Ronald Koeman was thrilled with Everton’s second-half despatching of his former club Southampton, and singled out substitute Enner Valencia for praise.
West Ham loanee Valencia netted his maiden Everton goal 73 minutes into a scrappy encounter at Goodison Park, kick-starting a devastating onslaught from the hosts, with Leighton Baines’ penalty and Romelu Lukaku’s thunderbolt adding gloss to the victory.
And although Koeman did not shy away from criticising his side’s tepid first-half display, he was delighted with the impact of Valencia, who has started just three Premier League games since his arrival in August.
“The result is very good. A clean sheet today, we needed a lot of intensity. That was better in the second half than the first,” he said.
“We had a good organisation and we know we can score when we create chances. In the final 20 minutes we were really good.
“When Valencia came on it was not just about his goal, it was his whole performance – we needed that pace in the second half.
“It was a really good performance from him, and that type of competition is good to have.
“He was really important. That was the reason to start with Dominic [Calvert-Lewin], to put somebody with pace behind Romelu and give more freedom for Ross [Barkley].
“We started well, because Dominic started well and we missed that after his injury.”
While Everton have had a successful festive period – taking seven points from a possible nine following their defeat to local rivals Liverpool – Southampton are on their worst losing streak since December 2014, having lost three games on the bounce.
But Claude Puel believes that the hectic fixture list, which saw his side play three times in the space of six days, is to blame for the slump in form.
“It is unfair. It was a balanced game but the first goal was difficult to accept,” he told BBC Sport.
“The players were tired. They played two days ago and it was difficult to finish this game but the spirit and the attitude of the team was good.
“I am sorry for the players because they did good work and it is a shame to concede three goals in this game. For the moment we are unlucky.”
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