Southampton made it six league matches unbeaten with an entertaining stalemate in Mauricio Pochettino’s first game in charge.
Although it was the first goalless draw in just over two years at St Mary’s, there was no shortage of eye catching moments from the hosts, who put on a high tempo display particularly in the first half, in which they were unfortunate not to make more of.
Everton ‘keeper Tim Howard was called upon to thwart the home side time and time again in the opening 45 with some fine saves from Ramirez, Lambert and Hooiveld as the Toffeemen held on.
The Blues made a fight of it in the second period, with substitutes Victor Anichebe and Kevin Mirallas going closest to making the breakthrough for the visitors, but equally could find no way past Saints stopper Artur Boruc who was impressive again when required.
The third consecutive draw at St Mary’s between these two sides was probably a fair result, but the encouraging signs of dynamic football from Pochettino’s men showed the progress made from the 3-1 reverse at Goodison Park earlier in the season.
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw, Puncheon (De Ridder 86), Schneiderlin, Cork, Guly (Rodriguez 63), Ramirez (S. Davis 71), Lambert. Subs (not used): K. Davis, Fox, Richardson, Chaplow.
Everton: Howard, Baines, Jagielka, Distin, Coleman (Anichebe 58), Naismith, Neville, Osman, Pienaar, Fellaini, Jelavic (Mirallas 67). Subs (not used): Mucha, Heitinga, Oviedo, Hitzlsperger, Duffy.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Attendance: 28,359 (including 2,483 away)
Gaston Ramirez and Rickie Lambert were recalled to the starting eleven from the team that started the game at Chelsea. Lambert also captained the side in both Adam Lallana and Jose Fonte’s absence from the side.
Saints got the match underway attacking the Northam stand on a cool and clear night inside St Mary’s backed by a vociferous home crowd.
The high pressure attacking intentions of Pochettino’s side was clear from the off as the hosts pressed their opponents both down the flanks and through the centre.
That was epitomised by Luke Shaw’s first run down the left which gave Everton full back Seamus Coleman an early threat to deal with.
In the fourth minute Lambert’s direct run down the right saw him cross towards the on rushing Guly, only for Phil Jagielka to go dangerously close to beat the Brazilian to the ball and almost end up diverting it past his own ‘keeper.
Moments later Saints went close again as Jason Puncheon linked up quickly with Clyne before smashing a fierce low drive centimetres wide of Tim Howard’s right post.
There were brief moments of adventure from the visitors with the height of Fellaini causing a few nervous moments at the back, but Nikica Jelavic was unable to capitalise on the big Belgian’s flick on inside the six yard box as the clock ticked over the ten minute mark.
The high intensity possession football from Saints soon resurfaced though with Ramirez almost catching Howard cold from distance as his viciously struck effort from the edge of the area was beaten away by Howard at his near post.
Everton responded by forcing Boruc into a low save under pressure from Fellaini, before Yoshida’s block won the Toffees their first corner of the evening which came to nothing.
Saints almost broke the deadlock on 20 when Ramirez was bundled to the ground around 30 yards from goal. Up stepped Lambert to smash a stunning drive towards the top right corner only for Howard to claw himself across and make a wonderful save.
At the other end, Boruc did well to stop Steven Naismith’s low drive at the near post, before the Pole then gathered Leighton Baines’s delivery from a free-kick on the right.
The hosts again pounced on a sloppy pass from Leon Osman down the right to create another opening with Ramirez picking up the momentum and finding Lambert out wide. Saints’ top scorer bided his time to cut inside and test Howard, and the rebound from his shot could only be headed back into the American goalkeeper’s hands.
From another Ramirez set piece, Saints threatened again, and perhaps had good claims for a penalty turned down when Yoshida was grounded by a shove from Distin as the two tried to meet the deep cross at the far post.
After a second shout for a spot kick was dismissed, Saints immediately went close again when Schneiderlin fed Ramirez in on goal. The Uruguayan slipped away from Baines before forcing a terrific low save from Howard to deny a certain goal in the 37th minute.
The set piece saw Lambert have a header cleared off the line heroically by a combination of Jelavic and Baines, and when the ball eventually returned into the danger area, Jos Hooiveld’s turn and volley was kept out by Howard.
There was even time for a Lambert header from Puncheon’s left wing cross on the back of a fine move down the left, but although the frontman’s effort went wide, onlookers were impressed by an action packed half of football and one in which the hosts were unfortunate not to be leading in.
Half Time: Saints 0-0 Everton
There were no changes for either team at the break, but the game picked up from where it left off with Saints showing some early invention in search of the opening goal as Puncheon wriggled away don the right once more in the half’s first attack.
Saints were then thankful to Boruc who twice in the space of a minute denied Fellaini from close range. First, he denied a low shot at the far post from the Belgian who benefitted from Naismith’s flick on to force a corner, and the resulting set piece was then kept out at point blank range by Boruc from Fellaini’s firm near post header.
Everton made their first substitution on 58; an enforced switch that saw the injured Coleman replaced by Victor Anichebe as Phil Neville moved to right back.
Anichebe was lively and his introduction brought with it a couple of quickfire chances for the visitors, the latter of which was spurned by Jelavic who looked odds on to score when put through on 62, but the Croat fluffed his shot after a bad first touch.
Pochettino followed up with a change on 63 with Jay Rodriguez coming on in place of Guly.
The stop-start flow of the contest was interrupted once more when David Moyes withdrew Jelavic in favour of Kevin Mirallas, but Everton soon found top gear again with Anichebe forcing a terrific outstretched save from Boruc at his near post.
On 71 Steven Davis replaced the tiring Ramirez and at the same time Puncheon re-emerged from the tunnel having made a brief departure from the game.
Everton again had a good chance yet again when Anichebe found Mirallas inside the area, but the substitute’s wayward near post was never troubling Boruc.
Another pause in the game to allow both Schneiderlin and Luke Shaw to receive treatment held play up once more, but when the game resumed with a quarter of an hour remaining, both teams found a renewed vigour to set up a competitive end to the match.
Former Portsmouth defender Sylvain Distin was in the thick of things at the back for Everton, twice heading clear under pressure, but he was powerless to deny Lambert from stealing in for a far post header from Puncheon’s corner, which narrowly cleared the top of Howard’s crossbar.
More neat football earned the hosts an 86th minute corner which was rushed clear, and that preceded the introduction of Steve De Ridder in place of Puncheon as Saints pushed on in search of what would surely be a winner.
Despite the late surges which extended into the four minutes of stoppage time, which also saw Mirallas test Boruc again, Saints were winners in the possession stakes as they rode the late storm from the visitors to earn a point.
Full Time: Saints 0-0 Everton