Charlie Austin double deepens Everton’s anguish

Managerless Everton suffered further misery as Charlie Austin’s brace for Southampton condemned them to a 4-1 defeat at St Mary’s.

Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino finally handed Austin a chance from the start and he repaid the new-found faith shown in him by converting two second-half headers to help seal a resounding win, capped by a fine late Steven Davis effort.

Dusan Tadic had put Saints ahead only for David Unsworth’s Everton, showing eight changes to the side humbled 5-1 by Atalanta in the Europa League, to level in spectacular style through Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Austin had not scored a league goal in open play in almost a year, netting the only goal in victory over the Toffees at St Mary’s 364 days ago.

But Pellegrino picked him ahead of Manolo Gabbiadini as Southampton finally found their form in front of goal, having hit just nine goals in their previous 12 league games heading into this game.

Everton were as bad as their form and league position of 16th suggests, Sigurdsson’s strike a standalone moment of class on another afternoon of anguish for caretaker boss Unsworth.

Austin blazed high and wide when stretching for a chance inside the box as Saints looked to take advantage of Everton’s fragile confidence by striking early.

The visitors were gifted their first opportunity as Tadic presented the ball to Aaron Lennon, who ran at the Southampton defence with the ball eventually finding its way through to Kevin Mirallas with the Belgium international shooting wide.

Chances were being created at both ends as Cedric Soares stole in ahead of Sigurdsson to cross in to Austin, who this time saw his shot whistle past the post.

Mirallas was again the beneficiary of a defensive mix-up by the hosts but this time goalkeeper Fraser Forster burst from his line to clear away before the forward could strike.

The next attack brought the game’s first goal as Tadic beat Phil Jagielka to Ryan Bertrand’s cross and held off the England international before guiding the ball home past Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

Southampton slowly took control of the contest without truly testing Pickford, although Virgil van Dijk headed wide five minutes before the break when he should have done better.

Everton made them pay for not putting the game to bed as Sigurdsson bent a superb long-range effort over Forster, off the crossbar and both posts before it crossed the line to draw the visitors level on the stroke of half-time.

Southampton needed just seven second-half minutes to regain their advantage as Austin headed home Bertrand’s cross, his effort hitting the bar – in the same place as Sigurdsson’s strike – before bouncing over Pickford’s line.

Austin repeated the feat six minutes later, arriving free in the Everton box to nod Tadic’s cross home and put space between the sides.

Only a superb stop from Pickford prevented Shane Long, on for Austin, adding a fourth before Davis obliged with an angled finish from the edge of the box.

Everton have now shipped 20 goals in Unsworth’s seven games at the helm and have the worst defensive record in the top flight as Wednesday’s visit of fellow strugglers West Ham takes on even greater importance.

What they said

Southampton boss Mauricio Pellegrino on Austin: “He has trained much, much better in the last few weeks and I think he deserved his chance. You have to be ready because you never know when the manager will need you to be ready. Sure, I spoke with most of them but when the manager chooses 11 players it is because I feel in that moment they are right to play on that day.”Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth on relegation threat: “If you ask me that question next week I can give you a more honest view. If the players didn’t know they were in a tough situation they must do now. It is a massive week for the club.”

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