Gylfi Sigurdsson emerged as Carlo Ancelotti’s real hero as Everton beat Southampton 1-0 on Monday night to edge closer to the Champions League positions.
The Iceland international was given the nod to open the action at Goodison Park in favour of star summer signing James Rodriguez, who failed to make the matchday squad due to a minor knock.
Rodriguez had registered his fourth assist of the Premier League season at Anfield, as the Colombian’s perfectly weighted pass found Richarlison to open the scoring against Liverpool inside the third minute of the Merseyside derby.
Sigurdsson wasted little time in filling Rodriguez’s boots at home to Southampton, with the £16m-rated playmaker feeding the ball through to Richarlison to net his third goal in as many top-flight fixtures.
It is the Brazilian’s best run in front of the net all term, having previously failed to score in successive league ties since hitting home against Crystal Palace and Arsenal in February 2020.
Richarlison struck his fifth goal of the Premier League season and 11th in all competitions after rounding Fraser Foster inside the ninth minute, having been found by Sigurdsson with an inch-perfect pass through the Southampton backline.
Everton are now level on 43 points with sixth-placed Liverpool and could move inside the top-four of the Premier League standings with a win over relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion on Thursday night, during what is the Blues’ game in hand.
The Toffees often struggled to establish any momentum during Monday night’s win over the Saints, yet Sigurdsson regularly found pockets of space to operate in and prove a creative force.
No player for either side offered close to the level of creativity that Sigurdsson provided, with the 31-year-old delivering four of Everton’s five key passes. His efforts further accounted for double the tally offered by the visiting outfit (2), per WhoScored.
Rodriguez has only provided more than three key passes in two Premier League fixtures since making his Toffees debut at Tottenham Hotspur in September, with five in the north London affair and an additional five registered in defeat to Leeds United in November.
With two of Sigurdsson’s four key passes also leading to big chances created, the £100,000-per-week maestro was additionally named as SofaScore’s Man of the Match with an eight out of 10 rating – no other Everton player created a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Rodriguez last achieved a SofaScore match rating above Sigurdsson’s 8/10 during a Premier League fixture in November’s 1-0 defeat to Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites, when the 29-year-old was awarded an 8.1 rating.
Sigurdsson making sure Everton were not left wanting more without Rodriguez on the field ensured he emerged as Ancelotti’s real hero, and not goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
The England number one was called on to produce a string of strong saves in the second half as Southampton sought to salvage a draw, denying the likes of Jannik Vestergaard to the misery of Danny Ings who kicked the post in frustration.
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