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Saturday 10 December 2016

No happy return for Koeman to Saints

Charlie Austin
Charlie Austin

Ronald Koeman revealed he has become "worried" by Everton's performances after their 1-0 defeat at Southampton left them with one win in nine.

Southampton ensured a miserable return to St Mary's for the manager who left them in the summer, outplaying them to such an extent they deserved a wider margin of victory than that provided by Charlie Austin's first-minute goal.

Everton were as flat as Southampton were in Thursday's 1-0 Europa League defeat by Sparta Prague. That they are seventh in the Premier League - the highest outside of those expected to compete for the title - leaves them three places above their hosts but a two-point advantage will diminish if they cannot arrest their poor run.

The visitors lost possession almost immediately before Southampton's impressive one-touch football led to debutant Josh Sims, 19, teeing up Austin (above) to head in after 41 seconds. They thereafter struggled to impose themselves, highlighting the extent of the challenge Koeman accepted when leaving the south coast.

"I'm not worried about results, I'm worried about what I see on the pitch," said the Dutchman, who was widely considered to be progressing his career when leaving Southampton for Everton.

"How we start the game, have difficulties to be organised defensively and stop the opponents.

"I'm worried because the wake-up call, how we played in first half, to concede a goal after one minute: that cannot happen."

Asked about Ross Barkley's and Romelu Lukaku's performances, Koeman answered they were "not good enough", before also revealing James McCarthy's absence owed to a precautionary measure taken against a hamstring injury.

The afternoon was significantly more positive for Koeman's successor Claude Puel, even if they were again reliant on Austin's sixth league goal - from Southampton's total of 13 - of the season securing all three points.

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