Marco Silva says Everton paid for waiting too long to inject pace and aggression into their performance at Southampton on Saturday.
Everton had plenty of the ball at St Mary’s but the game was 48 minutes old before home goalkeeper Alex McCarthy was forced into his first meaningful stop.
James Ward-Prowse scored shortly after and an unfortunate own goal from Lucas Digne on 64 minutes left the Blues with a mountain to climb.
Gylfi Sigurdsson halved the deficit in the final minute of normal time but Everton could not conjure an equaliser during four added minutes.
“We spoke at half-time and I told them we have to be more aggressive, not just with the ball but without the ball, also,” Silva told evertontv.
“In our attack we had to think and play faster to disorganise Southampton.
“The way we started the second half it looked like we would do something different. We were faster, we created a chance in the first minute and then had a big chance for Gylfi, a big save from the goalkeeper.
“It looked like we would do what we should in that moment to achieve a good result.
“But when they were more aggressive than us they scored a fantastic goal from outside the box.
“We tried to react and changed some players and tried to be more aggressive in our attack – but they scored a goal in a lucky moment.
“Things were difficult for us then.
“We reacted, not playing really well, but we reacted. But when we scored it was too close to the end of the match.”
Midfielder Sigurdsson’s header produced a tremendous reflex stop from McCarthy shortly after half-time.
The same Everton player had an effort blocked in the first half by Jan Bednarek, who also bravely intervened when Admeola Lookman rifled at goal on 21 minutes.
Southampton had chances in the opening half, too, Nathan Redmond hitting the outside of a post and Jordan Pickford twice denying Danny Ings.
Ward-Prowse left Everton goalkeeper Pickford with no chance when he lashed home from 20 yards.
And Digne suffered a moment of misfortune when he recovered to tackle the onrushing Redmond but inadvertently prodded the ball inside Pickford’s right post.
Silva sent on attacking trio Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott in quick succession and Everton had a lifeline when Sigurdsson finished neatly from inside the box.
The Blues laid siege to Southampton’s goal in the closing minutes but could not force the breakthrough which would have sent them back up the M6 with a point.
“I said last week [following the win over Bournemouth] how we were strong and showed character and personality,” said Silva.
“This afternoon we never gave up again. But, of course, before the goals they scored we should have played differently to achieve a good result.
“We analysed what Southampton did in the past few games [when they] achieved some good results.
“But they were better than us in the first half, we spoke at half-time and changed some things and started the second half like we wanted to, to fight and compete in the match like we wanted and we created chances.
“The one from Gylfi was a fantastic save from the goalie. Of course, after that, from one long ball and one second ball they scored a fantastic goal, from out of the box.
“It allowed them to play like they wanted on the counter-attack. But we didn’t perform at our best level to create enough chances to equalise.
“Our players kept trying and fighting to the end and scored the goal to make it 2-1 [but it was too late].”