Like many fellow Blues, I'm sure, my Everton idols have usually been wingers. Our strikers, when we've had players worthy of the description, have usually scored the goals and grabbed the headlines but it's the likes of the sublime Trevor Steven, the exhilarating Andrei Kanchelskis (to be fair, he was a goalscoring forward in his own right), the skilful Steven Pienaar and even Mikel Arteta (he played wide when he first joined) who have always set this particular Blue's pulse racing the most.
Richarlison has already ingratiated himself to Evertonians playing wide on the left – as direct as he his, he is more reminiscent of Kanchelskis than a tricky winger – and the introduction of Andre Gomes is hotly anticipated but I admit that of all the summer signings, it was Bernard who excited me the most when we landed him. Securing him on a free transfer in the face of some significant competition felt like it was a coup at the time and the early indications are proving that to be the case.
His belated cameo against Fulham last week, which featured an assist for the third goal, coupled with his eye-catching full debut against Southampton last Tuesday had more or less forced Marco Silva's hand when it came to the selection of the starting XI to face Leicester today. How could he not include the fleet-footed Brazilian from the start?
Been excited, perhaps as excited as I’ve been about an EFC acquisition in years, from the moment we signed him.
Going to be interesting to see what Silva does in terms of selection/formation when it becomes impossible to leave him out! https://t.co/BGzoYKGmNA— Lyndon Lloyd (@Everton1an) September 30, 2018
Tweet (typo and all) from a week ago regarding Bernard
The manager was clearly convinced and short of dropping Gylfi Sigurdsson back into a more withdrawn "No. 8" role (which he actually did late on as Everton pushed for a winner after Wes Morgan was sent off for a second bookable offence) and playing Bernard behind the striker, the obvious choice was to put Richarlison up top and deploy his compatriot wide on the left.
It was described by some as a gamble; as if putting your trust in your joint-top scorer to lead the line not long after he had done the same for Brazil (and scored twice) was a big leap of faith on Silva’s part. It was precisely the formation that a number of fans — this one included — had been imploring him to try but it clearly needed a demonstration of fitness from Bernard before it could become a reality.
Indeed, given that he hadn’t played since March when he joined the club in August, a measure of patience has been required where Bernard’s readiness has been concerned. He looks better with each passing week, though, and he lit up parts of this game with some dazzling play. He looks to be a very special player and in light of the impact Sigurdsson has made in the last two games, including an absolute belter to win this one, the front four that Everton boasted at kick off really does look like a formidable unit.
It only took seven minutes for the wisdom of Silva’s choice to be underlined by a goal made in Brazil. With the Portuguese’s favoured high press having already forced Leicester’s back line into gifting the ball to Bernard in the fourth minute, only for Sigurdsson to lose control of the former’s pass, the visitors demonstrated from the off that they meant business.
Then, following a throw in down the Everton left, Idrissa Gueye laid the ball off to Bernard and he embarked on an electrifying run where he twisted one way and the next before clipping a cross from the byline that Kasper Schmeichel could only help into Richarlison’s path. The 21-year-old met the ball on the half volley and guided it into the net past Harry Maguire on the line. 1-0 and the Blues — well, all white today in their attractive third kit — were flying.
Spurred into action by conceding the goal, Leicester inevitably came into the game more as the first half wore on but with the Foxes hugely reliant on putting long balls over the top trying to spring the offside trap for Vardy, it was Everton who fashioned the better chances. Indeed, if Silva’s men could capitalise fully on interceptions in the final third or finish off counter-attacks they would be deadly and they could have scored more goals than they did before the interval.
In one instance, Sigurdsson held off his man in the centre circle and played a beautifully-weighted ball into the box that Theo Walcott momentarily lost control of until Bernard played it back to him and Schmeichel tipped his curling shot over the bar. Then, Richarlison galloped down the right and Walcott teed up Sigurdsson but his low shot was gathered. Finally, two more terrific cut-outs in the middle of the pitch, first by Walcott and then by Bernard set up opportunities for Everton to rampage forward but on the first occasion Walcott appeared to held momentarily by Maguire as he skipped past him in the box and on the second, Sigurdsson’s shot was deflected wide.
Claude Puel’s side were always a danger on the counter themselves and it was a classic Vardy break that almost yielded the equaliser 11 minutes before half-time. The England striker accelerated past Michael Keane to meet the through-ball but the defender did just enough to recover and use his presence to put Vardy off and he fired wide.
