipped the post with a low shot and substitute James Ward-Prowse forced a late parried save from Howard.

In between, Aiden McGeady's wicked cross had picked Lukaku out perfectly but he headed straight at the 'keeper from point-blank range, spurning perhaps Everton's best chance of a frustrating game.

The defeat leads the Blues needing Arsenal to collapse at home against struggling Newcastle on Monday evening for them to have any hope of finishing in the Champions League places. A win for the Gunners would put them four points clear with two games to play.

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