A hamstring injury to midfield dynamo Allan cast a shadow over another fine team performance as the Blues won away at Leicester on goals from Richarlison and Mason Holgate.
Fresh from a fine team performance against Chelsea, Everton travelled to the East Midlands on Wednesday night to take on Leicester City.
The Foxes under former RS boss Brendan Rodgers have made another decent start to the season, climbing to fourth place before last weekend largely on the back of their form away from home. Impressive wins, particularly at Manchester City, Arsenal and Leeds, have made up for home reversals against Villa, West Ham and Fulham however, a solid 3-0 defeat of Brighton on Sunday lifted them into the top three.
Rodgers was unable to name centre-back Jonny Evans in his team after he picked up a fifth booking against Brighton and the resulting suspension ruled him out of selection. The home side were also expected to be missing Turkish defender Soyuncu and midfielder Pereira through injury but, forward Castagne was a possible returnee.
The Foxes are also going well in the Europa Cup and manager Rodgers isn’t overly concerned about possible fixture congestion, the opposite in fact. The Northern Irishman says playing up to three games a week is a test only posed to sides with ambitions to succeed, both at home and abroad, and called on his squad to continue relishing the challenge. “I sold it to the players in pre-season that having qualified for European football, this is what being at the top of the table gives you,” he added. “It gives you lots of games but it can certainly improve you as a player.”
For this early evening kick-off, the Brodge named his side: Schmeichel (c), Justin, Fofana, Ndidi, Fuchs, Mendy, Barnes, Tielemans, Maddison, Under and Vardy.
Everton continue to baffle many as indifferent performances in recent weeks were forgotten as Carlo Ancelotti masterminded an excellent victory over Chelsea employing four recognised centre backs in a defensive set-up that Frank Lampard and his players couldn’t find a way through. And the Goodison supremo said he wanted the same level of performance that beat Chelsea to be replicated when he said, “If we want to have a good result against Leicester, we need the same performance as against Chelsea. We need to defend well, be focused there, and not let them have the possibility to play on the counter-attack. They have players with quality, fast players, a fantastic striker in Vardy who is used to scoring in every game, and their best quality is their style of attack, it is really efficient.”
The boss gave a clear indication of what he feels is needed on a regular basis after Saturday saying, “We were satisfied with the performance against Chelsea. We are still not at the level of these teams [fighting for the title], we are working on this. The fact we competed with Tottenham, Liverpool and had a good result against Chelsea is important for us. It means we are not so far from the top. But, we have to understand we are not there, we have to work for this.”
With Fabian Delph and Lucas Digne injured, Seamus Coleman and James Rodriguez both eyeing Saturday’s home game with Arsenal for possible returns, Don Carlo hinted he might stick with the four centre back rearguard that baffled Chelsea. “Every game is really complicated, there are a lot of surprises,” he said. “The table is really compact and Everton is there. This is good for us. Ben Godfrey is a good surprise for me, he is showing all his quality . He is a guy with a strong personality, humble. I think we signed a really, really good defender. Yerry Mina is doing well, I am happy with his level. He had problems in some games, now he is more focused and concentrated and playing with confidence.”
Having weighed up his options and the merits of the opposition, The Don named his starting eleven with a rotational change in goal: Olsen, Holgate, Mina, Keane, Godfrey, Doucoure, Allan, Sigurdsson (c), Iwobi, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
Our referee at the King Power was the follically challenged Lee Mason.
The Blues wore their third, mint green, kit were under early pressure as Barnes went on a run to find Vardy and his layoff saw Tielemans shoot narrowly wide. The Blues first raid saw Iwobi find Sigurdsson who played a one-two with Richarlison before trying to find Iwobi in the area, Leicester clearing the danger fairly easily. Keane got a good block on a shot from Maddison as the home side had slightly the better of a scrappy opening ten minutes.
Allan spread the ball wide right for Iwobi and his cross was deflected behind for the first corner of the game, Sigurdsson with the set piece to find Mina and Leicester wellied it clear. Mendy was booked for pulling back Allan in 14 minutes, Sigurdsson again taking the set piece with Fofana heading it behind for a second corner that saw Holgate penalised for a high boot trying a bicycle kick. Allan chipped a ball into the box for DCL and under pressure from Ndidi he went down with no serious penalty claims from the Blues.
