Carlo Ancelotti singled out two Everton stars for special praise after his earned a narrow 1-0 win over Southampton at Goodison Park on Monday night.
Richarlison scored for the third-successive match inside the first 10 minutes to move Ancelotti’s side within two points of fourth-placed West Ham with a match in hand.
But while their worst home run since 1958 was brought to an end, the pain for Saints continued with just one draw and eight defeats in their last nine league matches leaving them seven points above the bottom three and wondering just where their next win will come from.
Ancelotti believes consistency is the ultimate key to Champions League qualification. But what he could really do with is Richarlison catching fire in the final three months of the season.
His angled ninth-minute finish was only his fifth in the league this season but, since the start of last season, Joao Pedro (30) and PSG’s Neymar (19) are the only Brazilians to score more goals in the top five European leagues than him.
Speaking after the game, Ancelotti told BBC Sport: “It is an important victory – it was a difficult game – we knew it would be beforehand. We started well and controlled the game. We didn’t concede chances until the last minutes when they put in a lot of effort. The win was deserved.
“We were really dangerous, it was a fantastic finish and assist and then we were really dangerous from set-pieces. We had two or three opportunities. It was a game with a lot of fight in midfield.
Richarlison, Pickford earn plaudits
“Richarlison had a lot of problems in the first half of the season – he travelled a lot, and missed three games through suspension, but now he’s playing a lot and we’ve changed his position a bit and it is better for him.
“Jordan Pickford did really well too. When he was involved he did really well and was calm. He is now really calm in the goal and it was what he missed in the past. He has a lot of quality.
“We have time to recover for Thursday. Allan was back after two months, we have to take care of this, it might be more difficult for him. We have to check on James, Seamus Coleman and Tom Davies for Thursday.
“We would like to touch the fourth place. I am an optimist of nature – after the defeat against Fulham we were really sad and upset. But these two victories can give us confidence for the future.”