Despite a shaky opening to their sixth Premier League match of the season, Everton's tiki-taka eventually proved too much for Southampton, as they came out deserving their 3-1 win at Goodison Park on Saturday.
However, poor defending and even worse goalkeeping from Tim Howard gifted Southampton's £12 million record-signing Gaston Ramirez with a simple headed goal in the sixth minute. The Uruguayan international was left unmarked as Howard failed to come off his line, and Everton found themselves quickly trailing the relegation-strugglers.
Southampton continued to play lovely football in the opening minutes, but an aggressive Everton bullied their way back into the match when winger Kevin Mirallas' deflected cross to Nikica Jelavic was slammed home by onrushing Leon Osman in the 25th minute.
From that moment, the Merseyside club soon began to dominate possession. Captain Phil Neville, deputizing for the injured Darron Gibson in central midfield, proved particularly impressive as he distributed well to the attacking players and left Osman comfortable to move forward.
Marouane Fellaini, who won every ball in the air and proved an obvious handful for Southampton's centre-backs, was also on his game, after returning to an advanced possession following the Leeds match. His work with fellow Belgian international Kevin Mirallas left Jelavic in space to collect a precise pass and slam home past Paulo Gazzaniga to bring the game to 2-1.
Southampton could simply not get a touch of the ball for the rest of the first half as Everton kept possession well and was threatening on both flanks, with the impressive partnerships of Leighton Baines-Steven Pienaar and Seamus Coleman-Kevin Mirallas proving a threat every time they pushed forward.
Coleman, who has been a disappointment following his breakout campaign in 2010-11, was confident and silky, slotting in at right-back. His brilliant footwork provided the cross that Jelavic headed with power to bring the match to 3-1 and secure the points for Everton before the end of the initial 45 minutes.
The second half was not nearly as exciting, with neither team scoring, but the Toffees continued to rack up shots and possession and left Gazzaniga busy, until Jelavic was substituted for his Nigerian apprentice Victor Anichebe and the match slowed down drastically.
Kevin Garside of The Independent wrote midweek for GiveMeFootball.com that Everton have come to emulate FC Barcelona in their style, successfully rising up to the top-end of the table so early in the season after several years of misery at this stage.
Garside commented on the Blues' newfound formation:
Moyes has Everton organised in a completely different way that puts a premium on possession and invites the players to take responsibility for the ball and, when not in possession, to work like Trojans to retrieve it. This is essentially the Barcelona model in which Xavi, et al, thrive.
While it may be a little bit naive or premature to compare the Liverpool-based club to this generation's greatest football team, it is a credit to Moyes and his ability not only to reform Everton, but also to bring in and rapidly integrate players such as Mirallas, Steven Naismith, Bryan Oviedo and last year's midseason arrivals Jelavic and Gibson.
The money may not be on Everton to finish in the Top Four, considering their lack of funds compared to most of the EPL's top sides, but they should certainly continue to entertain.
Facing a poor Wigan side away on Oct. 6, they might also stay among the best for at least another week.
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