Twenty minutes in and Everton had weathered the early Leicester storm and settled themselves well into the game themselves, to open the scoring as Richarlison collected a cross field ball from Iwobi to cut inside Justin and fire a low shot that Schmeichel, diving to his left, rather conveniently made a complete town halls of.
Leicester looked to reply quickly as Vardy got on the end of a cross from Justin but directed his header straight at Robin Olsen. Under flighted a free kick into the Everton area and Holgate put it behind for a Leicester corner that Keane headed clear, Under on the second effort winning a second corner that came to nothing.
Everton really should have doubled the lead just past the half hour mark as they got 4 on 3 thanks to Richarlison who fed Iwobi for a cross that neither DCL or Sigurdsson could get on the end of. Iwobi was causing Leicester problems down their left flank to win another corner off Fuchs, Leicester not clearing and conceding another that they did get clear.
Iwobi again found Richarlison in space to jink inside and cross toward DCL, Leicester not getting the ball away and winning a free kick for a foul on Holgate in a very advanced position. Sigurdsson flighted the set piece to find the head of DCL but, like Vardy earlier, his header went straight into the arms of the goalie. Olsen with a decent stop from Under but more worrying for the Blues, was Allan pulling up clutching his left hamstring and sadly that was his game over, Andre Gomes a 40th minute substitution.
Two extra minutes were signalled, and Doucoure was quick to get back and deny Vardy getting to a through ball from Barnes and the Blues took the lead to the half time cup of tea and slice of orange.
Half Time: 0-1
No additional changes by either manager for the second half as Everton attacked the end where the travelling fans would have been encamped. Mason Holgate saw an early yellow card for a block on Barnes as Leicester looked to break from midfield after Gomes lost possession, and Ben Godfrey became the second booking in very quick succession for a foul on Maddison.
Mina with a less than convincing clearance on a cross from Justin was lucky to get a second bite at the cherry as the home side started the second half the stronger. Keane with a block on another attempted cross from Justin conceding a corner that culminated with Tielemans shooting wide of the target. Despite the home side seeing more of the ball in the early stages of the second half, the Everton back four were keeping their shape and making it difficult for Leicester to find a way through.
Leicester made their first change on 62 minutes, Perez replacing Under and Tielemans getting to the bye-line couldn’t find a cross to beat Olsen who gathered comfortably.
Gomes, beaten for pace by Barnes, was booked for bringing the Leicester player down, the third Everton yellow of the game on 63 minutes. Barnes got away from Holgate to feed Tielemans to set up Maddison who blazed high and wide from twenty yards. Good work from Doucoure denied Barnes after he’d played a one-two with Tielemans to gain the Everton area, the former Watford man having a very good game trying to fill the Allan role.
Richarlison went down following a challenge by Fuchs holding his right ankle and left wrist after landing awkwardly. Sigurdsson flighted the free kick to win a corner off the head of Fofana as Richy returned to the field with his wrist heavily strapped. And from the corner, Siggy found the head of Keane, Schmeichel saving that and the second attempt from DCL, Mason Holgate burying the third effort to double the lead with his first marker of the season on 72 minutes,
Mendy was replaced by Iheanacho in response to Leicester falling further behind. A flowing move by Leicester was broken up by Sigurdsson and a strong run down the left by Iwobi saw him win a free kick as we entered the final 15 minutes. Iwobi again caused Leicester problems down the left getting away from Justin to find Sigurdsson but his first time effort was just too high.
Leicester straining forward were leaving gaps and Doucoure to DCL and Richarlison got forward to win another corner and eat up some valuable time. Doucoure again was the right man in the right place when Perez shrugged off Gomes to cross for Vardy, clearing the danger calmly. Leicester were awarded an 82nd minute penalty for a challenge by Gomes on Perez; VAR reviewed it and the referee’s original decision was reversed as our Portuguese maestro had indeed got a touch on the ball.
Fuchs with another foul on Richarlison gave the Blues another breather and Leicester had a goal ruled out for offside from a corner. With just over a minute left in normal time, Carlo Ancelotti took the chance to make his second change, Anthony Gordon coming on for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Into four added minutes and the Blues were holding fast to close in on a second consecutive clean sheet and getting forward allowed the third change, Jonjoe Kenny coming on for Alex Iwobi.
Try and they could, Leicester couldn’t find a way to break down the Everton defence and Robin Olsen recorded a very enjoyable clean sheet.