Although Benitez was not a popular choice among the fans, the former Liverpool boss received a warm reception before kick-off, which led to a positive start.
Southampton opened the scoring in the first half through new signing Adam Armstrong, who latched on to Che Adams’ ball to curl into the top corner.
However, the home side returned strongly in the second half, with Benitez’s decision to put Richarlison up front paid off immediately.
The Brazilian restored parity while two goals within six minutes from Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin ensured three points for the Merseyside club.
There were also fine debuts from Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray.
Gray was brilliant during the match. He was lively throughout and provided plenty of ammunition for the Everton strikers.
Townsend, 30, who joined on a free transfer this summer, was also brilliant during the game. He played until the 70th minute and provided an assist for Richarlison’s equaliser.
The former Crystal Palace winger also made three key passes and contributed defensively, making three tackles.
He took to social networking site Instagram after the game to express his reaction. Palace striker Conor Wickham responded to his post.
— Andros Townsend (@andros_townsend) August 14, 2021