Southampton 2 Everton 0


“And after this game finishes, make sure to stay tuned for some classic Jean-Claude van Damme in Hard Target, director John Woo’s first Hollywood feature.”

Thursday night, Channel 5. Spiritual home of Tottenham Hotspurs and Gremlins 2.

If they still have the Europa League games, like. They probably don’t. How would you know, who watches them if it’s not their club in it?

Whichever channel screens the European Big Special Trophy for Effort next season it looks like they are going to be bringing their cameras to Goodison Park, presumably until we face the first decent Portuguese team in the competition, as any remaining chance of qualifying for the big boys’ league evaporated at St. Mary’s within the first minute.

Quite frankly, the whole first half was like shopping for a new set of darts.

That’s right, a catalogue of ‘arrers.

Ross Barkley collected the ball from the kick off, saw there was no opportunity for a mad run or a ‘Hollywood pass’ and so carelessly under-hit a simple ball out wide. Southampton easily gathered possession and no Everton player touched the ball again until the Uri Geller-looking Antolin Alcaraz did a spectacular Keith Houchen to head Ricky Lambert’s chipped cross past Tim Howard.

And it never really got any better after that. Southampton played the ball out from the back with little opposition while red shirts caused panic among the Everton defensive line whenever they were in possession. There certainly looked like a marked difference in workrate and attitude, which is surprising considering that we were meant to be the side with everything at stake.

None of the Everton players were great by any means, but if you were trying to be kind you would have to say that maybe the pressure really got to a number of the Blues’ young attackers.

Romelu Lukaku, for instance, has been shite for ages and the idea that we would somehow be lucky to sign him permanently for top dollar seems almost laughable. Granted, he’s massive and dead fast, but his movement is shocking, his first touch is erratic and his mastery of the centre-forward basics leave a lot to be desired.

Questions need to be asked of Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu too. Primarily, what exactly have they achieved in the game that excuses them from helping their teammates out when Nathaniel Clyne and Steven Davis are stroking the ball around like members of the 1982 France team.

That said, at least the Spaniard did pose the occasional threat going forward, even if more often than not his attacks ended in a flurry of limbs, a bit of a shoulder off the ball and then a massive moody shrug. Barkley though, not for the first time, looked like a man wandering around dazed at the scene of a motorway accident. Granted, he’s only a young lad, but if things aren’t going your way you should at least grit your teeth and start throwing in tackles and chasing back to try and turn the tide in your side’s favour. Maybe just get hold of the fucking ball now and again as well, and don’t play blind, careless passes ‘around the corner’ when your team is struggling to keep possession. After all, a couple of decent goals in a season do not make you ‘potentially an all-time great’, they make you Ravel Morrison.

The pair of them have got loads of natural talent but they both have the look of players who are used to being so much better than everyone else at their age group that they struggle to cope when they are not dominating opponents.

You only have to compare them to another emerging talent, Adam Lallana, who was involved all over the pitch, working hard, making good decisions and using the ball simply and intelligently to see that they have got a lot of developing to do if they are going to have the superstar careers that have been mapped out for them.

The Southampton midfielder is deservedly a certainty to go to the World Cup, while the idea of Barkley being part of the squad for Brazil is outlandish on his present form – he never even reached the second half here, replaced by Leon Osman. Unfortunately the Toffees were 2-0 down by then, thanks to another own goal, this time courtesy of the head of Seamus Coleman after Alcaraz and John Stones both missed Clyne’s unchallenged cross from the right.

There were a couple of moments of controversy after the break, starting with a dubious offside flag to deny Deulofeu when he was clean in on goal. Had he scored, with around 40 minutes to play, who knows?

Later, Osman was booked for diving when he touched the ball past Dejan Lovren and then went down as the defender’s outstretched boot caught him on the ankle. If the game wasn’t so phony nowadays then perhaps there would have been questions about whether it really justified a penalty. Just because there’s contact, in what is after all a contact sport, shouldn’t mean you are automatically entitled to a spot kick. However, that is exactly how football has been played for some time now and in those situations the referee almost always points to the spot.

Fucking hell, Liverpool would be mid-table if they didn’t.

However, it wasn’t to be, and Everton produced little else of note other than a Lukaku header straight at Artur Boruc, as the home side continued to look assured, composed and thoroughly capable of scoring a third goal that wouldn’t have really flattered them.

The Champions League was always a tall order, especially after losing at home to Crystal Palace, and the situation was further compounded by all the injuries, but we just wanted to go into the Manchester City game with some sense of tension, with everything on the line. Just the build-up and everything all week would have made for a great Goodison occasion – the sort that you go the match for.

Surrendering our chances so meekly like this though, at the end of what in the main has been a thrilling season, feels like a massive anti-climax.

Typical Everton, some might say.

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