This was a potentially massive game for Everton, one in which a win would have been another “statement” result; a signal to the rest of the teams fighting it out in the top four that the Toffees can’t be easily discounted from the race for a Champions League spot.
They were well on their way to three points, a Premier League double over Leicester and a place back in the top four behind the Foxes when James Rodriguez produced the kind of moment of magic that few players on the planet can. It was a strike worthy of being the winner and but for a lapse by Jordan Pickford in the second half, well might have been.
That’s not to say that Everton would have been worthy winners; in truth, they were inferior to the visitors for long periods of the game, ceded two thirds of the possession to them overall, managed just two shots on target all game, and came within a 90th-minute Michael Keane block of giving up all three points.
But, just as they did at the King Power Stadium last month, they took the lead, were content to try and contain Leicester in defence of it and, no doubt, hoped that they could grab another to see the game out. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the strategy failed and Carlo Ancelotti’s attacking change in response to losing the lead came 10 minutes too late. As if to underline the point, they created two good scoring chances in the closing stages and with the Foxes suddenly uncertain in the face of their hosts’ late charge, you have to wonder how many more opportunities might have been carved out had Alex Iwobi come on sooner.
The Nigerian’s introduction for Mason Holgate injected the requisite energy into Everton’s attack that had often been lacking over the preceding 80 minutes. Perhaps the fitness of Iwobi, who missed the FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, wasn’t quite up to him starting but the team missed his direct running and with Richarlison continuing to disappoint, frustrate and confound in equal measure, André Gomes providing a solid if unspectacular presence and neither of Allan or Abdoulaye Doucouré there to add dynamism in midfield, the Blues often lacked fluidity and cohesion going forward.
Indeed, they were barely in the game for the opening quarter of an hour, a period of the contest where Leicester enjoyed almost 80% of the possession and it was telling that Rodriguez didn’t have a meaningful touch of the ball until he collected a return ball from André Gomes at a short corner and swung in a dangerous cross that Kasper Schmeichel had to fist away and Tom Davies skied the rebound high over the crossbar.
A couple of minutes earlier, James Maddison had whipped an effort a few inches over Pickford’s crossbar but despite Leicester’s early pressure, the Everton keeper wouldn’t be asked to make a save until first-half stoppage time.
In between, James handed Everton the lead with a tremendous piece of individual brilliance. Gomes’s sweeping cross-field ball had found Digne, who was playing as a left-midfielder again to accommodate Ben Godfrey and his pace at left-back, and after he laid it off first time to Rodriguez, Youri Tielemans’ out-stretched boot took the sting out of the Colombian’s attempted delivery into the Leicester box.
Wesley Fofana’s poor control of the ball was seized upon quickly by the alert James just outside the box and after dropping his shoulder to sashay to his right, he curled a lovely shot with his weaker foot around Schmeichel and into the goal via the far post.
Having extinguished much of Leicester’s early fire, finally got to grips with Harvey Barnes and restricted Maddison’s options, it was ultimately hugely disappointing that Everton failed to use the platform provided by Rodriguez to ramp up their game and look like a team capable of finishing in the top four.
Unfortunately, it was the away team once again who carried the greater threat in the early part of the second half, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin heading a Maddison free-kick over his own crossbar, James Justin placing a side-foot shot wide from a really promising position after Pickford had pushed away a Barnes effort and the England goalkeeper having to do similar to a teasing Tielemans delivery into his penalty area.
Sloppy fouls by Richarlison and Yerry Mina gifted inviting opportunities for Maddison to have a go from direct free-kicks but, thankfully, both efforts hit the defensive wall and in the 65th minute, Pickford had to be alert once more as Timothy Castange was played in and he centred for Justin into the six-yard box but the keeper smothered the ball at his feet.
Having played well up to that point, however, the liability aspect to Pickford’s game reared its head at an inopportune time. Michael Keane had done well to slide in to take the ball off Maddison’s toe and concede a corner, one that ended up with Barnes on the far side and his cross was sailing wide of the far post when Pickford lost his bearings and needlessly palmed it behind.
He flapped at that corner that Jonny Evans knocked back to Barnes who in turn passed square to Tielemans on the edge of the box and his shot flew past Holgate and Calvert-Lewin. The effort was close enough to the middle of the goal that it should have been fairly routine but Pickford got only a weak arm on it and it bounced in off the upright.
Seven minutes later, Maddison eased past Gomes and forced Pickford to parry behind and substitute Cengiz Under had an effort that deflected wide but it wasn’t until Iwobi came on with 10 minutes left that Everton displayed a bit more life.
Mina arced an excellent deep ball that found Richarlison wide on the left but Castagne got back quickly to knock it behind for a corner. Gylfi Sigurdsson, just on for the tiring James, swung in the resulting set-piece and Richarlison rose to meet it but couldn’t keep his header down.
