James strikes a beauty but Everton otherwise disappoint

This was a potentially massive game for Everton, one in which a win would have been another “statement” result but the Blues often lacked fluidity and cohesion going forward

Lyndon Lloyd 27/01/2021 38comments  |  Jump to last

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.

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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.

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Reader Comments (38)

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Mal van Schaick
1 Posted 28/01/2021 at 07:35:53
This is exactly the type of game we should be winning if we have aspirations of European football.

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.

Bill Fairfield
2 Posted 28/01/2021 at 08:28:47
Good point in the end,but a decision needs making about the goalkeeper,Pickford looks a bag of nerves.
Dan Kemp
3 Posted 28/01/2021 at 08:48:05
We might not enjoy it, but pretty much the same tactics worked against the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal at home. KITAP1, isn’t it?

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 doesn’t come off.

Ultimately you need to score goals to win games.

Brian Murray
4 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:02:52
Bill. Not really a bag of nerves just not good enough for a top four club aspirations.
Joe McMahon
5 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:19:28
We have about 6-7 good, top 4 players. Olsen has to be in goal now surely. We need Richie with his Mojo back and we really do need a striker that can score a 25 yarder which may complement DCL nearer the goal.
Rick Tarleton
6 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:38:46
I'd love to read, as I did in my paper this morning, "England Keeper Saves His Team" when it was refering to Pickford. This time it was basically a headline about Pope and Burnley.
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.
Danny Broderick
7 Posted 28/01/2021 at 09:48:57
Why is it I much prefer Lyndon’s headlines?!
John Ballinger
8 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:08:01
Surely Carlo can see that Pickford is an absolute liability. He made two errors for the Leicester goal. First - he had no need to palm a shot around the post that was going wide, and second he should have saved what was a pretty easy shot. If Olsen had been in goal we would have won the game. I've yet to see Olsen make a mistake. At best Pickford should be Olsen's backup and not the other way around. Perhaps this will happen if we sign him permanently. Come on Carlo - your misplaced loyalty to Pickford cost us 2 points and fourth place tonight
Steavey Buckley
9 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:30:31
How many times does it have to become obvious to the manager that Pickford gets continually beaten by shots hit outside the area along the ground when well within Pickford's reach?

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.

James Lauwervine
10 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:46:56
I was fuming at Pickford and agree with those calling for Olsen, but, to be honest, we were fortunate to get away with a draw and we missed Doucoure. Mal #1, I don't think home advantage exists anymore with an empty stadium, which is one of the reasons we've done so well away from home.
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.
Christopher Timmins
11 Posted 28/01/2021 at 10:50:58
The way we are set up at the moment reflects the manager's view of the current players. We don't have the talent to play a more expansive kind of game against the likes of Leicester. We have been without Allan for a considerable period of time and James has just returned to the fold. How they have been missed.

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.

Mat McConville
12 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:00:53
Leicester are a strong team and clearly it was a Carlo tactic to let them have the ball and retreat to stop them springing the counter, which is what they do so effectively. A Pickford mistake stopped the plan being executed to perfection. Spurned chances by Gomez and Calvert-Lewin could have made it comfortable despite having no ball.

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.

Brian Murray
13 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:07:51
More bad news. Carlo once again backing this idiot in goal. Obviously the talk and hunger for champions league is not what it was for Carlo. Never have a better chance.
Derek Taylor
14 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:25:05
Everton are now in the position - 7th - where I expect us to finish. Anything below that will be down to Angelotti's team selection and bizarre tactics and should see him being replaced. Brands should go with him for failing abysmally to provide the great man with the tools for the job - strikers !

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 !

Graeme Beresford
15 Posted 28/01/2021 at 11:54:06
Derek #14.

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, there’s a guy who I think needs replacing as we can’t allow him to keep costing us points. Ollsen needs to start Saturday and continue in goal, he’s just not good enough Pickford, I have said it for years on these forum’s.

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.

Dave Abrahams
16 Posted 28/01/2021 at 12:01:53
When Carlo finally opted to make substitutions we had three good chances, not the first time he has left it too late with his subs or made poor made bad swops, this time he got them right but too late.
Tony Everan
17 Posted 28/01/2021 at 12:48:18
We played a good team with a superior midfield, we struggled to get any hold on the game or retain possession for most of the 90 minutes. It was a painful watch but the draw has to be accepted as a good result considering our first choice CMs Allan Doucoure were out. We are a lesser team without them and a player giving quality cover for them will be needed in the summer tranfer window.

