Charlie Austin double forced Everton caretaker David Unsworth to swallow another humiliating defeat, after branding the Europa League defeat to Atalanta as “unacceptable”, painting the growing problems at the football club.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s wonder strike was enough at the time to cancel Tadic’s opener just at the tick of half-time. Unsworth admitted that most of the midweek line-up had made it easy for him to leave them out at St Mary’s, was good to his word, making eight changes with Wayne Rooney among those dropping to the bench.
Charlie Austin was restored to the Saints attack in place of Shane Long and should have marked his return with a goal in the seventh minute when Virgil Van Dijk rose to head James Ward-Prowse’s corner into the forward’s path. Just ten yards out and with time to measure his shot, Austin was guilty of snatching at the chance, sending the ball over the bar. By then, Everton had already been guilty of contributing to their own problems when Phil Jagielka attempted to chest Ward-Prowse’s free-kick back towards Jordan Pickford, forcing the keeper into a hurried save that did nothing to calm nerves among Unsworth’s side. The sense that a goal was coming intensified when Southampton right-back Cedric managed to work his way to the by-line and turn inside Sigurdsson before sending a low cross towards Austin at the near post. This time the forward produced a more controlled finish and was unfortunate to see the ball bounce clear off the post.
Everton had little to offer by way of response and when the visitors did get a clear sight of goal, Kevin Mirallas overran the ball, allowing Fraser Forster to save easily.
Briefly troubled, Southampton responded in the ideal way by forcing the lead with the kind of sweeping move that has been largely missing from their play this season. Ryan Bertrand won possession deep in his own half and pressed forward, laying the ball off to Austin and continuing with his run to collect a return from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg before sweeping in a low pass towards Tadic. Leighton Baines was slow to spot the Serb’s run towards the edge of the box where Tadic took a touch before deftly flicking the ball past Pickford.
The goal reflected the balance of the game and Southampton should have extended their lead before Sigurdsson unexpectedly brought Everton back into the game on the stroke of half-time with a superb dipping shot from 25 yards out that crossed the line after striking the underside of the bar, the inside of a post, then the bar again.
Somehow Everton had been handed a route back into the game but any hope Sigurdsson’s first league goal for the club might prove a turning point disappeared seven minutes into the second half when Austin met Bertrand’s cross with a well-placed header. Six minutes later the forward produced an almost identical finish, this time from Tadic’s cross to kill off any chance of an Everton response. Davis’s late strike was no more than Saints deserved.
Source: News agencies