Everton loses last unbeaten record in unpredictable EPL

Sports

Everton’s Lucas Digne, centre right, is shown a red card by the referee after a foul on Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters during an English Premier League soccer match between Southampton and Everton at the St. Mary’s stadium in Southampton, England, Sunday Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

For the first time in more than half a century, England’s top division is without an unbeaten team after six rounds of games.

Everton was the last side to relinquish its undefeated record in this most unpredictable of seasons, though the 2-0 loss at Southampton didn’t knock Carlo Ancelotti’s side off the top of the standings on Sunday.

That’s pretty much all Ancelotti will be able to take from an unconvincing display at St. Mary’s that highlighted the lack of depth in the squad of the unlikely league leaders with some key players missing through suspension and injury.

Lucas Digne, the adventurous left back so vital to Everton’s attacking game, is another player who will be missing for the foreseeable future after getting sent off for landing studs-first on the ankle of Southampton right back Kyle Walker-Peters midway through the second half.

Ancelotti described the red card as a “joke” and also questioned the motives of the referee, Kevin Friend, following the widespread outcry over two high-profile challenges by Everton players — Jordan Pickford and Richarlison — in the Merseyside derby last weekend.

“Maybe all this talk this week against Pickford, against Richarlison, affected the decision,” Ancelotti said, “and if so, it’s not right.”

Everton was outplayed, though, looking a shadow of the team that had collected 13 points from a possible 15 in its opening five games. Playmaker James Rodriguez was quiet and striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin failed to score in a league game for the first time this season.

Aston Villa was the other unbeaten team coming into this round but was outclassed in a 3-0 defeat by Leeds on Friday. The Premier League prides itself on being a division where any side can beat another, and this season is showcasing that more than ever — at least in the early weeks as the big teams find their feet after a truncated preseason and attempt to balance European commitments in a hectic schedule.

The last time every team in the top flight lost at least one of their first six games was in 1967-68, according to Opta, the Premier League’s official statistics supplier.

There has also been some regression after the unprecedented frenzy of goals in the opening few weeks. In Sunday’s other games, Leicester won 1-0 at Arsenal thanks to substitute Jamie Vardy’s header and a dull 1-1 draw between Wolverhampton and Newcastle was only livened up by two goals in the final 10 minutes.

SAINTS MARCH ON

A year on from one of the darkest days in its history, Southampton demonstrated what an impressive unit the team has become under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The win over Everton came on the one-year anniversary of Southampton’s 9-0 loss to Leicester.

“Now we don’t even think about it any more, I don’t care,” Hasenhuttl said after goals by James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams at St. Mary’s secured his team a third win in four games.

Danny Ings — Southampton’s top scorer — set up both of the goals, highlighting the other side of his game in the same way Harry Kane is doing at Tottenham.

ARSENAL’S NEMESIS

Vardy was restricted to just the final half-hour at Emirates Stadium while he manages a calf injury, but that was enough time to keep up his brilliant scoring streak against Arsenal.

By stooping to head home a cross from fellow substitute Cengiz Under following a rapid counter-attack in the 80th minute, Vardy scored his 11th Premier League goal against Arsenal. That is the most he has scored against a single team in the competition.

Leicester has now beaten Manchester City and Arsenal away, and this latest impressive victory on the road was marked by a composed display by new signing Wesley Fofana, a 19-year-old center back who joined from Saint-Etienne.

Arsenal has won three and lost three of its six matches so far. Since opening with a 3-0 win at Fulham, Mikel Arteta’s team has averaged just a goal a game and barely troubled Leicester after having an early goal by Alexandre Lacazette from a corner disallowed for offside against Granit Xhaka.

HISTORY REPEATED

The season might be unpredictable but some things don’t change.

For the fourth straight meeting of the teams, Wolves and Newcastle drew 1-1. Indeed, eight of their last 11 matches against each other have been draws — seven of them being 1-1s.

Raúl Jiménez’s fourth goal of the season, a dipping shot from the edge of the area in the 80th minute, was canceled out by Jacob Murphy’s low, curling free kick around the defensive wall in the 89th.

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