Carlo Ancelotti has denied Everton have a disciplinary problem and has accused the referee Kevin Friend of being swayed by the furore surrounding Jordan Pickford’s challenge on Virgil van Dijk in the Merseyside derby in his decision to send off Lucas Digne as Everton’s unbeaten start to the season ended at Southampton.
The Everton manager suggested criticism of Pickford’s tackle, which went unpunished and left Van Dijk with a long-term anterior cruciate ligament injury, was an aggravating factor in Digne being given a straight red card in the 2-0 defeat.
Ancelotti said the officials’ decision to send Digne off was “a joke” and confirmed Everton would appeal against the red card. Asked if he was concerned his players have a discipline issue following successive sending-offs – Richarlison was absent at St Mary’s after being sent off late on against Liverpool – Ancelotti said: ““No, I don’t think so. The red card was a joke. It was not intentional. Maybe it could be a yellow but for sure it was not violent conduct. They could check better.
“Maybe all the rumours all week against Pickford, against Richarlison, affected the decision and if it is like this, it’s not right, it’s not fair. We will appeal, for sure. He did not have the intention to hurt the player, or to use violent conduct. It was not the right decision. To lose Digne for three games is too much.
“We didn’t complain about Richarlison. But here, we have to appeal, because this was not the right decision.”
Digne’s sending off, which will result in a three-match ban unless it is overturned by the Football Association, compounded a difficult afternoon as Everton slipped to defeat. James Ward-Prowse, the Southampton captain, opened the scoring before Che Adams doubled Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side’s advantage after 35 minutes. Four minutes later Stuart Armstrong thought he added a third but Adams was ruled offside in the buildup.
“We don’t have to be too disappointed, we are still at the top of the table, which is an unbelievable achievement for us and we have to try to stay there,” Ancelotti said.
“It was not a good day, it was not a good performance, we are here to talk about the first defeat and I think we have to look forward because of course we don’t like to lose games but in football it happens. It has arrived after a fantastic start. We have to move forward in this game with the belief we made here.”
Hasenhüttl, the Southampton manager, said: “He tried before also to kick him and then finally he hit him from behind so, for me, it was a clear red card.”