Everton v Southampton
The spring in Everton’s early season step quickly turned into a swagger as they overcame a stumble to sweep aside Southampton with a dazzling 20-minute spell.
Gaston Ramirez’s fifth-minute opener certainly wasn’t in the script, but what followed was a passage of play hinting at the potential of this Everton team.
David Moyes’ side will encounter outfits tougher to break down than the Saints, but the way in which they dismantled them before half-time was hugely impressive.
Leon Osman started the comeback before Nikica Jelavic fired two quick goals to dismiss the early setback as a minor blip and fully underline Everton’s superiority.
For the remainder of the opening period there was pace, power, creativity and always a cutting edge.
It was the same scary Everton that eased past Aston Villa and overwhelmed Swansea. The same Everton that currently looks every inch deserving of their lofty league position up among the elite.
And probably most encouraging of all is that there is still room for improvement.
To that end, Moyes won’t have been happy with the sloppy start that gifted the visitors an early lead.
Adam Lallana’s corner was full and ripe but swung deep into Tim Howard’s sphere of influence.
The American keeper’s radar was out of sync, however, and the diminutive Ramirez snuck in under the noses of Everton’s giants to nod the easiest of headers into the gaping Park End net.
The Blues almost tried too hard to issue an emphatic response and, for a short spell final balls missed, passes went awry and the close decisions went against them.
But when it clicked, it clicked.
And just as the natives started to become restless, Osman snaffled a loose ball eight yards out and rammed it about as far into the top corner as was humanly possible.
It was superb from Osman as he popped up exactly where you want your central midfielder, following up and seizing upon the second ball.
Kevin Mirallas’ cross had Saints’ defenders facing their own goal and with Jelavic sniffing around, they just about scrambled clear.
The ball fell to Osman, however, and he trusted his technique to notch his first of the season with a finish as precise as it was powerful.
That goal changed everything. Saints looked rattled, Everton invigorated.
Jelavic sprung into life and two quick goals gave the hosts a lead they’d have scarcely believed possible five minutes into the game.
First the excellent Mirallas bore a hole through the centre of the Saints’ defence and slipped him in to coolly slide a shot into the bottom corner.
And the Croat had barely stopped celebrating when his aerial prowess came to the fore for his second.
Moments after Paulo Gazzaniga had denied him with a stupefying, clawing save, Jelavic pulled away at the back stick to power a header beyond the hapless Argentine to complete a remarkable turnaround.
The second half couldn’t match the drama of the first, but after a tepid opening 10 minutes, Gazzaniga again demonstrated his agility to acrobatically tip a Fellaini piledriver around the post.
Minutes later he was beaten, but this time Osman’s shot sailed inches wide of the target.
Soon the overworked Saints keeper was in the action again, this time to thwart the razor-sharp Mirallas.
It was all looking too easy for the hosts, but as the hour mark came and went, Saints gradually came back into it.
A goal would have changed the complexion of the contest entirely but thankfully for Everton, when a chance arrived, the visitors didn’t make it count – although Ramirez was extremely unlucky as his chip beat Howard but also the far post.
That was as close as the visitors came to getting back into it and Everton closed the game out for another well-deserved victory in a start that just gets better and better.