A late flourish turned an even contest into a comfortable three points as Everton opened 2017 with a 3-0 win against Ronald Koeman’s former club, Southampton.
Goals from Enner Valencia, Leighton Baines and Romelu Lukaku ensured seven points from a possible nine over a hectic but productive festive period featuring three games in the space of eight days. This home win went some way to atoning for the November reverse fixture that saw Everton concede after just 41 seconds and post only one shot on target in the entire match.
There are signs the Blues are finding their feet in front of goal, scoring two or more in five of the last six league games. On this occasion, the third goal provided a fleeting snapshot for how effective this team can be when everything clicks: Baines won a tackle despite being clear second-favourite, and Tom Davies seized on the loose ball before Lukaku lashed the through-ball into the back of the net. It was fast, energetic, clinical and too good for Southampton.
Criticism after three goals, three points and a clean sheet may seem churlish, but there was an underlying sloppiness to Everton’s play for much of the opening hour. Simple passes went astray or lacked sufficient power, while some of the decision-making defied any reasonable logic as the home side encouraged the visitors with basic errors.
Manager rating out of 10
8 — Everton became the first team to start two teenagers in the same game this season. Koeman’s team selection helped avoid a slow start, while subsequent substitutions worked well.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Joel Robles, 7 — Almost played himself into trouble by trying to be too clever when distributing the ball. Fared better in more customary goalkeeping duties, making two or three timely stops at important points in the game.
DF Seamus Coleman, 7 — Everton preferred to attack down the right side even more so than normal, meaning Coleman featured prominently throughout. Crossing continues to frustrate as the perfectly weighted delivery eventually creating the opening goal proves the ability is there, if not the consistency.
DF Ashley Williams, 7 — Some well-timed interceptions when stepping out of defence and an excellent clearance from beneath his crossbar in the closing minutes to maintain the clean sheet.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, 7 — Needs to move the ball to more attack-minded teammates quicker as his worst moments still occur when left in possession. Defensively, though, there were pleasing signs from a centre-back staking a case for a regular starting berth.
DF Leighton Baines, 8 — Emphatic penalty makes Baines only the third defender to reach 30 Premier League goals, behind David Unsworth (38) and John Terry (40). Won a team-high seven tackles, one of which kick-started the third goal and appeared capable of creating chances whenever the ball was at his feet.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 6 — The standout player for the much of the season, Gueye will undoubtedly be missed as he departs for the African Cup of Nations, but truth be told, this was a tired performance with Gueye dispossessed more than any of his teammates. The Senegalese midfielder could do with a rest rather than an international tournament.
MF Tom Davies, 7 — After a mixed opening and a clumsy challenge, his performance improved alongside the rest of the team as the match progressed. It was his delightfully measured through-ball assisting Lukaku’s goal.
MF Aaron Lennon, 5 — Seemed short on confidence on an afternoon littered with poor touches and an apparent reluctance to attack the opposing full-back whenever presented with the opportunity.
MF Dominic Calvert-Lewin, NR — Bright start on his full debut ended by injury after just 12 minutes.
MF Ross Barkley, 7 — Highlight of the match was Barkley ignoring absurd groans from the crowd to start and dictate the move leading to the penalty. Lively in the early going but far more threatening in the final 30 minutes when freed from the suffocating No. 10 position.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 — A superb finish for the 15th league goal Lukaku has scored or assisted this season, and it capped a much-improved second half that saw Everton’s main goal threat use his pace and power to good effect in the final third.
MF Kevin Mirallas, 6 — Still not at his best but involved in the buildup to the first two goals and heading in the right direction after a string of anonymous showings.
FW Enner Valencia, 8 — Used in a more central role, his introduction turned the game in Everton’s favour, freshening up a stuttering attack and bringing the best out of Lukaku and Barkley. Opened the scoring with his first goal for the club and won the penalty that ended the match as a contest.
MF Gareth Barry, NR — Added some composure in the closing minutes.
Luke is ESPN FC’s Everton blogger. Follow Luke on Twitter @lukeofarrell.