McNeil strikes the winner to maintain Everton's upward momentum

01/10/2022 0comments  |  Jump to last
Southampton 1 - 2 Everton

Everton collected their first away win of the season as Conor Coady and Dwight McNeil scored their first goals for the club and the Blues held on to a slender 2-1 lead at Southampton.

Frank Lampard’s men looked as though they had undone all the good work from the first half in establishing control of the match when they allowed Joe Aribo to fire home four minutes after the restart.

But the Southampton forward’s goal had merely provided the spark for the contest to explode into life and the visitors scored twice in the space of two minutes to turn the game on its head – first when Coady turned the ball home following a corner and then when McNeil rapped home Alex Iwobi’s cross from the angle.

The returning Jordan Pickford had to be at his best to den Stuart Armstrong and Saints debutant Duje Ćaleta-Car volleyed a gilt-edged chance over the bar in stoppage time but the Blues’ defence held out to claim three precious points on a ground where they had performed particularly badly on their previous two visits.

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With Nathan Patterson ruled out through injury, Dominic Calvert-Lewin again not risked and Anthony Gordon feeling “under the weather” in the manager’s words, Lampard made two changes to the starting XI beyond restoring Pickford between the posts in place of his deputy Asmir Begovic.

As expected, Seamus Coleman came in at right-back and McNeil replaced Gordon on the right flank and though both players exhibited a bit of rust, Everton began to find some rhythm after Iwobi had almost picked Amadou Onana out in the middle with a cross from the left but the Belgian was just beaten to it by a defender.

At the other end, Che Adams clipped a shot into the side-netting after five minutes but it was the Toffees who carried the greater attacking threat, even if their attacks often foundered when they reached the final third.

Demarai Gray narrowly missed with a direct free-kick, Coady almost got his toe to a ball in following a set-piece and Neal Maupay had a couple of opportunities when his shot from close range was blocked and later when he popped up at the back post at a corner but his header was caught by Gavin Bazunu.

The best chance of the first period had fallen to Gray, though, when, having done the hard part by gliding past his man with impressive footwork, he could only serve up a tame finish that the keeper comfortably saved.

Ralph Hassenhüttl’s men finished the first half with a brief flurry that saw Stuart Armstrong’s low cross deflect into Pickford’s arms and the same player then test the Everton keeper for the first time with a deflected shot that was also safely gathered.

The Blues and Gueye, in particular, had looked increasingly composed as the first half had gone on but a dreadful pass by the Senegal international across midfield went straight to an opposition player and the ball was quickly worked to Adams who found Aribo and he drilled through a crowd of blue shirts to give the hosts the lead.

Everton won a free-kick by the touchline halfway inside Southampton’s half almost immediately by way of reply and when Gray’s delivery found Onana at the back post, the lanky Belgian headed back across goal where Coady was lurking to bang it home.

Another horrendous pass out from the back, this time by James Tarkowski, allowed Southampton in for a chance to restore their lead but the former Burnley defender made amends with a terrific block that was emulated by Vitalii Mykolenko and then Coleman as the Blues staved off the attack and began one of their own.

Iwobi collected a pass on the Toffees’ right and floated a ball in towards the penalty spot where Onana appeared to be pushed over by Kyle Walker-Peters but it continued on to McNeil who took one touch and then slammed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net to give Everton the lead.

Onana could have killed the game just three minutes later when he stooped to meet Coleman’s cross but put his header horribly wide and then, after Adams had chested the ball down and volleyed just wide, Gray was clean through but could only shoot at Bazunu, with Video Assistant Referee, Lee Mason, no doubt poised to rule it out for offside in any case.

The final 20 minutes were dominated by the Saints as they tried to find a way back to parity but Adam Armstrong’s effort from 12 yards bounced over the bar in the 71st minute and Stuart Armstrong arrived to meet a similar cut-back from the by-line but Pickford flew to his left to push it around the post a minute later.

The England international then beat away a strong shot from Walker-Peters and Coleman did well to head away a James Ward-Prowse free-kick but it wasn’t until the match moved into six minutes of added time that Hasenhüttl’s side threatened again to grab a point.

Everton’s markers failed to pick Caleta-Car up from a free-kick but, thankfully, the Croatian could only side-foot his volley over when he had the whole goal to aim at while Adam Armstrong had one last chance off Adams’s knock-down but shot straight at Pickford.

So, Lampard saw his team score more than once for the first time this season and earn what was only their second win away from home under his stewardship and it moves Everton into a pleasingly comfortable mid-table position with 10 points from eight games.

 


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