English Premiership

Everton's Euro charge derailed

2014-04-26 15:42
Roberto Martinez (AFP)

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.

Instead, 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.

It 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.

Southampton's 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 -

Their 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.

The 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 lead.

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 post.

It was the worst possible start for the visitors who had arrived on the south coast having won their last three away games.

But 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 all.

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.

Unfortunately for 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.

Things 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.

And a 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 yards out.

Martinez responded by introducing Leon Osman for Ross Barkley at the start of the second half.

The 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.

Read more on:    southampton  |  everton  |  english premiership  |  soccer

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