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Saints dish out reality check as red mist haunts Blues again

Southampton 2-0 Everton


First defeat: Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said Lucas Digne’s red card offence ‘was not intentional’

First defeat: Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said Lucas Digne’s red card offence ‘was not intentional’

Pool via REUTERS

First defeat: Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti said Lucas Digne’s red card offence ‘was not intentional’

A first defeat, a second straight red card, a conspiracy theory; but, most of all, this was probably just a reality check for Everton.

The last unbeaten Premier League record has gone, and while Everton remain at the top of the table, the ease with which they were dispatched by Southampton suggests that that is also unlikely to last much longer.

No disgrace in that, but for all their impressive start to the season, this was a particular reminder that high-quality squad depth is generally the crucial component in any lasting title contender.

Richarlison and Seamus Coleman were enforced absentees and, with James Rodriguez largely anonymous following a muscular injury that was causing clear discomfort in the closing minutes, Everton dipped well below their early-season levels.

The dismissal of Lucas Digne also prompted questions following both Richarlison's red card and Jordan Pickford's reckless intervention against Liverpool.

Southampton were already leading 2-0 when Digne was sent off in the 72nd minute for treading on Kyle Walker-Peters' Achilles tendon. With Digne adamant that he had inadvertently caught Walker-Peters as he chased the ball, Everton will now appeal in the hope of averting another three-match suspension.

Carlo Ancelotti called the decision "a joke" and suggested it might have been a consequence of the adverse publicity that followed the Merseyside derby, when Pickford's challenge left Virgil van Dijk needing surgery on his knee ligaments.

"The red was not intentional, for sure it was not violent," the Everton manager said of Digne. "Maybe all this talk all week against Pickford, against Richarlison, affected the decision and if so it's not right, it's not fair."

Ralph Hasenhuttl, the Southampton manager, saw the incident very differently and noting how Digne's studs had separately almost caught Walker-Peters just a few seconds earlier.

Any assessment of Everton's credentials should also factor in Southampton's transformation over the past 12 months. On the corresponding weekend of fixtures last season they lost 9-0 to Leicester City, but they are now on a sequence of seven wins and four draws in their past 13 league games.

"Our game management against a very good side was fantastic - it was dominant," Hasenhuttl said.

With Ben Godfrey coming in at right-back for Coleman and Alex Iwobi playing off the left instead of Richarlison, Ancelotti had opted to change the personnel rather than overhaul his shape.

The excellent James Ward-Prowse surged forward from midfield for the first goal, and with Danny Ings weighting his return pass perfectly, was presented with an opportunity that he smashed beyond Pickford.

Ings, on whom the Saints have been so reliant for goals, was then centrally involved in also creating the second. Having surged beyond Godfrey and Yerry Mina, he crossed past Ward-Prowse for Che Adams.

There was time for Adams to tee up his shot and, from a narrow angle, he summoned sufficient power to beat Pickford with the help of a deflection off Sigurdsson.