Carlo Ancelotti is urging Everton to seize their chance to move into the Premier League’s top four when they visit West Bromwich Albion on Thursday.
Manager Ancelotti’s side reversed their recent Goodison Park fortunes after Richarlison’s ninth-minute strike decided Monday’s meeting with Southampton.
There was another boost for Everton with the return of midfielder Allan, who Ancelotti credited with providing the platform for his side’s high-pressing performance.
Everton’s win over Southampton was a first at Goodison in six Premier League matches and, insists their boss, must kick-start a long-term improvement at home.
More immediately, however, Everton go to West Brom knowing victory will see them jump over Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham United and into fourth at the final whistle.
“We have a great opportunity to be in the top four and we would like to touch that position,” said Ancelotti, who confirmed Fabian Delph was missing with a tendon problem on Monday but the trio of Tom Davies, James Rodriguez and Seamus Coleman could all be available on Thursday after sitting out the Southampton contest with minor knocks.
“We have to put all our effort into the game on Thursday to try to be there, it is a real possibility.
“It doesn’t matter how long we can be there [Chelsea visit Liverpool later on Thursday] – but just to see how we feel if we are there.
“There will be a big fight until the end of the season and we have to be pleased we can fight for that position.
“But it doesn’t change our target, which is to be in Europe next season.
“To fight for the European places, we need to improve the home form.
“It was not good and this performance and victory can help us have a better run at home.
“It will be a dream to be in the top four, we are quite close… but the season is long.”
Richarlison clinically converted after being released by Gylfi Sigurdsson for the Brazilian’s fifth goal in as many games – an emphatic response after Ancelotti claimed the South American boasted the talent to improve his goals return.
Fellow forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin did the leg work, winning an initial header and forcing the ball forwards to Sigurdsson for a fabulous eye-of-a-needle pass.
Ancelotti was equally pleased with that attacking trio’s effort off the ball after they carried out instructions to hunt down Southampton in the visitors’ defensive third.
Their energetic pursuit was aided by Allan, disciplined and canny at the base of midfield on his first appearance since hurting a hamstring in the win at Leicester City 75 days ago.
“The expectation was to win and we did it with a good performance and strong teamwork, all the players [contributed],” said Ancelotti.
“I am really pleased with this.
“Calvert-Lewin didn’t score but had a fantastic game and worked hard.
“We were really strong defensively and, I think, deserved to win.
“Richarlison has answered my call, this is true.
“He is not doing something extraordinary, now, in my opinion, he is doing his job.
“He is a player with this kind of quality, I hope, and am sure, he is going to continue.
“We defended well, not only because of Allan.
“He did a good job but the key point was the three strikers tried to press high.
“To have Allan at the back, we are more able to do this, Allan covers a lot of the pitch in that position.
“It was really important to have him back because we know how important he is for us.”
Everton held firm in the face of a late Southampton rally.
A succession of corners were repelled by a combination of strong defending and sound goalkeeping from Jordan Pickford.
And Pickford made a critical intervention when he saved with his body after Jannik Vestergaard squeezed Southampton’s first shot on target in the final minute.
“When you are 1-0 up, the last minutes are always the same,” said Ancelotti.
“The opposing team puts a lot of power… we controlled it well.
“Pickford was good and really secure.
“It is a very good week and very good performance.
“We were focused defensively and and had a good combination in front."