Richarlison’s early goal for Everton secured a 1-0 Premier League win over ailing Southampton on Monday to compound the woes for the visitors who have taken one point from the last 27 available.
Seventh-placed Everton are now level with Liverpool on 43 points with a game in hand and still very much in the hunt for the European places, while Southampton remain in 14th spot, seven points above the relegation zone.
In a game of few chances it was Everton who had the better of them as they ended a poor run to claim a first home victory in six games at Goodison Park.
Richarlison provided a neat finish to Gylfi Sigurdsson’s perfect through ball after nine minutes to win the game after another toothless display from Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
“A very good performance, I really appreciated the teamwork of the players. We deserved to win,” Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti said.
“To fight for the European places we have to improve our home form and this victory will help. It will be a dream to be in the top four at the end of the season.”
It was a fifth goal in as many games for Richarlison after a slump at the turn of the year, but it owed a lot to the vision of Sigurdsson, who filled the playmaker role vacated by the injured James Rodriguez.
Home defender Michael Keane had the ball in the net from a free-kick midway through the first half, but Mason Holgate was correctly ruled offside in the build-up and the goal ruled out.
Everton found plenty of space from free-kick’s into the Saints box, and Keane twice lost his marker in the first 15 minutes of the second half but could not find the target.
As the game wore on and Everton sat back to protect their lead, Southampton finally created a couple of chances and may feel they should have come away with a point.
Moussa Djenepo fired just past the post when in acres of space on the right-hand side of the box and defender Jannik Vestergaard had a big opportunity in the dying minutes but could not steer the ball in with only keeper Jordan Pickford to beat.
“The goals are missing at the moment and without goals it is tough to win games. We have to work for the luck to come back,” Hasenhuttl told Sky Sports.
“When you don’t win games you get under pressure. But it is not the same team that played in the first half of the season because we have so many injuries.”