By Nick Purewal, PA
Stuart Armstrong and Shane Long struck rare Premier League goals as Southampton overwhelmed Everton 2-0 on the south coast.
If Armstrong was ecstatic to end a drought running from April 4th, 2021, Long stepped off the bench to top that sense of relief with his first touch.
Republic of Ireland striker Long’s last Premier League effort for Saints came in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa on February 22nd, 2020.
Just as Saints’ goalscorers are enjoying a top-flight resurgence, so too are Ralph Hasenhuttl’s collective. Southampton extended their recent fine run to just one defeat in 11 matches in all competitions with another impressive showing.
Southampton dominated in every area of the field as James Ward-Prowse and Oriol Romeu’s mix of industry and ingenuity buffeted Everton off their stride all afternoon, Kyle Walker-Peters bossed the left flank and Armando Broja was unfortunate to end the day without a goal.
Armstrong and Long cemented Saints in 10th spot and left Everton floundering in 16th.
Frank Lampard thought he had generated lift-off with the 3-0 home thumping of Leeds on February 12 in his third match at the Goodison Park helm.
But the ex-Chelsea boss will need no telling that this loss – and the curiously supine performance – leaves his side still flirting with a relegation battle.
FT. Defeat on the south coast.
🔴 2-0 🔵 #SOUEVE pic.twitter.com/VMNRB2tqvx
— Everton (@Everton) February 19, 2022
Lampard can be forgiven for still developing his managerial approach, but the tactical confusion that at times bedevilled his Chelsea team reared its unwanted head on the south coast.
Saints’ fans taunted their Toffees counterparts with chants of “you’re going down” at the death, while the visiting supporters launched a blue smoke bomb onto the field in frustration.
Saints dominated from the off, stifling Everton with a far more aggressive midfield approach.
Allan was booked for a desperate scything challenge in a bid to assert some authority for the visitors, then conceded a dangerous free-kick on the edge of his own area.
Ward-Prowse duly hit the target with a trademark whipped strike, but Jordan Pickford was able to tip the ball around the post.
Tino Livramento was as stunned as the home crowd to see his flick rebuffed at point-blank range by Pickford next, from Ward-Prowse’s smart corner.
Broja cut back well in the area to lose the defence only to see his drive deflected wide.
Bednarek met Romeu’s teasing cross with a thumping header, but allied to Pickford’s save the centre-back was offside.
The opening of the half fell to Walker-Peters, who picked his spot and drilled goalwards. His rasping strike beat Pickford all ends up but skimmed the outside of the post.
Saints turned around by far the more frustrated at the stalemate then, while Lampard took no prisoners in hooking Allan for Andre Gomes.
Calvert-Lewin nodded home straight after the break as Everton started quickly, but the England forward was comfortably offside.
Saints kept their heads, however, and duly swept to a fully-merited lead.
Armstrong’s measured finish finally rewarded the hosts’ dominance, with the Scotland midfielder steadying from Adams’ pass before drilling home.
Southampton could easily have doubled their lead just moments later, but Adams’ flick from Ward-Prowse’s masterful ball nestled straight into Pickford’s gloves.
Mohamed Elyounoussi nodded another unplayable Ward-Prowse free-kick onto the crossbar with Pickford standing no chance, as Saints sought to sustain their control.
Saints’ dominance never wavered, and late replacement Long nodded home a match-sealing second with his first touch after replacing Broja.
Chelsea loanee Broja was caught with a wry smile on the bench, well aware how much of his hard work went into Long’s finish.
The Albania striker would not have fretted for long however, amid as potent a home performance St Mary’s has seen in some time.