It was a let-off but six minutes later, Leicester got their equaliser. Unfortunately, it didn’t reflect on Jonjoe Kenny, who struggled all afternoon and had already been made to look foolish by Ben Chilwell for an earlier chance that Vardy had headed wide, nor Bernard who, just like Kurt Zouma for Arsenal’s second goal two weeks ago, was guilty of knocking the ball into trouble as opponents closed in around him rather than getting rid.
Ricardo Periera was the beneficiary of the loose ball and oceans of space ahead of him and after running 50 yards to get into the Everton penalty area, he turned Kenny inside and out as the fullback committed himself with a lunge and then hammered home off Jordan Pickford’s hand to restore parity five minutes before half time.
The expectation at that point was for a more even second half and it proved to be that way in the first quarter of an hour after the break, with Vardy becoming increasingly threatening. It was Chilwell who almost handed Leicester the lead, though, when he collected Tom Davies’s attempted pass and was allowed to dance his way unchecked to the 18-yard line before whipping a shot inches wide of Pickford’s right-hand post.
But Everton continued to look dangerous themselves, not least when lovely control from Walcott opened up space for a shot in the 62nd minute but his effort was a little tame and Schmeichel saved comfortably.
The moment that arguably proved decisive in tipping the contest Everton’s way came a minute later when Morgan, who had been booked for wrestling Richarlison to the ground in the first half and escaped a second for shoving the same player out of bounds, received his marching orders from referee Andre Marriner for chopping the Brazilian down from behind near the halfway line.
It was, arguably, the only major decision the officials gave Everton’s way in the match. Sigurdsson had been visibly impeded by Morgan in the six yard box in the first half as he tried to get on the end of Richarlison’s low cross and there was the Maguire incident with Walcott that might have resulted in a penalty on another day.
With the extra man, Everton exerted control over the game and twice went close midway through the second period but Schmeichel foiled first the impressive Lucas Digne and then Davies after Kenny had won a corner. The Danish ‘keeper then turned Sigurdsson’s low drive around the post.
As it turned out, for all their attacking superiority — the Toffees out-shot the Foxes 17 to eight over the course of the match, putting 10 on target to their hosts’ two — it would take a moment of individual magic from Sigurdsson to win it in the 77th minute just minutes after he had taken the captain’s armband with Davies’s departure for Cent Tosun.
Picking the ball up 30 yards from goal, the Nordic star turned James Maddison brilliantly and left him for dead before striding forward a couple of paces, looking him and unleashing a perfectly placed shot that sailed well beyond Schmeichel and into the top corner.
Everton had chances to put the game to bed in the closing stages and avoid a somewhat nervy finale where Maddison volleyed wide and Daniel Amartey planted a stoppage-time header from a corner the wrong side the post as the travelling Evertonians held their collective breath. Zouma put a free header over the bar off a corner at the other end while Walcott had a great chance to put Tosun in the clear in a two-on-one situation but made a mess of the final ball which was picked off by Maguire.
All in all, while Leicester had some clear-cut chances that could have robbed Everton of all three points, this was a richly-deserved first away victory of the season and one which feels long overdue after the disappointments at Wolves and Bournemouth. Indeed, when added to the team’s efforts at the Emirates where a 2-0 defeat was tremendously harsh, it was illustrative of how well the team has performed away from home so far.
That bodes very well for the rest of the season, one in which Everton under Silva look like they will only get better as the new players continue to bed in, others work their way back from injury and the team as a whole takes the managers methods on board. If only we didn’t have to wait another fortnight for the next game!
Everton got off to a brilliant start at Leicester with Bernard's trickery setting up a fine finish for Richarlison after just 7 minutes.
Changes from the Fulham game included Bernard getting his first Premier League start, with Richarlison playing as centre-forward and prime goal-getter. No surprises on the bench, with half-a-dozen injured players still missing.
The home side kicked-off all in Blue, against Everton, all in White, with nothing of note in the early exchanges. The first foul was called against Sigurdsson, nothing coming off Maddison's ball in, and there was almost a crucial turnover but The Foxes recovered.
A sloppy miskick by Gana in midfield allowed an advance on Pickford who smothered the ball. Everton started to press better, Bernard was simply brilliant, dancing in from the left and picking out Richarlison for a difficult finish after it came off Schmeichel's fingertips. A fine start for the Whites!
Another fantastic attacking move saw Richarlison drill a fine ball into the danger area where Sigurdsson couldn't quite reach it but won a corner that caused more havoc in the Foxes penalty area; Richarlison's header in was cleared.
Chilwell got forward with pace but Zouma met his cross and Zouma stood firm, followed by Keane blocking a fierce Maddison shot as the home side pressed Everton back, Kenny easily beaten by Chilwell, Vardy's glancing header just flying wide.