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.

Kevin Turner
18 Posted 28/01/2021 at 14:26:16
Derek #14 seems conflicted. He calls Carlo a "great man" then wants him sacked if we finish blow 7th but goes on to blame Brands for not making the right signings.
As for West ham perhaps they're above us having played 2 more games.
Mick Roberts
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...

Andrew Clare
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 wasn’t for the goalkeeping error.
If we hadn’t have employed those tactics Leicester would have taken us apart especially with two of our best players missing.
Thomas Richards
21 Posted 28/01/2021 at 14:56:52

"If we hadn’t 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

Frank Fearns
22 Posted 28/01/2021 at 15:44:53
Kevin 18 - West Ham are above us because they're a better team. They recently beat us and having watched them since then Moyes has them playing with pace, guile and tenacity. Sadly we don't possess any of those attributes and seem content to sit back with a game plan of playing defensively. All the time we do this it leaves us very vulnerable. All attackers know that our goalie is very susceptible and likely to make errors ( last night was a classic example) and will shoot from anywhere knowing there'll be a fumble at some point.
Fran Mitchell
23 Posted 28/01/2021 at 16:08:42
West Ham are above us also because they have played more games.
Ian Horan
24 Posted 28/01/2021 at 16:38:07
Derek @14, you are either a windup merchant or a redshite supporter. We are 7th because we have played the least number of games
Kieran Kinsella
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.

Geoff Williams
26 Posted 28/01/2021 at 17:20:35
Second best for much of the match and fortunate to earn a point. Pickford's blunder was inexcusable but the lack of attacking ambition is also a major worry. Richarlison defended set pieces really well but as an attacker he was totally ineffective. Anything less than a convincing win against Newcastle will be a huge disappointment
Danny O’Neill
27 Posted 28/01/2021 at 19:22:06
I always try not to repeat myself too much between Michael and Lyndon's reports.

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.

Mick Davies
28 Posted 28/01/2021 at 22:30:01
I agree, Anceloti needs to be given his P45. Pulis is available, and after Saturday, maybe the guy with more clubs than Tiger Woods, who's done a marvellous job at the Toon.

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.

Brian Swift
29 Posted 29/01/2021 at 00:34:02
Sitting at home watching Everton, every time the ball ends up in our box, I am a nervous wreck, with Pickford in goal. But with Olson I feel confident in his ability. God knows how the back four feel.
Kieran Kinsella
30 Posted 29/01/2021 at 01:46:14
Mick 28 lmao

Brian 29

I’m nervous about Olsen because I haven’t seen him much so it reminds me of a few years back when we had the “Robles can’t be worse than Howard” movement based on hope rather than fact.

John Boon
31 Posted 29/01/2021 at 05:03:27
Frank Fearns (22). If you see this, I have presumed you are Harry's brother and I never thought he was a Blue. I happen to agree with exactly what you said about the Leicester game and delighted that you don't have the Red disease. Would like to contact your brother if possible. Let me know. I haven't been able to insult him in many years.
Frank Fearns
32 Posted 29/01/2021 at 06:58:58
John 31,

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 Year’s Day and his funeral was on Wednesday. Unfortunately because of this pandemic I was unable to attend with living in Kent.

Steve Shave
33 Posted 29/01/2021 at 07:22:41
Mick Davies - take a bow son, hilarious.
Graeme Beresford
34 Posted 29/01/2021 at 14:42:40
Frank Fearns.

Terrible, thoughts are with you. Just goes to show us all sometimes that footy is just a game of footy. Sorry for your loss.

Frank Fearns
35 Posted 29/01/2021 at 15:41:38
Graeme. Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.
John Boon
36 Posted 29/01/2021 at 16:45:29
Hi Frank...Deeply saddened by the news. I have asked TW to pass on my email to you or yours to me. Sincere Condolences. Hope to make contact.

Got to beat Newcastle but somewhat unimportant relative to "Life" itself.

Nicholas Ryan
37 Posted 29/01/2021 at 17:27:20
Pickford is more likely to catch Covid than he is to catch a cross!
Frank Fearns
38 Posted 29/01/2021 at 18:48:07
Thanks John. I did have a look to see if I could access your email address but I must have missed something. More than happy to exchange emails I can then fill in more about Harry. Will be in touch.

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