Southampton relinquished their status as the only club not to have drawn in the Premier League since the turn of the year, ceding a game they had controlled to share the spoils with Everton at Goodison Park.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side stretched their unbeaten spell at home to 10 matches in the division, while Ralph Hasenhuttl’s charges yet again offered a reminder of the distance they’ve travelled since the 9-0 drubbing by Leicester City at St Mary’s in October.
The south-coast side were superior for the bulk of the opening half, relentless out of possession and combining excellently on the ball.
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The hosts’ midfield were routinely chasing shadows with Nathan Redmond, Stuart Armstrong and James Ward-Prowse causing them problems, while Ings was nightmarish to mark in the area.
Southampton were finding it easy to conjure chances, twisting Everton’s players with some slick movement.
Inside 10 minutes Armstrong had a goal disallowed for offside and before the half-hour mark Ward-Prowse struck the crossbar from the penalty spot. A goal for Saints was growing all the more inevitable and was eventually delivered by their leading marksman.
One of Armstrong’s purposeful runs down the inside-right channel saw the Scotland international scuff a shot, but the ball trickled towards Ings. He cleverly flicked the ball away from Jordon Pickford and persisted to prod it over the line.
Southampton had their reward and the striker increased his Golden Boot chances with his 19th league goal of the season.
The visitors continued to press with aggression and pass with intent but went into the interval level. Lucas Digne, hugging the left touchline close to the halfway line, dug out a wonderful crossfield ball to Richarlison.
The Brazilian’s first touch was class, before he ruthlessly powered a finish into the top right.
The equaliser materialised against the run of play, but was gloriously taken by Everton.
Largely through the fury and fire of Richarlison, they regrouped in the second stanza, which was a more even affair.
There were to be no more goals, but both teams are evidently taking shape under their managers.
Everton collected just 19 points from their opening 18 league fixtures, but have taken 26 points from 15 matches under Ancelotti. They have improved their defensive organisation and game management, but are still lacking offensive sharpness.
Southampton have been drilled into a fine team by Hasenhuttl; their identity with and without the ball clear as they continue to impress on their travels.
Only a point separated the sides ahead of kick off and it ended all evens, but it’s hard to deny that Saints have a more defined style, system and surety heading into next season.