Richarlison continued his fine form in front of goal to hand Everton a 1-0 win over Southampton in an otherwise drab affair at Goodison Park.
In a game full of half-chances but deprived of attacking intensity, Carlo Ancelotti’s side secured an important win for their Champions League hopes as they move to within two points of fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand.
Meanwhile Southampton, who joined Everton in registering one shot on target, have now lost eight of their last nine Premier League matches on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s 99th game in charge of the struggling Saints.
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Everton started well and they took the lead in the ninth minute through Richarlison. Gylfi Sigurdsson played an incisive pass between Jannik Vestergaard and Ryan Bertrand for the Brazilian to slot home his fifth Premier League goal of the season. The 23-year-old has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for Everton for the first time since December 2019.
In the 25th minute, with the Merseyside club still on top, the hosts had a goal disallowed by VAR as Ben Godfrey was offside when he nodded across goal for Michael Keane to apply an easy finish.
Southampton responded with a spurt of pressure, but they could not make it count as they failed to register a shot on goal in the first half.
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It was a mostly tepid contest after the break with both sides flooding the box with mostly aimless crosses from set-pieces. Keane directed a free header wide on the hour mark before Mohamed Salisu did the same when he nodded wide at the near post from a corner two minutes later.
Southampton’s best chances to equalise came in the final stages. In the 84th minute Stuart Armstrong did excellently to lay the ball off to unmarked Moussa Djenepo before the 22-year-old timidly side-footed his strike wide of Jordan Pickford’s right post.
In the final minute a Southampton corner came out to the edge of the box before it was scrambled to Vestergaard, whose point-blank shot was blocked by an alert Pickford.
TALKING POINT - Gritty Everton could make top four
It was far from an inspiring performance, but Everton showed great defensive resilience against Southampton and limited them to very few meaningful chances. The Southampton result means Everton have registered back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since Boxing Day.
With their next five league games being West Brom, Chelsea, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Brighton, this would be the ideal time to go on a run and get into the top four for the first time since 2005 under one of the best managers in world football.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Michael Keane (Everton)
In a game where no player really shone, Keane was arguably the best. He cleared Everton's lines with numerous headers and he posed a goal threat himself throughout the scrappy contest. The 28-year-old's aerial dominance helped Everton greatly to edge out the win.
Everton: Pickford (7), Godfrey (7), Holgate (6), Digne (6), Keane (8), Allan (7), Gomes (6), Doucoure (6), Sigurdsson (6), Richarlison (7), Calvert-Lewin (7). Subs: Iwobi (N/A), King (N/A)
Southampton: Forster (6), Bertrand (5), Salisu (5), Bednarek (5), Vestergaard (6), Ward-Prowse (6), Djenepo (4), Armstrong (6), Redmond (5), Adams (4), Ings (4). Subs: Tella (5), N'Lundulu (N/A), Watts (N/A)
9' - GOAL! Everton 1-0 Southampton (Richarlison): Richarlison breaks the deadlock! Sigurdsson plays an incisive pass between Vestergaard and Bertrand and the Brazilian meets it before rounding Forster to slot home his fifth Premier League goal of the season. He has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for Everton for the first time since December 2019.
25' - NO GOAL! Digne swings it across to Holgate at the far post and he nods it to Keane who puts it away! Was Holgate offside when he went for that? It looks it. VAR is checking... Jon Moss is the VAR official and it has been ruled out for offside.
62' - CLOSE! Ward-Prowse's corner is met by Salisu at the near post and it is their best chance of the night. He cannot convert, though, heading beyond the near post!
84' - HUGE CHANCE! It's brilliant from Southampton. Armstrong plays a neat one-two before laying it off to Djenepo but he sidefoots his shot wide of Pickford's right post!! That was easily their best chance and he's blown it. Will they get another or will that wake Everton up?
90' - BIG SAVE! A Southampton corner comes out to the edge of the box before it is scrambled to Vestergaard, but Pickford is quick to come off his line and make a vital save!
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