Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg thought Southampton raised their levels against Everton
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has praised his Southampton team-mates for taking a "step up" in Sunday's 1-0 Premier League defeat of Everton.
The midfielder impressed as Saints produced perhaps their finest performance of the season to outclass their visitors and climb to 10th thanks to Charlie Austin's first-minute goal.
After a flat performance in Thursday's 1-0 defeat at Sparta Prague, they were fluid, balanced and intense, with summer signing Hojbjerg among those who appeared to have adjusted to manager Claude Puel's system.
Speaking to Southampton's official website, Hojbjerg said: "It was a step up.
"We didn't win for a couple of games and now we got it. A clean sheet and a 1-0 is always the sign of a good team.
"It was not only after Europa League but after the Premier League games, because we didn't have a win in three or four games.
"Although we got a good result against Liverpool, (defeating Everton) was good.
"It was nice and 41 seconds we scored a fantastic goal. The first half was high intensity and the second half was a bit more long balls and fighting in the back lines.
"We got the win and we can all sleep well.
"We showed again we are a very solid team. The back four had a fantastic match but the whole was pressing fantastic which the coach mentioned.
"Even the strikers were pressing and helping the team to make the job easier for us."
Among Everton's absentees at St Mary's was Ireland's James McCarthy, whose schedule for both club and country this season has been the subject of intense scrutiny.
The midfielder was called up for international duty when Ronald Koeman said he was not fit, and the Everton manager was then criticised by Roy Keane for his comments.
"McCarthy stopped training after the first session (last) week," said Koeman. "He was tired and had a little problem in his hamstring again.
"He did not train Tuesday or Wednesday. He started training on Friday again and I didn't take the risk of putting him in the team (against Southampton) because we need everybody fit and available for the busy time coming up."