The last time Everton collected 13 points from the opening six games of a season they went on to qualify for the Champions League. The last time, 2004-05, they were not as good as this. David Moyes's latest incarnation were again commanding and at times exhilarating as Southampton were made to suffer.
Nikica Jelavic scored twice as Everton recovered from falling behind to Gastón Ramírez's early header and maintained their encouraging start in the Premier League. Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, had cause to regret the failure to add to his £12m record signing's first goal in English football during a vibrant opening. In truth, his overriding emotion should have been one of relief. This was a long, educational afternoon on Merseyside for the men from the south coast.
"There were times when I was applauding myself," said Moyes, not a man who is easy to please. "It took us 15 minutes to get going, I think there was a hangover to losing at Leeds, but after that there was action every minute in the first half. It was great play and great theatre for 30 minutes and we could have scored more." Everton had to settle for three and a standing ovation instead.
There was a contest for 25 minutes and Southampton were worthy of their lead as Everton struggled defensively and in the search for a final touch to their intricate passing display. Once Moyes's team clicked, however, their performance came together beautifully. In 13 devastating minutes Southampton were routed.
Everton superiority was an illusion in the early exchanges. Adkins's adventurous team, built around the guile of Ramírez operating behind Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez, were confident after their first league win of the season last weekend and were gifted the lead when the home defence and notably Tim Howard failed to intercept Adam Lallana's corner. The Uruguay international was completely unmarked as he headed home.
On the back of Tuesday's elimination from the Capital One Cup at Elland Road, the early goal added to the anxiety around Goodison and in Everton's play. Southampton should have doubled their lead when Rodriguez comfortably out-paced John Heitinga to Frazer Richardson's long ball but, with only Howard to beat, dragged his shot wide of the far post. A key moment.
Adkins reflected: "We came away from home and played to win. If Jay had scored it might have been a different story but once Everton scored from their first real passage of play they upped the tempo, the Goodison crowd got behind them and it was very challenging for us to stay in the game after that."
Everton levelled through Leon Osman after the impressive Kevin Mirallas crossed for Jelavic and the ball fell kindly for the midfielder, and parity marked the start of an onslaught. The Belgium internationals, Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini, combined superbly to dissect a crowded central midfield. Mirallas sent Jelavic clear down the left and he guided the ball beyond Paulo Gazzaniga into the far corner. Poor positioning from the Southampton goalkeeper made the finish simpler than it should have been.
The Croatia international scored his second of the game and third of the season with a back-post header after fine work down the right from Seamus Coleman, who seized a rare opportunity to impress at right back. The second half was a non-event but for a Ramírez chip over Howard that rolled agonisingly wide. Everton coasted home and Southampton improved defensively, as they must do to avoid a struggle against relegation.
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image: © Steve Berry