Richarlison fires Everton into top-four contention as Toffees edge Southampton

Everton finally cured their Goodison blues to put themselves firmly in the top four fight.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side moved level on points with bitter rivals Liverpool who stand sixth in the Premier League table, with a controlled victory over struggling Southampton, thanks to a fine goal from Richarlison.

It was the Brazilian’s fifth in his last five games, and it ended a run of three straight league defeats here for the Merseyside club. And with a game in hand over the teams above them, it means they could break into the Champions League places.

They were good value for the win too in a tense, lifeless game where the visitors looked every inch a side who have lost eight of their last nine matches.

Ancelotti had said on the eve of the contest that Richarlison’s recent impressive return in front of goal was welcome – but no more likely to see the Brazilian play in his preferred role up front.

“He’ll play where I tell him to play,” the Italian said somewhat in jest, but explaining more seriously that he needs his centre forward to play with back to goal, and Richarlison is better playing off a striker, running beyond the back line.

They were prescient words, because within 10 minutes of kick off here, the 23 year old had illustrated the point perfectly, with some good old fashioned forward play from Dominic Calvert-Lewin a key factor in the goal.

The England forward tussled in the air with the visiting defence, Mohammed Salisu taking a brush of hand in the face in the process, allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson to slip the loose ball delightfully through, for Richarlison to stylishly round the keeper and score his fifth goal in five games.

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It was the perfect moment for Ancelotti’s unusual front three, with Sigurdsson playing just behind Calvert-Lewin and the Brazilian running behind them both, and it caused so many problems for the Southampton defence in the opening minutes.

Calvert-Lewin was inches away from grabbing a second on 20 minutes, when Fraser Forster took the ball bravely from his feet as he lunged to make contact with Sigurdsson’s ball.

Everton dominated the opening half, and thought they had a deserved second when Michael Keane headed home from close range, but Mason Holgate had strayed just offside in setting up the finish, to force a VAR overrule.

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Sigurdsson’s set piece delivery is every bit as deadly as Ward-Prowse, and he twice more almost created a second with pin point free kicks, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin both inches away from the cross.

Saints, for their part, created little, but crucially stayed in the game to at least give their injury ravaged line up a chance of ending such a dismal run of form.

They simply could not break down a strong Everton backline though, failing to even trouble home keeper Jordan Pickford, as their makeshift midfield struggled to create, and must now nervously begin to look over their shoulder at the relegation battle below them.

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