Then, in the 89th minute, Fofana’s giveaway ended up with Digne and his cross found Calvert-Lewin in trademark territory eight yards out but the striker steered his header the wrong side of the post.
There was one last chance for Maddison when he popped up near the penalty spot at the other end but his shot took a decisive deflection off Keane and flew over and for a split second, Gomes looked to have a chance in front of goal from a corner but if bounced too heavily off his thigh. And that was pretty much that.
Obviously, in the context of the season, Leicester’s unbeaten form since Everton beat them a few weeks ago, and the manner in which Brendan Rodgers’s side held the upper hand in this game despite being without Jamie Vardy, a draw was a good result.
Given the potentially unique opportunity that this unpredictable season is presenting, though, every match feels like a cup final at the moment so when Everton don’t give a good account of themselves, which they clearly didn’t this evening, it’s hugely disappointing.
Nevertheless, they now have two eminently winnable matches against Newcastle and Leeds to come before they have to travel to Old Trafford where, in another 8:15pm kick-off, Manchester United betrayed their own fallibility by losing to the bottom club, Sheffield United.
Back-to-back wins in the next week would keep Everton very much in the hunt for the top four; they just have to find a lot more attacking potency than they had against Leicester if they are to get those six precious points.
Reader Comments (38)
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1 Posted 28/01/2021 at 07:35:53
We will meet tougher opposition than Leicester before the end of the season, and although we can say our midfield generals were missing in Doucoure and Allan, we still should be winning with home advantage.
The top of the league is now taking shape with the usual suspects aiming for the top four, but if we get those suspended and injured players back and go on a winning run of games we can still make the top four. Beating those regular top four teams must be a priority if we are to achieve our ambitions.
2 Posted 28/01/2021 at 08:28:47
3 Posted 28/01/2021 at 08:48:05
I have faith that Ancelotti must know the limitations of our squad, and have decided this is the best way to play, but like others, I find it deeply frustrating, especially when it doesnt come off.
Ultimately you need to score goals to win games.
4 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:02:52
5 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:19:28
6 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:38:46
Just what it is with Pickford I'm not sure. He can and does produce wonder saves, but he is inconsistent, a prime requisite one would have thought for a keeper, and I wonder if his concentration is all it should be.
Whatever it is, he lets his teammates and the supporters down far too often.
Last night for long stretches Leicester were in control of possession, but we defended well till the goalkeeping error.I do feel that we have a tendency if we get an early lead to sit on it and hope to see out games. It seems to be in the DNA of Everton managers. Ancelotti seems like Moyes and Allardyce to have a defensive mentality. His great days were probably at A.C. Milan in a league where defensive tactics are the norm. Ar Real Madrid and Chelsea such negativity wasn't always appreciated.
7 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:48:57
8 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:08:01
9 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:30:31
The Everton defenders worked so hard keeping Leicester out only to hit by a sucker punch by the Everton goal keeper.
Rodriguez scored an absolute beauty that no goal keep could have saved only for Pickford to let in another shot that most premier league keepers would have saved.
10 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:46:56
On a personal note I'm enjoying an amazing run of picking the correct scorer. In the Wolves game I had Keane to score a header, in the Sheff Wed game I had Richarlison to score a header and last night I had James to score from outside the area. Over those three matches I'm about £200 up! All those years I've wasted putting money on horses when this is clearly my calling.
11 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:50:58
We have to keep plugging away, the games are coming thick and fast at the moment. We are still close to the Champions League spots and apart from Manchester City there is no team out there that is significantly better than us, certainly none that we can't be competitive against.
Newcastle on Saturday is a must win and we follow up against Leeds which is a winnable game but by no means a gimmie.
Our results are outstripping our performances and until we add a bit more quality in the summer that will continue to be the case.
12 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:00:53
I feel like shouting from the rooftops, but we are doing well in spite of obvious frailties. The biggest of them is a lack of mobility and pace throughout the side. Godfrey aside, teams walk through us due to a lack of legs. The opposition beat us to most second balls and when you can't get regular possession, you can't create chances. Calvert Lewin has been starved of service in recent matches.
13 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:07:51
14 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:25:05
Last night showed us take a nail file to the gunfight for top places. Amazingly, David Moyes current penknife fighters are now three places above us !
15 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:54:06
This is a joke right? Should see him replaced? This man is the best manager Everton have had for decades and because we draw 1-1 at home against Leicester you want him replaced? Unbelievable.
The game plan almost worked last night. Nick a goal and defend for our lives and try and get all three points. Unfortunately everyone was up for the task expect, yet again, for our goalkeeper. No need to save the first cross, then punches the second cross, then pushes the ball into his own net, theres a guy who I think needs replacing as we cant allow him to keep costing us points. Ollsen needs to start Saturday and continue in goal, hes just not good enough Pickford, I have said it for years on these forums.