More fine trickery, Walcott spinning and clipping a decent shot for Schmeichel to tip over but Digne's corner from the right was tracked well by Schmeichel. More fine movement from Everton but Bernard's smart cutback was behind all the attackers. It was turning into an entertaining game of football with both sides looking to play the ball forward with pace and intent.
Keane had to track a good ball for Vardy over the top and head it away. Walcott got a chance to run forward, Sigurdsson's snapshot finding Schmeichel. Another ball over the top of the Everton defence saw Varrdy only inches offside.
Bernard's trickery was simply phenomenal to watch, something that has really been missing from an Everton player for far too long, but why was Pereira not shown yellow for a blatant and cynical shirt-tug to stop the Brazillian? Walcott ran through again, with a dirty block by Maguire unpunished by Marriner. Armatey was next to play dirty, fouling Bernard from behind and this time seeing the first yellow of the game.
Leicester won a corner that Maddison delivered well enough but it was headed away by a well-positioned Michael Keane. But that ball over the top this time found Vardy with Keane trying to put him off and Pickford doing just enough to see Vardy's shot roll wide.
Richarlison won a corner, swung in well enough by Sigurdsson, but the next was driven far too deep over everyone and out behind. More Bernard trickery saw Sigurdsson's shot deflected wide, the corner almost creating a chance but instead, it became a breakaway and Pereira drove all the way, exchanging passes with Ineacho that fooled Kenny, then dodging his way around the fast-retreating Everton man and showing up Pickford who made a poor effort to stop the seemingly inevitable equalizer.
Richarlison had the beating of Morgan who was forced to foul the Everton star, Digne picking out Zouma but it deflected off Maguire for a corner; as the Foxes again looked to break from the clearance, Davies had to chop down Vardy and take the yellow.
Davies was fouled twice for a promising set-piece in added time, Sigurdsson delivering it well enough but no further chances created. So... Everton should be ahead but they gave away a rather soft goal to let The Foxes back in.
Gana kicked off for Everton, but Zouma put Pickford under pressure. Vardy was again offside for a long ball over the top. Some poor decisions saw possession conceded, and when they did win the ball back, any pace was lacking until Walcott got forward onto a great ball from Gana, winning the first corner of the second half, touched away by Schmeichel under pressure.
Morgan avoided a second yellow despite dumping Richarlison onto the perimeter gravel, as Everton struggled to get any cohesion, a good ball from Davies not sticking with Walcott. Vardy got forward again and centered but thankfully no-one had followed his run. He was again flagged offside as the second goal for the home side seemed ever closer.
A horribly sloppy pass from Davies set up Chilwell for a fine shot that seemed certain to score but somehow flew past the angle... Only a matter of time with Everton now well off the pace needed to give them a much-needed win as Leicester were showing far more initiative. But nothing really from the bench to change this for the paralyzed Everton manager who really needed to do something to change the inevitable happening...
Kenny did well to stall Chillwell and Everton turned the ball over but Richarlison's pass to Sigurdsson was never on and The Foxes resumed their patient probing as the rain started in earnest. Bernard did play a brilliant ball to Walcott whose touch was top class and he turned superbly but the shot was really disappointing. Morgan again took out Richarlison and this time Marriner showed him a second yellow and the red card.
So... 25 mins with a man advantage... Could Everton make them pay? Walcott fouled wide right, as the travelling fans made their presence heard, Sigurdsson singing in outward curler that fooled most of the attackers.
Kenny won Everton another corner from Sigurdsson, with shots from Digne then Davies being repelled by Schmeichel. Silva had been planning on swapping Davies for Schneiderlin, which would have been horrible, but decided instead to bring on Tosun and try to get something more from the game.
Some fine work from Bernard ended with a drop of the shoulder from Sigurdsson and a despairing touch behind by Schmeichel. Everton were now playing the game all in the home side's half but really needed to push their advantage home.
Nothing seemed to be happening until, out of very little, Sigurdsson delivered a £45M goal with a fantastic turn, forward stride and brilliant strike. The 50th Premier League goal of the Icelander's career, and probably the best!
A massive test now for the final 10 minutes: could Everton hold on with all the cards in their favour — and Maddison taken off? Richarlison had had a number of opportunities to create chances in the second half but, each time, he fluffed his lines... tiring perhaps?
Chilwell gifted Everton yet another corner under pressure from Kenny, Sigurdsson putting it right onto Zouma's head, but somehow he directed it over. Tosun lazily fouled Chilwell and could have gotten into trouble. Everton were sloppy again, Waloctt's poor pass to not set up Tosun seeing the Foxes scamper upfield, Vardy wasting the opportunity.
