Monday 21 May 2018

Late equaliser leaves Saints on the brink

Everton 1 Southampton 1

Everton's Morgan Schneiderlin (left) and Southampton's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg battle for the ball. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA
Everton's Morgan Schneiderlin (left) and Southampton's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg battle for the ball. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA

Sam Wallace

When Tom Davies took aim with four minutes of injury-time played and Southampton down to 10 men it would be fair to say that it felt like one of those pivotal moments in the season for the away team: hold out and they may survive relegation, concede and anything was possible.

Davies' shot clipped the defender Wesley Hoedt, wrong-footed Alex McCarthy and when it hit the net, Mark Hughes sunk back into his chair with his head in his hands. Thirty seconds earlier his team were on the brink of a second consecutive league victory that lifts them out the relegation zone and gives them the chance of securing survival with a win at Swansea City on Tuesday night.

Everton had been dreadful, their manager bombarded with chants of "f**k off Sam Allardyce" and the stadium all but empty for the post-match lap of appreciation to mark the last home game of the season. When they did eventually come out post-match, there was no sign of their manager.

The truth for Southampton is that their opponents had well and truly been there to be beaten but Saints fell back after losing Maya Yoshida to a second yellow card on 85 minutes and it ended badly for them.

Southampton's Nathan Redmond in action with Everton's Morgan Schneiderlin. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters
Southampton's Nathan Redmond in action with Everton's Morgan Schneiderlin. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Before then a second-half goal for substitute Nathan Redmond was the difference on a day of largely terrible football between two desperate teams who have badly lost their way this season. At least Saints had the stomach for the fight, and so nearly held on to the end until they fell back one too many times with Everton piling on the pressure.

The game was utterly forgettable, and the home fans largely kept their thoughts to themselves until the second half when the anti-Allardyce chants began and the boos rang out at the end, despite Davies' late equaliser. They had got the draw but had played with little guile or variety and with eighth place secure for them there was not the incentive that Southampton had and it showed throughout.

Hughes was never quite convinced that he could afford to commit to attack, no matter how badly Southampton might have needed to win this game, and they left Charlie Austin alone for so long that he must have felt forgotten about.

In the first half Southampton needed more from their biggest names and of those it is not hard to spot the potential in Mario Lemina although his returns were of the ever diminishing variety.

Southampton had more of the ball but no more of an idea than Everton as to what to do with it.

The home side occasionally got the ball wide to Seamus Coleman on the right side and more often than not they tried to hit the Southampton area but it was a hard watch.

Southampton's Maya Yoshida fouls Everton's Oumar Niasse before being shown a second yellow card and sent off. Photo: Lee Smith/Reuters
Southampton's Maya Yoshida fouls Everton's Oumar Niasse before being shown a second yellow card and sent off. Photo: Lee Smith/Reuters

The first half was played out against a deadly hush from the home fans, aghast at the general lack of anything that might be reason for optimism about a team that they have fallen out of love with.

Southampton's goal came down the right where Cedric Soares overlapped and picked out Redmond at the back post, where he met the ball well with his head, guiding it down and through the legs of Everton's goal came so late that it was virtually the last action of the game.

Moments before Alex McCarthy had tipped Leighton Baines' free-kick over the bar and the Southampton players celebrated as if they had seen off the last attack, but that was still to come.

Telegraph

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