In Carlo we trust. We have to win Saturday no doubt about it. Just a shame we have thrown away opportunities at home against teams like West Ham, Leicester and Leeds. Good old Everton hey.
16 Posted 28/01/2021 at 12:01:53
17 Posted 28/01/2021 at 12:48:18
Carlo says it as I see it too. The point can be looked on as a positive only in the context of us picking up 3 agaisn't the Barcodes.
And another thing, we Evertonians need to purge that egregious match last season when they scored two goals in the 94th and 96th minute.
And one more thing , Olsen looks like a better overall keeper than Pickford. He deserves a run as no1 choice.
18 Posted 28/01/2021 at 14:26:16
As for West ham perhaps they're above us having played 2 more games.
19 Posted 28/01/2021 at 14:40:38
West Ham have now played one more game than us and you do have to begrudginly give Moyes credit, also spending a lot less than us.
We were set out to defend, inviting pressure on us; we were lucky to get a draw and, with the players, we have should be able to match Leicester City in midfeild as well as attack. This is down to management. We even took to a defensive roll against Rotherham, for fuck's sake, when we took a 1-0 lead.
No doubting Ancelotti's credentials but he does need to get braver with our approach to games...
20 Posted 28/01/2021 at 14:52:05
If we had a keeper of note we would have won that game. Ancelotti knows exactly what he is doing and his ‘rope a dope tactics would have worked if it wasnt for the goalkeeping error.
If we hadnt have employed those tactics Leicester would have taken us apart especially with two of our best players missing.
21 Posted 28/01/2021 at 14:56:52
"If we hadnt have employed those tactics Leicester would have taken us apart "
Barnes, Maddison are the young, fast, hungry players we want to see in our midfield.
Direct players with pace whos first thought is to pass or run forward.
We havent got that type at our club presently
22 Posted 28/01/2021 at 15:44:53
23 Posted 28/01/2021 at 16:08:42
24 Posted 28/01/2021 at 16:38:07
25 Posted 28/01/2021 at 17:02:02
Over the next month, WHU are playing Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool and Spurs. We'll see how the penknife holds up in those games.
26 Posted 28/01/2021 at 17:20:35
27 Posted 28/01/2021 at 19:22:06
But, let's not disrespect Leicester, they are a very good team right now. The disappointment of last night's performance aside, particularly second half, 4 points from a fellow top 6 challenger who could have gone joint top last night is not a bad return. I don't buy this "it's just Leicester" lark; they won the league very recently and have consistently been closer to where we want to be than we are in recent years. Easy to focus on the unfashionable name rather than look at what actually is on the pitch.
On Pickford, I don't disagree he is an issue and I've been as vocal as most in my criticism, but harking back to last summer, it wasn't a priority for us. In my opinion, he is a product of the modern English goalkeeper phenomenon. We love a shot stopper. Focus on cure rather than prevention in medical terms. What I mean by that is you ideally want your keeper to be the 5th defender. Command the box, organise the defence, come off the line early to collect crosses or sweep up a long through ball. The save is the last resort just as the tackle is for the defender, because if anticipated, both are unnecessary.
Looking at the table, we sit in a good place. Well within reach of our likely pre-season target and still potential to do more with key players yet to come back. I think we've weathered the winter storm fairly well considering we have been without those players in what was already a thread bare squad beyond the first 11.
28 Posted 28/01/2021 at 22:30:01
Carlo got it wrong buying Doucouré and Allan, knowing they'd both be unavailable for this match, and the one transfer window he's had, he was stupid enough to bring in those two, the useless James and that lunk Godfrey.
If he continues blowing money on second-raters, we'll be even worse off than fighting for a Champions League place. Come back, Silva or Koeman.
29 Posted 29/01/2021 at 00:34:02
30 Posted 29/01/2021 at 01:46:14
Im nervous about Olsen because I havent seen him much so it reminds me of a few years back when we had the “Robles cant be worse than Howard” movement based on hope rather than fact.
31 Posted 29/01/2021 at 05:03:27
32 Posted 29/01/2021 at 06:58:58
I hope you get this message. Did want to contact you but didn't want to make it public on this site. Sadly Harry died on New Years Day and his funeral was on Wednesday. Unfortunately because of this pandemic I was unable to attend with living in Kent.
33 Posted 29/01/2021 at 07:22:41
34 Posted 29/01/2021 at 14:42:40
Terrible, thoughts are with you. Just goes to show us all sometimes that footy is just a game of footy. Sorry for your loss.
35 Posted 29/01/2021 at 15:41:38
36 Posted 29/01/2021 at 16:45:29
Got to beat Newcastle but somewhat unimportant relative to "Life" itself.
37 Posted 29/01/2021 at 17:27:20
38 Posted 29/01/2021 at 18:48:07
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