(90+1' Schneiderlin Bernard and Leicester immediately won a corner. Amarty heading it inches wide. Calvert-Lewin came on for Walcott and demonstrated how utterly absent his shooting skills are. The frustration finally got to Chilwell, seeing yellow at the end, as Everton ran out winners on the back of two fine goals from their most expensive stars.
Scorers: Pereira (38'); Richarlison (8'), Sigurdsson (77')
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Chilwell, Maguire, Pereira (86' Okazaki), Morgan [Y:43', YR:63'], Amartey [Y:31'], Maddison (80' Ghezzal), Mendy, Ndidi, Vardy, Iheanacho (67' Albrighton).
Subs not Used: Ward, Fuchs, Evans, Iborra.
Everton: Pickford, Digne, Kenny, Keane, Zouma, Gueye, Davies [Y:44'] (71' Tosun), Walcott (90+3' Calvert-Lewin), Sigurdsson, Bernard (90+1' Schneiderlin), Richarlison.
Subs not Used: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Baines, Lookman.
Referee: Andre Marriner
Everton travel to Leicester this weekend looking to re-establish their momentum following Tuesday's predictable but no less dispiriting Carabao Cup defeat.
For the travelling Evertonians, the fact that this was supposed to be the first of two trips to the King Power Stadium this month will no doubt stick in the craw as they make their way to the East Midlands but there's no question that three points would make the defeat on penalties to Southampton a lot more palatable.
Having recovered to a degree from the awful result at home to West Ham with what was a creditable performance at Arsenal despite the loss and then a 3-0 win over Fulham at Goodison Park, some of the pressure will have returned to Marco Silva's shoulders.
His decision to make seven changes to a team that has been plagued in the early weeks of the season by inconsistent line-ups thanks to injury and suspension was a controversial one. Many supporters feel that it was the latest example of an Everton manager not taking the League Cup and the quest for any kind of major silverware seriously enough and it has the left the FA Cup as the only avenue to end the trophy drought this season.
If there was any notion in Silva's mind that finishing as high as possible in the Premier League is his only real objective, then Saturday's meeting with Leicester throws it back into sharp focus. Everton need a result from this game if they are to keep moving towards the goal of improving on last season's eight-place finish.
In the wake of last weekend's victory over Fulham, that cup defeat and the performances of a couple of key individuals, the manager's team selection will be the subject of much scrutiny. The likes of Jordan Pickford, Lucas Digne, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gueye will all return (fitness permitting) but there are question marks up front and in midfield.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin started against the Cottagers but, despite winning a penalty, it was largely felt that he had failed to impress and all three Blues goals on the day came after he had been withdrawn in favour of Cenk Tosun. The Turk scored his first goal of the campaign and while he was disappointing against Southampton, he could get the nod to face the Foxes over his younger team-mate.
Bernard's impact late in the game last weekend and the fact that he was one of the best on show in midweek mean that he is giving Silva a welcome selection headache. Unless the manager elects to use Richarlison up front, or drops Sigurdsson back into a No.8 role, there is no easy way to shoehorn the talented Brazilian into the team but the case for his inclusion from the start is getting stronger by the week.
He should play but may have to settle for the bench again this time but the pressure would really be on those chosen ahead of him to perform.
Leicester will start the day three points better off than Everton, having registered two more victories but with one of their main threats, Jamie Vardy, a doubt and Demarai Gray ruled, they might not be firing on all cylinders. In the absence of those two, Silva will most likely focus Gueye's attentions on keeping James Maddison quiet.
This fixture has been a bit of a mixed bag for Everton in recent seasons. A year after drawing 2-2 on the opening day on the Foxes' return to the top flight, the Blues obviously had to play second fiddle as Leicester clinched the title in 2016 with a 3-1 win. A Romelu Lukaku backed 2-0 win the following year was reversed last season as David Unsworth was unable to inspire his new charges following the sacking of Ronald Koeman.
Despite not having registered a victory on their travels so far, Everton have performed well away from Goodison so far so there is hope that with less pressure and the way that the manager has them set up to play on the road, they could spring a defeat on Leicester. A draw would do this time but a win would be a major fillip heading into another interruption to the League programme in the form of the latest international break.
Kick-off: 3pm, Saturday 6 October, 2018
Referee: Andre Marriner
Last Time: Leicester 2 - 0 Everton
Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Kenny, Keane, Zouma, Digne, Gueye, Davies, Sigurdsson, Walcott, Richarlison, Tosun