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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Optimism aplenty at Everton as Silva gets off the mark with win over Southampton

Goals from Walcott and Richarlison earns the new manager his first win since taking charge

Theo Walcott, centre, scored the opening goal in Everton's win over Southampton. Reuters
Theo Walcott, centre, scored the opening goal in Everton's win over Southampton. Reuters

Same opponents, opposite emotions. Southampton were the previous visitors to Goodison Park, but the differences stretched beyond the result.

Three months ago, Everton supporters greeted Tom Davies’ equaliser by calling for Sam Allardyce to go. They got their wish. Marco Silva’s home bow brought some of the attacking football the home faithful craved in the wastelands of the Allardyce era and a maiden victory that could have been more emphatic.

“Everything is different,” Silva said. “It was a fantastic atmosphere. The players are doing a fantastic job to try and understand everything.” A more attacking reboot has made Everton more watchable.

The same may be said of Southampton who, after two seasons of drudgery, could savour a full debut for Danny Ings that brought a goal and offered hints he can provide the blend of energy and potency they have lacked in attack. “The positive was getting Danny off on the scoring trail,” said their manager Mark Hughes.

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Yet if Ings was upstaged by another newcomer, it was a further indication of Richarlison’s impact. Everton admitted they paid over the odds to recruit the Brazilian; a £40 million (Dh187.4m) fee is looking better business by the week.

Successive Saturdays have produced three goals in his first three attempts for a player who failed to score with his final 53 shots for Watford.

A bullet header from Theo Walcott’s cross showed the athleticism to accompany his trickery and while the other five summer signings did not feature – indeed, the Barcelona alumni Lucas Digne and Andre Gomes struggled to find their seats in the stands – Richarlison has given an injection of impetus to suggest Everton are becoming better at trading.

The scorers nonetheless reflected a side patched together from different regimes. Silva’s first goal at Goodison came from an Allardyce signing.

Theo Walcott’s position may be endangered after the arrival of Bernard – indeed, it is indicative of Everton’s confused recruitment that they have brought in three wingers in 2018 – but offered an eloquent case to stay in the side. “It was an important goal for Theo,” Silva said.

The opener was made in Southampton, two of their old boys combining after a well worked free kick from Leighton Baines that was, Silva said, “something we prepare”.

Morgan Schneiderlin, with unexpected deftness, supplied the no-look pass to earn his first assist since his Saints days in 2015. Walcott added the finish. His capacity to get in promising positions shown when he had a goal disallowed after Cenk Tosun was offside and then, following a one-two with Gylfi Sigurdsson, he shot wastefully wide.

Southampton had hoped to re-sign Walcott in January. Instead, Ings, rejected at 10, did return. A Hampshire native has the makings of a fan favourite “He’s one of our own,” chorused the visiting supporters after the striker struck.

Two of Ings’ last three goals have come at Goodison Park; one was so long ago it was during Brendan Rodgers’ reign at Liverpool. Yet after his injury problems, his sharpness was apparent in the way he opened his Southampton account, hooking in when Mario Lemina flicked on James Ward-Prowse’s corner.

Ings had been similarly alert when Jordan Pickford spilled a Cedric Soares shot, with the World Cup revelation looking shaky for a second successive week. Ings reached the rebound but Pickford’s reflexes were evident as he turned the striker’s shot on to the bar. “An outstanding save,” said Hughes.

He was more concerned by another clash between the pair. While Southampton’s abrasive approach brought five bookings, Hughes argued: “Their keeper should have been sent off for the challenge on Danny.”

There was no doubt Pickford got the ball, catching Ings with his follow through, ripping his shirt and leaving stud-marks in his back. Yet such incidents rarely result in red cards and Hughes’ whinge rate remains higher than his win rate.