In a goalless encounter at St Mary's Stadium, Everton drew 0-0 against Southampton to maintain their place among the top five of the Premier League table.
Prior to the match, there was much discussion surrounding the harsh dismissal of manager Nigel Adkins at Southampton. The 47-year-old had brought the club to the top-flight after consecutive promotions and had finally clawed them out of the relegation zone before he was axed in favor of former Argentina defender and ex-Espanyol manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The unease at the club, especially on behalf of supporters loyal to Adkins, could have played to Everton's advantage as the Champions League-chasing Toffees sought to achieve the double against the Saints, having won the reverse fixture 3-1 in September. However, David Moyes' men stumbled again and have suffered consecutive goalless stalemates to put them at risk of being leapfrogged by Arsenal or West Bromwich Albion.
The visitors did very little in a first half dominated by Southampton, who were energetic and direct despite the disappointment of losing Adkins. Rickie Lambert could have scored a hat-trick, but was denied by Tim Howard on multiple occasions. In the second half, the roles were reversed and perhaps the clearest opportunity fell to out-of-form Nikica Jelavić, who stumbled over a lovely low cross from Victor Anichebe when through on goal.
Everton will visit Bolton Wanderers in the FA Cup Fourth Round on Saturday, January 26 and return to Premier League action at home to West Brom on Wednesday, January 30.
GK Tim Howard (8)—The U.S. international goalkeeper was outstanding in the first half, saving a hat-trick of efforts from Rickie Lambert. He stopped the Southampton striker first in the 27th minute after he cleverly duped Phil Jagielka, and then in the span of one minute before half-time when the hosts probably should have scored from a corner-kick. In the second half, Howard had very little to do and should be proud of his overall performance on the day.
RB Seamus Coleman (6)—The 24-year-old wing-back was very lively before limping off with an injury in the 56th minute. He stopped Lambert from getting a clear shot at goal when they tangled in the box in the first half and put in several decent crosses before his departure. Although he does not provide the defensive assurance of Tony Hibbert, the Irishman is staking a good claim for the starting right-back role for the side.
CB Sylvain Distin (6)—Although he will be glad to remain first-choice over last term's Player of the Season John Heitinga, the Frenchman was neither poor not spectacular against Southampton. The 35-year-old did well to control Gaston Ramirez for much of the match, but was too anxious on some occasions to hoof the ball up the pitch when he could have helped his side by building-up play via short passes.
CB Phil Jagielka (6)—The England centre-back had the massive responsibility of watching the Saints' top scorer and Lambert made him look foolish in the 27th minute when he could have scored to put the hosts ahead. Early in the match, Jagielka was lucky not to score an own goal, and recovered in the second half when he managed to keep Lambert under control and provided protection for Howard on the Southampton counterattack.
LB Leighton Baines (7)—The Toffees are fortunate to have Baines' consistency on a weekly basis. Although he was forced to focus heavily on defending in the first half, the 28-year-old still provided a handful of good crosses and overlapped well with Steven Pienaar on the left-flank. In extra-time, he could have provided a better corner-kick to one of a number of Everton players in the box, but was still one of the better performers of the afternoon.
RM Steven Naismith (4)—The Scottish forward had a powerful shot saved by Artur Boruc in the 22nd minute. But, aside from that contribution, he added very little to the side and was largely anonymous for the rest of the match. The former Glasgow Rangers player will likely lose his starting spot with the continued recovery of Kevin Mirallas from a hamstring injury.
CM Phil Neville (5)—It is difficult to understand why Moyes plays the club captain in central midfield while the much more able Thomas Hitzlsperger sits on the bench. However, the leadership that Neville provides on the pitch continues to guarantee his place in the starting-eleven. Against Southampton, the 36-year-old was not terrific, but certainly more comfortable when he moved to right-back after Coleman's departure. The veteran should see his midfield time greatly reduced when Darron Gibson returns from injury, but is still a vital component of the first-time under his Scottish manager.
CM Leon Osman (5)—Affectionately known as the "Spanish Iniesta" by the Everton faithful, Osman was fairly anonymous in the attack when the visitors needed a precise passer to unsettle a strong opposition defense. However, the recently-capped England midfielder did hold the ball up well and had a sizzling shot deflected wide by Maya Yoshida in the 59th minute.
LM Steven Pienaar (7)—The South African was energetic on the left-flank and consistently had Nathaniel Clyne on the back-foot. His partnership with Baines was typical, but he failed to get any shots on goal or slip in the decisive pass to the visitor's struggling forwards. The 30-year-old midfielder could benefit from the reintroduction of Belgian attack Mirallas, who before his injury traded flanks regularly with Pienaar in order to surprise opponents.
AM Marouane Fellaini (7)—The Belgian midfielder was Everton's most potent attacking threat before the arrival of substitute Victor Anichebe. In the 51st minute, he saw a shot and header from the resultant corner-kick saved well by Boruc. With the introduction of the Nigerian, Fellaini settled into a holding midfield role and did well to control Puncheon and Jay Rodriguez as the match drew to a close.
ST Nikica Jelavić (3)—While he has not scored since his crucial strike against Tottenham Hotspur in December, the Croatian has been terribly out of form for most of the season. Against the Saints, he contributed very little in terms of holding up play and threatening the opposing defense. His most disappointing moment came in the 62nd minute when he fluffed a clear chance to put Everton in the lead, and soon afterward was substituted for Mirallas.
ST Victor Anichebe (7)—The bulky Nigerian brought strength and unpredictability back into Everton's stale attack when he was introduced for Coleman. He provided two great crosses for Jelavić and Mirallas. But, his shining moment was a strong effort that Boruc saved instinctively in the 68th minute. After two goalless stalemates in a row, Moyes might want to look into bringing Anichebe back into the starting lineup for the West Brom match next week.
ST Kevin Mirallas (5)—The 25-year-old was surely surprised to come into the match after over a month out with a hamstring injury. In the 73rd minute, he shot wide following a brilliant layoff from Anichebe and had a tame effort comfortably saved by Boruc in extra-time. While he did not provide the edge that Everton needed to win the match, expect Mirallas to be back on the right-flank regularly if he can stay fit.