London - Everton damaged their own prospects of a top four finish and a place
in next season's Champions League when first half own-goals from Antolin
Alcaraz and Seamus Coleman gifted Southampton a 2-0 victory at St
Mary's on Saturday.
Defeat meant Roberto Martinez's side remained a
point behind fourth-placed Arsenal, having now played a game more in
the Premier League this season.
With Arsene Wenger's side not
scheduled to face out of form Newcastle until Monday, this was a chance
for Everton to increase the pressure on the Gunners.
they conceded a major advantage to their rivals and, with just two games
remaining, appear set to miss out on a place in the Champions League.
was a day to forget for Martinez and his players, who found themselves
behind after less than a minute and were unable to recover when
Coleman's mistake put Southampton in command of the game.
mid-table standing has long been assured but the manner of this victory
confirmed they have not switched off for the final games of the season
and, with national manager Roy Hodgson watching from the stands, Adam
Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw all strengthened their chances of
making England's World Cup squad.
Everton were hoping to build on
the form they showed in beating Manchester United last Sunday -- the
defeat that triggered the departure of Martinez's predecessor David
Moyes from Old Trafford.
- Defensive mistakes -
cause was not helped by the loss of Belgium international midfielder
Kevin Mirallas who was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a
groin injury earlier in the week.
But that was nothing compared to the defensive mistakes that cost them this game.
match was less than a minute old when Alcaraz had sent a powerful
diving header into his own goal to hand the hosts an unexpected early
The Paraguayan was attempting to prevent Lambert's
inswinging cross from reaching Sam Gallagher but succeeded only in
diverting the ball beyond goalkeeper Tim Howard, and inside the near
It was the worst possible start for the visitors who had arrived on the south coast having won their last three away games.
their subsequent efforts during the remainder of the first half
confirmed they had few grounds for complaint, with Southampton
dominating for long periods while Everton failed to find any rhythm at
The Saints should have been two up after 21 minutes when
Lambert pulled back for Steven Davis, who wasted an excellent
opportunity by shooting wide.
Everton struggled to make any
inroads against the compact Southampton defence with a free-kick from
Gerard Deulofeu offering a rare threat.
Martinez, his players proved to be much more ruthless in front of their
own goal and a second mistake, this time from Coleman gifted Southampton
their second goal in the 31st minute.
This time it was a right
wing cross from Nathaniel Clyne that caused the problem with Coleman
unable to direct his clearing header wide of the goal after the cross
had deflected off the forehead of team-mate John Stones.
could have got worse for the visitors before the break had referee
Michael Oliver not ignored home appeals for a penalty when Adam
Lallana's attempted cross clearly struck Stones's arm.
further sign this may not be Everton's day came six minutes before the
break when Romelu Lukaku somehow put thr ball over the bar from six
Martinez responded by introducing Leon Osman for Ross Barkley at the start of the second half.
change injected more urgency into Everton's play but they were still
unable to undo the Saints' defence, with Lukaku seeing a second
close-range header saved by Artur Boruc.
The visitors had two
strong claims for a penalty denied - the first ending in a yellow card
for Osman for diving - to confirm this was not going to be their day.