Goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin with a penalty and Demarai Gray with a sweet finish twice saw Everton lead at Elland Road but, both times the home side fought back to see the spoils shared. Everton will happily take the point but, some more clinical finishing wouldhave earned them all three.
Leeds on the back of a 5-1 thrashing at Old Trafford opened their home account against the Blues fresh off a come-from-behind victory over Southampton, so things were set up nicely for this Elland Road encounter, with both sides having won on each others home territory last season.
Leeds received a major boost on Thursday when striker Patrick Bamford penned a new five-year deal with the club and the 27-year old former Middlesbrough forward has bagged 43 goals in 111 games for the club since the move in 2018 commented, “There’s not been many times in my career that I’ve been as settled as I am now, it was important for me to get this tied down.” Bamford joins goalie Illan Meslier and midfielder Stuart Dallas in extending their contracts with the West Yorkshire outfit.
Leeds forward Rodrigo looked forward to today’s clash saying, “Everton have a really good team. They had a good game previously against Southampton, and I think it’ll be a tough game. We are in the Premier League, you never have an easy game, every game is a big challenge, a big fight, and the next one will not be any different. We will prepare for the game as best as we can, and we are confident going into the game.”
Asked about whether there would be any further transfer business before the window closes Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa noted, “It’s not probable that any more signings will be made. I’m comfortable with the players I can count on at the moment. It’s the same group as last year with the substitution of (Junior) Firpo in for Alioski.” Bielsa was unable to call upon defender Diego Llorente, out with a leg injury but, was expecting England midfielder Kalvin Phillips to be fit enough to start.
And so he eventually named his starting line-up: Meslier, Ayling, Struijk, Cooper (c), Firpo, Phillips, Raphinha, Dallas, Klich, Harrison and Bamford.
After the pleasure of watching his new charges rebound against Southampton to won, Blues manager Rafael Benitez has hoped that more of the players unavailable last weekend through Covid isolation precautions might be available for selection but in his pre-match press meeting he advised, “Still, we have some issues, but Moise Kean is coming back at the moment. We have an injury to (Harry) Tyrer, the young keeper, so we have signed Andy Lonergan as back-up. He can give us some experience, because we needed to sort out this problem just in case.”
Knowing that opponents Leeds will want to bounce back in front of their own fans after their opening day defeat Benitez added, “Bielsa’s teams are very intense, they run a lot. We have to manage that – match their intensity – and, at the same time, we have to play well. We are happy with where we are. I am really pleased with the attitude of the players and how they are working hard every day.”
Despite only having had limited time with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, due to his time with England for the Euros, Benitez commented on his centre forward, “He has the attributes to score a lot of goals. He scored 16 last year and I think he can score more… because he is more mature and the way we want to play will benefit him. He has a problem with his toe but wants to train, then we will be sure when he is fully fit, he can do what we want. He will have chances and score goals.”
Having won at Elland Road last season, Everton went looking to repeat the feat and to do so, Benitez selected his starting eleven, Pickford, Coleman (c), Keane, Mina, Digne, Iwobi, Allan, Doucoure, Gray, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin.
In charge of maintaining order was referee Darren England.
A minute of respectful applause rang around Elland Road prior to kick off to honour those Leeds fans who’d succumbed to the horrors of the Covid pandemic.
A damp pitch after morning rain in Yorkshire saw Leeds in their traditional all white kit with Everton in all blue and the Blues went forward from the kick off with Doucoure seeing an early shot go wide of the target, before getting back to clear the danger from the first Leeds raid. Ref England had early words with both Bamford and Mina after a ridiculous claim by the Blues defender that a slight push by Bamford was considerably more – really Yerry, act your age, not your shoe size eh?
Keane with a good block denied Bamford and when Digne found Richarlison, Phillips arrived and the Brazilian limped away holding his left knee. Pressure from Leeds down their right flank led to Raphinha taking their first shot on target and an easy gather for Pickford. Richarlison gathering a throw-in from Coleman got forward only to be blocked and the ball clear as he gained the edge of the Leeds area. A quarter of an hour gone and Leeds won the first corner with a wild shot from Ayling rather fortuitously going behind, the set piece led to a shot from Phillips also being deflected behind for a second corner that Leeds could do nothing with. Bamford chased down and rather too easily dispossessed Mina and Doucoure was fortunate not to see yellow for a clear attempt to hold Bamford back, Everton countered with Gray getting away down the right to cross but, just too strongly for DCL to get on the end of.
Leeds were having the better of the possession with their Bielsa inspired energetic approach and Everton needed to get their foot on the ball and find an outlet as too often, the ball was being cleared too hurriedly and without real purpose. Gray switch to the left to take a ball from Doucoure, beat Ayling and cross low into the box with Leeds happy to hoik it clear, a second ball into the box from Digne looking for DCL saw Cooper with a clear pull on the shirt to deny him the chance to get to the ball. VAR suggested the referee review the incident on the pitchside screen and after review, the penalty was rightly awarded, and Cooper was booked for the foul. After a delay, Calvert-Lewin stepped up to take the responsibility and seconds before the half hour, he hammered home the opening goal, low to the keepers right hand side.
