A for from convincing performance from Everton saw them largely outplayed by Leicester who led inside five minutes. But, the sheer will and determination of Richarlison earned them a late, oh so late equaliser.
Ten days have passed since Everton took three priceless points from Manchester United, ten days that saw Burnley dispense with their manager over over ten years and only collect one point from visits to Norwich and West Ham, ten days that gave Everton the chance to prepare for a legal fox hunt as Leicester City arrived at Goodison on the back of a loss at Newcastle. And the next ten days sees the Blues follow Leicester with a ‘derby’ across the park and a visit of Chelsea.
Everton manager Frank Lampard new that a victory over the Foxes would be another invaluable step on the path to maintaining Premier League status for next season, and he looked forward to taking the challenge of the final eight games “head on.” Speaking on Tuesday he commented, “We’ll approach the games with a huge amount of focus and understanding that they are all great opposition. It’s a tough run of games but at this stage of the season, it’s easy to over-analyse the opposition.”
He continued, “we must focus on ourselves and go game by game, we’ll tackle this run-in heads on. I’m in the best position I’ve been, in terms of selecting from a squad that has players back fit. At Goodison, we want to continue our good form and run of results, we always get a helping hand from our fans, who give us great support.”
And in respect of his possible team selection to face Leicester, the Blues boss confirmed that Donny van de Beek has recovered from a thigh injury and that “Yerry (Mina) will feature, he is in the squad. Then it is making sure he is fit enough, we have another game four days after this one which, is huge for us.”
Having weighed up all his options, Frank Lampard named his starting eleven: Pickford, Coleman (c), Mina, Godfrey, Mykolenko, Iwobi, Allan, Delph, Gray, Gordon and Richarlison.
Also speaking to the media on Tuesday was Leicester manager Brendan Rodger and he looked to take positives from their loss at St.James’s Park when he said, “Of course when you lose, there is that disappointment. But for me it’s clear, the analysis of the game showed that for large periods, we were in control, we were very good.”
He added, “It’s a credit to the players that this is the first game we’ve lost coming off a European match. It shows the mentality and resilience in the squad, we’ll take that into the Everton match.”
The former RS manager had both good and bad news for his team selection thinking as striker Jamie Vardy, defender Ryan Bertrand and midfielder Wilfred Ndidi were all unavailable due to injury concerns but, he was boosted by Wesley Fofana and James Maddison both ready for first team returns.
Like Lampard, Rodgers took his time before naming his starting line-up: Schmeichel (c), Pereira, Fofana, Evans, Castaneda, Mandy, Barnes, Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall, Maddison and Iheanacho.
On refereeing duty under the Goodison lights on a balmy evening was David Coote.
First minute defensive excellence from Seamus Coleman saw him deny Dewsbury-Hall as he burst through the middle on a ball from Maddison, hurting himself in the process but, okay to carry on after a splash of the magic sponge.
And the bright start by the visitors continued as Tielemans launched a right wing raid that ended with Barnes netting at the back post inside five minutes as the ball fell nicely to him from Iheanacho on the cross from Pereira.
Leicester continued to dominate the opening exchanges, passing the ball around confidently with Dewsbury-Hall in particular looking threatening. Pushing forward again, Barnes won the games first corner that was cleared by Allan. Everton by comparison we’re struggling to get to grips with the game and the first quarter hour belonged almost entirely to the visitors.
On 16 minutes, Everton did forge a chance as Iwobi, fed by Delph, found Gordon and his cutback cross found Richarlison who couldn’t direct his effort on target. A quick break started by Mykolenko together with Iwobi broke down as a ball to Richarlison was cut out when Gordon was in space on the right flank.
A Gordon interception saw him and Richy into the Leicester area where Castagne and Evans did enough to get the ball clear and a solid tackle by Delph prevented a quick counter attack. Half an hour had now slid by and Everton were still looking for an attempt on target and indeed, some meaningful possession and pressure on the Leicester midfield and defence was much needed too.
Further Leicester pressure saw Maddison cross from the right and find Dewsbury-Hall who showed great upper body strength and neat footwork to work his way around Coleman and cross, where Mina headed clear with help from Gray. And the ineptness of Blues saw Gordon completely waste a 37th minute free kick that sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick.
To be fair to AG though, moments later he got free on the right to cross a bit too strongly but, a clear indication he was annoyed at his free kick. Into the final five minutes of the half and finally, Everton strung a few passes together eventually leading to a Gray cross off the left that saw Richy unable to direct his glancing header on target.
The first Everton corner came, Gordon to Iwobi and out to Gray to fire a shot that beat both Schmeichel and the far post, and one added minute was announced. Nothing further ensued and we could only hope for a substantial improvement for the second half.
Half Time: 0-1
No changes of personnel by either manager for the start of the second half that saw Everton in desperate need of a much improved showing if they were to take something from the game.
A nice through ball by Delph sent Iwobi away to gain the edge of the Leicester area but, lift his shot well over the bar. Leicester quickly settled back into their passing game and playing with an air of ‘they can’t hurt us’ as they went about their work. Some good pressing by the Blues energised the crowd ahead of Pickford punching a cross from Barnes away.
A break saw Iwobi feed Gray and on to Gordon who returned the compliment with Gray shooting over the bar. The crowd again raised its voices as a corner on the right was won, Leicester eventually slowing the game down as a Gray header fell easily for Schmeichel to gather.
In the 58th minute, Dele Alli replaced Allan to hopefully add some more attacking impetus to the midfield, and Leicester eased their way through the next few minutes, quelling the Blues attempts to keep a high tempo. Pressure by Leicester then forced Mina and Coleman back leading to a slip by the skipper and Mykolenko got back to clear the threat from a Barnes cross.
On 65 minutes, Salomon Rondon replaced Demarai Gray and Leicester withdrew Barnes for former Everton strike, Ademola Lookman. Schmeichel with a good stop denied Richarlison as he got away from Evans and Pickford made a decent stop to push away a rasping drive from Maddison.
A quick Leicester counter attack again saw Mykolenko get back to deny Iheanacho ahead of Leicester spurning a decent chance by getting caught offside from a corner. We hit the 75-minute mark with Richarlison getting a yellow card for a foul on Maddison and the visitors used the stoppage to take on drinks, and a second Leicester change saw Daka replace Iheanacho.
And the substitute got forward quickly to cross and find Maddison who saw his shot hit the side netting and the ref award a corner that saw a glancing header go wide of the back post.
Mina was booked for a foul on Daka after he got caught in possession in midfield, and the clock ticked on. A long, hopeful ball into the area found the head of Mina but, Schmeichel had no real problem getting down to make an easy save. A strong challenge by Richarlison won a corner on the left that Gordon swung in for a free header that incredibly saw Richarlison head wide of the back post.
Another flowing Leicester move led to a Maddison shot being deflected out for a corner, Godfrey with the clearing header and a yellow card for Dele Alli for a foul on Dewsbury-Hall. Everton worked the ball forward to win a corner on the right and the clock continued to tick as Daka had gone down on the halfway line. The corner from Gordon saw Rondon rise at the near post and head on, Alli at the back post unable to get to it.
Maddison fouled Gordon to give the Blues a free kick that saw Mykolenko find the head of Richarlison but again, the header was well off target and five added minutes were announced.
Rondon with a nice layoff into the feet of Coleman who mishit his shot, Everton keeping the pressure on and getting the ball into the area, Richarlison made up for all his earlier misses with a deflected shot that crept over the line.