Saints leave Toffees in sticky Poch...

Posted by Chris Rann

Never has the cliche 'a game of two halves' ever felt so appropriate.

No one quite knew what to expect from Mauricio Pochettino's first game as Saints boss, but the first 45 minutes of his reign would have left a lot of people a lot more confident in him than they had been before kick off.

- Palmer: Reserve judgement on Cortese

Mauricio Pochettino Southampton
PA PhotosSaints look an exciting prospect under new gaffer Mauricio Pochettino

Saints lined up much how you might of expected them to under Nigel Adkins, with two important changes. Rickie Lambert was back in the starting line-up and Guly (Do Prado) was moved to the left so that Gaston Ramirez could play in the hole. Saints were fantastic. There was a clear new impetus among the players; with a higher tempo than we are used to and relentless pressing of their opponents when off the ball, they made fifth0placed Everton look decidedly ordinary. How Saints went in level at the break is beyond me, with many talking about the best half of football all season. Only some goal-line bravery from Leighton Baines and Nikica Jelavic, plus an impressive show from Tim Howard, prevented Saints gaining a healthy lead.

There was perhaps a shout for a penalty. With the ball looping seemingly out of play, Maya Yoshida chased it down and inexplicably Sylvain Distin used both hands to push him down. In retrospect it would have been harsh, but despite it's lack of ferocity, it is hard to justify how it wasn't a foul.

Saints' front four of Lambert, Guly, Jason Puncheon and Ramirez looked unstoppable, with the Uruguayan in particular pulling the strings, and without doubt looking like the player with the most change in intensity, throwing himself at everything and dictating the play.

Sadly, Saints fans know their team, and as soon as the half-time whistle went I lost count of the tweets I saw which simply said "This has got 1-0 to Everton written all over it". I was of much the same opinion and it was inconceivable that a David Moyes side could be as bullied in the second half like they had been in the first. Sure enough, they weren't.

After Saints' energy-filled first half, it is likely that they had run out of steam a little and that handed the momentum to the away side. Everton started to look like the team we expected, and Saints' composure on the ball seemed to desert them. But this is where our usually under-fire defence could stand up and be counted, and that is what they did. With the back four looking resolute and the ever-improving Artur Boruc a match for anything Everton threw at him. Nikica Jelavic should have won it for the Toffees, but the Croation was poor throughout the game and looked uninterested, this was highlighted most when Victor Anichebe handed him a finish on the plate and he got the ball tangled under his feet.

In truth, Saints were good value for their clean sheet and though on the first half performance it might look like two points dropped, the second could so easily have gone against us, and taking a point off of a third top-six side in recent weeks is not to be sniffed at.

It was a good start for Pochettino and certainly showed promising signs, with his side playing with an urgency that almost matches that of a Puncheon call of nature [he exited the field during the game to use the lavatory]. We will now look to see how the man with the best record against Pep Guardiola's Barca fares against Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United...

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