Leeds tried to hit back with Raphinha twisting and turning to evade Mina and curl a shot a yard wide of the target. Mina and Bamford again became embroiled in more nonsense and both booked for their troubles, abject stupidity on both their parts, Bamford reacting to Mina lying on the ball, Mina for reacting to a needless swipe at him by Bamford- Jordan Pickford the peacemaker, quick off his line to stop things getting completely out of hand.
Five minutes before the break, Raphinha was found in space by Klich and he again fired an effort wide of the target, but a minute later the score was tied as Bamford took a ball from the back to turn inside and away from Keane and find Klich who lifted his shot over Pickford.
Meslier made his first real save of the game pushing a shot from Doucoure round the post for the first Everton corner that Leeds eventually cleared to break through Bamford and leading to Dallas fouling Digne. A late chance came with Gray crossing from the left and Doucoure finding Iwobi, his rushed effort gong high and wide. Six added minutes were signalled and Iwobi was hurried by three Leeds players as the home side were clearly lifted by their fans following the equaliser. It was all a bit helter-skelter with Richarlison going down and then Digne fouling Raphinha, and the last attempt on goal going to Klich who fired high over the bar.
Honours even at the break but, 73% possession to Leeds was a concerning statistic for manager Benitez to ponder over and address for the second half.
Half Time: 1-1
Neither manager made changes for the second half and Leeds were straight back on the attack, Lucas Digne conceding an early corner that first Allan and then Iwobi got clear. And with the rain having returned, the pitch could yet prove a telling factor in the outcome of the game.
But, it was Everton who struck early to regain the lead as Iwobi and Doucoure got the ball forward, the Frenchman then finding Demarai Gray on his left side and he fainted to commit his marker and then slid a precise low shot past his defender and beyond Meslier with just four minutes on the second half clock.
And it was nearly a third goal as Everton got forward again, Gray playing a one-two with DCL to find space on the right for a cross into the path of DCL, Meslier with a smart stop for the home side. Keane with a good block on a shot from Raphinha and then Digne in solidly to deny Dallas on the second effort in a rip-roaring opening ten minutes to the half.
Cooper with another foul on DCL saw the Blues win a free kick on the wide right, Ayling heading the cross from Digne away to safety. A super move should have brought Everton a third goal as Richarlison found Doucoure, he in turn found Iwobi who slid a great ball through the Leeds defence for DCL, Meslier again with a hugely important stop at the expense of a corner that was headed over by Richarlison.
A double change on the hour by Leeds saw Firpo and Klich replaced by Shackleton and Roberts respectively.
Everton had taken some of the wind out of Leeds sails and Richarlison found by Coleman won another corner that Digne swung in only for Bamford to head clear. Digne was booked for petulantly throwing the ball away after conceding a needless free kick, Keane heading the cross clear and when a follow-up cross came in, Gray took no chances putting it behind for a Leeds corner that they failed to make anything of.
Into the final twenty minutes and this time it was Digne taking no chances on a cross into the area from Raphinha, Richarlison with the clearing header from the corner. Pickford needed to be alert to turn a cross from Roberts and when the ball wasn’t cleared effectively another cross into the box wasn’t dealt with and Cooper laid the ball into the path of Raphinha and he smashed a shot through a crowd to give Pickford no chance for the second equaliser.
Everton now needed to stand strong and keep calm as the home side lifted by the crowd went in search of a winner. And they made their first change on 74 minutes, Andros Townsend replacing (the largely inneffective) Alex Iwobi. Allan busting forward saw the ball fall to Richarlison and he took his time to make space only for his curled shot to beat the far post. Both sides were looking for winner and Dallas bursting forward saw him win a free kick with Seamus Coleman booked for kicking the ball away in frustration at the decision.
Raphinha was giving Digne something of a torrid time in the latter stages and another cross was put behind by Keane and the corner defended by DCL as Everton pulled everyone back. Into the final ten minutes and the game, which at times had been competitive and feisty, was poised on a knife edge. Abdoulaye Doucoure was the next to see yellow ahead of Fabian Delph replacing Demarai Gray for the final seven minutes of normal time.
Phillips found Bamford in space on the left after Dallas had picked off a ball in midfield, Mina blocking the shot from Bamford away for a corner that Richarlison again got the clearing header on before Raphinha saw another shot blocked and cleared. Good work by Seamus Coleman thwarted Leeds to set up a break that he himself got on the end of only to mishit his left footed shot wide of the target. Richarlison released Townsend to break forward through the middle, Meslier deaing with his shot at the second attempt.
Moise Kean came on a for a cameo appearance replacing DCL for the four added-on minutes, ahead of a defected shot from Doucoure going just wide courtesy of a deflection with Meslier flat-footed and helpless. Meslier saving well from a Keane header from the resulting corner. The home crowd howled twice for a penalty, first against Keane for handball and then a robust challenge by Delph. VAR reviewed and saw nothing to adjudicate upon and the final action saw Bamford again go down as Mina won a key header and referee England called time on a breathless game of Premier League footie.