Sunday 8 December 2019

Saints left to rue wasteful first half as Pochettino era starts with stalemate

Southampton 0 Everton 0

Henry Winter

Southampton fans showed brief support for Nigel Adkins but then full support for their team and were rewarded with a strong performance, particularly in the first half when the excellent Rickie Lambert could have had a hat-trick.

Southampton's captain was the man of the match, ensuring that Mauricio Pochettino's reign began on a promising note and with a point against visitors who perked up only in the second period, and really only when Victor Anichebe came on.

Pochettino now faces a trip to Manchester United and Wigan Athletic before Manchester City visit St Mary's, but the Argentinian can take heart from the response of the players and the fans. Gaston Ramirez also impressed while Jack Cork was diligence personified in midfield.

There had been brief chants of "one Nigel Adkins" but it was hardly from the Emmeline Pankhurst school of protest. The board showed a lack of class by failing even to mention, let alone thank, Adkins in the programme.


Pochettino had clearly not been concerned about any critical reaction, striding out on to the pitch before kick-off for a few final words with his captain Lambert, who responded hungrily, playing superbly in the first half.

Lambert should have ended the first half in possession of the match ball. Southampton's No 7 was also ably assisted by a three-strong supporting cast of Jason Puncheon, Gaston Ramirez and the left-sided Guly Do Prado.

Southampton's excellence should have been reflected by the scoreboard after four minutes. Ramirez stroked the ball right to Lambert, who drilled it low and hard into the box. A sliding Phil Jagielka intercepted, managing to divert it just past the post for a corner. Then Nathaniel Clyne teed up Puncheon who failed to beat goalkeeper Tim Howard.

Pochettino's commitment to the pressing, attacking style of Marcelo Bielsa was soon seen. Do Prado clattered Jagielka, who did him a favour by jumping back up swiftly.

Southampton kept going close. Ramirez had a shot saved by Howard. Lambert powered a free-kick on to a post. The striker then turned Leighton Baines, and was denied only by a smart stop by Howard.

It was hard to remember when Everton had played so limply in a first half this season, although due credit needs paying to Southampton's work rate.

Whatever language Pochettino used at the break, there were doubtless some blunt words from Moyes in the away dressing-room. Everton emerged looking far more in the mood. They could hardly have played much worse. To the delight of their admirably numerous support of 2,483, Everton tore into Southampton. Seamus Coleman clipped in a cross from the right that Fellaini controlled on his chest and fired goalwards. Artur Boruc saved and then denied the Belgian again a minute later, catching his header.

Southampton briefly broke out. Luke Shaw continued to enhance his reputation, driving forward and Coleman pulled a muscle conceding the corner. Anichebe came on for the hobbling Coleman, who could now be a doubt for Ireland's friendly against Poland having been named in the squad yesterday.

Everton were far more of a force. Leon Osman, so disappointing in the first half, was markedly improved, firing in a shot that clipped Yoshida's head and went for a corner. But Southampton found a second wind and held firm for the point. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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