Southampton expose Toffees' soft centre: Richard Buxton
With Richarlison and Coleman unavailable, leaders Everton lose unbeaten record
What a difference the past 12 months have made for Southampton.
Exactly a year ago, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Ralph Hasenhuettl after presiding over the English Premier League's joint-highest humiliation of all time.
Halloween arrived early for the Alpine Juergen Klopp that night. Few managers would be allowed to stick around to tell the tale of a nine-goal loss at the hands of Leicester City.
|(James Ward-Prowse 27, Che Adams 35)|
But the Saints' power of patience has reaped a handsome reward with last night's comfortable 2-0 win over Everton continuing Hasenhuettl's remarkable redemption.
The St Mary's hierarchy are not known for rushing to knee-jerk conclusions. After all, they were the same club which previously helped prepare both Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman for prominent spells in elite football's managerial spotlight.
Pochettino steered Tottenham Hotspur to within 90 minutes of winning the Champions League, while Koeman now heads up one of the world game's most storied clubs in Barcelona.
Neither coach was pushed, yet Hasenhuettl could conceivably have suffered that fate.
Taking down the Toffees, previously the EPL's sole unbeaten team this season, vindicated the Saints' perseverance with their one-time RB Leipzig boss.
Hasenhuettl would have been well within his rights to clear the deck at St Mary's, considering last year's mauling by the Foxes.
Instead, seven of the players that suffered that ignominy were still present as they put the current league leaders to the sword.
First-half goals from James Ward-Prowse and Che Adams proved enough to down Carlo Ancelotti's side, who had ridden the crest of a wave up to this point of the new season.
The prospect of Merseyside's blue half emulating Leicester's class of 2015/16 appears far less favourable following a display which exposed their severe limitations in the absences of captain Seamus Coleman and the redoubtable Richarlison.
Ancelotti could still conceivably join compatriot Claudio Ranieri in claiming the EPL title against the odds, although this evidence suggests Everton are reliant on momentum.
Richarlison's absence from their frontline left James Rodriguez and top scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin searching for inspiration and avenues that the Brazilian routinely unlocks.
Tempting as it may have been to follow Sir Alex Ferguson's infamous lead when his own Manchester United team were trailing on the South Coast, not even a change of kit would have helped Ancelotti wrestle back control of a game which was far out of reach.
Greater consistency has remained Ancelotti's overriding message in recent weeks, yet the only continuity lies in the successive red cards, with Lucas Digne joining Richarlison on the sidelines for recklessly lunging at Kyle Walker-Peters late in the second half.
How Everton respond to their first setback of the season will offer a revealing insight into the Italian's latest body of work.
Without a full-strength squad available and the league leaders' air of invincibility expunged, the challenge is greater than before.
A club widely perceived as being too soft-centred has developed an overdue siege mentality exacerbated by the fallout from the previous weekend's Merseyside Derby.
With indiscipline leading bodies to become increasingly short in supply, however, Ancelotti will have to lean on a former Goodison staple of playing with backs to the wall.
Weathering this storm will determine Everton's staying power in the EPL's upper echelons under the Champions League-winning manager.
Hasenhuettl's comeback from the brink offers encouraging signs of what can be achieved with the right support.