Everton 3 Southampton 1
There has been a frustrated and long-standing assumption among Evertonians that if their team could just begin a season in the form with which they reliably finish one, a regular place in European competition would be attainable; possibly more.
Perhaps it is the year to prove the theory correct. Performances like this overwhelming of Southampton are not isolated.
Results over the past month mean Everton have equalled their best start to a campaign, set in 2004-05 when Champions League qualification was secured.
Everton are a different side to those that have been before under David Moyes, though. Points are no longer simply ground out. They out-think opponents, press high, and excite spectators. Their achievements are marked by the fact that even Southampton outspent them by a considerable amount in the summer.
Yet the visitors could not deal with such zeal here. Everton's confidence means they can move up the gears when they need to and enjoy conservative possession the rest of the time; knowing there is always Nikica Jelavic and Marouane Fellaini to rescue them.
Moyes described his team's creativity as "great theatre," and he was right. The margin of victory could have been greater. "You would watch Everton now," Moyes insisted. "You can see how much the crowd is behind it as well." Despite falling behind early on to a Gaston Ramirez header, as soon as the hosts found an equaliser, the future was certain.
Everton initially lacked concentration and there should have been further punishment for their relaxed start. From a simple pass into the right channel, Jay Rodriguez beat John Heitinga to the ball. Honing in on goal, the former Burnley striker could only sliced wide. The miss was crucial.
When standards are set, expectation levels increase and the impatience inside Goodison Park was tangible. An equaliser came just at the right time.
Phil Neville started the move, finding Kevin Mirallas tight on the touchline. The Belgian, aided by Seamus Coleman's overlapping run, found space to cross towards Jelavic, who threw himself at the ball. It looked like being a horrid miss until Leon Osman, running in behind him, cleaned up the mess by firing into the top corner.
Southampton are a Premier League team going forward. At the other end, though, they have problems. Manager Nigel Adkins recognised this and switched personnel around. Yet they remain brittle, especially when opponents stray from natural stations.
"I believe we play good football, but we ship far too many goals," Adkins said. "It's something we're addressing."
For Everton's second, Mirallas warped into the centre. With no challenge, he fed Jelavic and with Paulo Gazzaniga's positioning in Southampton's goal leaving a gap too great, as well as swish of a left boot, it was in.
Suddenly, Everton's control was absolute. Jelavic could have had four in the first half alone. One header was clawed away by Gazzaniga. A minute later, he couldn't stop another one from the same player when following a dart and cross by Coleman, the Croatian connected too well.
Southampton were all over the place, their defenders falling over one another like drunken sailors. Fellaini hit the bar, Mirallas should have scored, Steven Pienaar had another chance.
Improvements were made after the break but Everton were comfortable by then and the second half drifted by.
Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Coleman, Jagielka, Heitinga, Baines; Mirallas (Oviedo 79), Neville, Osman (Distin 90), Pienaar; Fellaini; Jelavic (Anichebe 75). Subs: Mucha, Gueye, Vellios, Duffy
Southampton (4-1-2-1-2): Gazzaniga; Richardson, Fonte, Clyne (Reeves 81); Davis; Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Lallana 89); Ramirez; Rodriguez (Mayuka 81), Lambert. Subs: Davis, Hooiveld, do Prado, Puncheon.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)
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