EVERTON 2-1 LEICESTER CITY
This was an important game for both sides European ambitions and it was Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton side that emerged victorious whilst condemning the visitors to a costly defeat at Goodison Park. Leicester City will feel the pain of this defeat that threatens their stay in this season’s top four. Leicester have been in the Champions League places every week apart from one since 24 August, but now they have Manchester United and Wolves breathing down their necks.
Everton started the brighter of the two sides and raced into a two-goal lead and, despite a much better second half response, the defeat means Rodgers’ team have only taken 13 points from 36 since the turn of the year.
A lack of tempo that had been missing Everton’s play in the two games since the return but it was evident here and Leicester struggled to cope with it. The hosts were sharper on the ball and more aggressive in their defensive work from the start.
Everton took a deserved lead through Brazilian striker Richarlison. Lucas Digne released Anthony Gordon with a clever headed ball from Mason Holgate’s pass. The 19-year-old Gordon, cut the ball back perfectly for the incoming Brazilian to beat Kasper Schmeichel with an excellent close-range finish.
Gordon was very bright in the opening half demonstrating his touch and vision more so than in the Merseyside derby last time out at Goodison. His clever pass released Dominic Calvert-Lewin only for Caglar Soyuncu to get across the striker legitimately inside the penalty area.
Everton did however double their lead after 16 minutes when to their shock they were actually awarded a penalty, their first for 39 games stretching back to last season. Wilfred Ndidi challenged Michael Keane from Digne’s free-kick and clearly used his hand, as the reaction of several Everton players attested. The only real surprise was that it took VAR more than two minutes to decide whether the ball struck Keane’s head or hand before finding its way on to Ndidi. It was obvious from the first replay that it was a penalty and further evidenced that a rethink is required in the summer over how or who is using VAR.
Gylfi Sigurdsson rolled in the resulting spot-kick confidently past Schmeichel, sending him the wrong way in the process to double Everton’s lead.
Leicester did improve in the last 15 minutes of the first half and it was a warning to Everton that they were not done in this game.
The second half began with Brendan Rodgers making two changes with James Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho bringing some attacking prowess into Leicester’s play.
It was substitute Iheanacho who reduced arrears 6 minutes into the second half with the most fortuitous goal you will see this season. Jamie Vardy flicked Youri Tielemans’ cross into his path inside the area. The striker’s first touch was a bit heavy and as Mason Holgate attempted to clear his lines the ball hit Iheanacho’s face and bounced past Jordan Pickford and into the net.
Leicester almost equalised a few minutes later when Pickford allowed Albrighton’s low cross to slip through his grasp. The ball struck Michael Keane and rolled goalwards but the central defender was just able to clear the ball off the line.
Carlo Ancelotti changed his formation and threw on Tom Davies and later Yerry Mina as Everton wrestled some of the control back. Leicester kept probing for an equaliser but could not fashion any real chances and Everton hung on for an important victory for them.
It’s now 7 from 9 points for Everton since they returned to Premier League action and it’s a return that has them in the hunt for a Europa League spot. They travel to Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night in what will be another big game if they are to grab an unlikely spot in next season’s Europa League.
Final Score: Everton 2-1 Leicester City
How They Lined Up: