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Everton grateful for rare away win but Silva still has plenty to prove

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Because Silva seemed to have looked at the formula that Leicester used to inflict that Premier League record away win — pace and direct running — and opted for something very different, dropping the quick-footed Alex Iwobi to the bench in favour of the pedestrian Gylfi Sigurdsson, deploying the willing but one-paced Cenk Tosun up front and leaving Moise Kean, a player who could have used a cameo off the bench had Everton been sufficiently ahead by that time to start rebuilding his confidence, out of the squad altogether.

It’s true that the Portuguese would have expected more from his attacking unit than a mere five shots on target from 24 efforts at goal in the 90 minutes (just one fewer than Leicester’s shot tally in their 9-0 win here two weeks ago) but in many ways that was down the personnel selected.

This was an absolutely vital victory in the context of Everton’s Premier League survival as it lifted them six points clear of the drop zone with around a third of the season gone but the performance that underpinned it was unconvincing and there was very little here to advance Marco Silva’s claim to be the man to realise the club’s ambitions at the top end of the Premier League.

Ultimately, it was Everton’s superior quality that told, securing a first away win since March and providing a platform from which to try and build a run of form.

By the end, after Richarlison had restored Everton’s lead, Silva had resorted to throwing Michael Keane on as the “Moyes sub” to shore things up and the Toffees were hanging a bit for the final whistle.

Then, just before Silva made a double substitution that introduced Iwobi and Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the expense of Walcott and Tosun, Holgate went close to scoring his second Everton goal when Digne’s long throw-in bounced over Stuart Armstrong but the defender’s header dropped onto the roof of the net.

And with some justification because, worryingly, on the very few occasions that Southampton showed the merest gumption, managed to put together some concerted pressure and play some football, Everton looked vulnerable and there was a depressing inevitability and familiarity about the equaliser early in the second half.
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