Leicester – Everton saw the Foxes’ home struggles continue as they labored to a 2-0 home defeat to the Toffees at the King Power Stadium on Wednesday.
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Richarlison and Mason Holgate got the goals for Everton, who put forth a brilliant, workmanlike away performance to secure all three points and climb up to 5th in the Premier League table (for the time being).
Leicester, meanwhile, fall to 4th in the table after Southampton’s 1-1 draw away to Arsenal.
3 things we learned: Leicester – Everton
1. Leicester need a plan B: At home (7 games): 9 points, 9 goals scored. Away from home (6 games): 15 points, 15 goals scored. While that might seem backwards, it makes total sense when you consider Brendan Rodgers’ (over)-reliance on defending deep and launching quick counter-attacks. Away from home, most sides don’t extend themselves far enough to be beaten on the counter, and Leicester’s goal-scoring prospects suffer. When Leicester are the away side, it’s a far different story as even the lesser sides try to control the game to a larger degree, and Jamie Vardy has room to run in behind. All of that to say: time for a plan B, at least at home.
2. Injury-prone players usually get injured: Coming into the season, Everton fans were (rightly) excited about their side’s potential after signing highly-rated midfielders James Rodriguez and Allan. At the same time, neutral onlookers were worried about the duo’s lengthy injury history — rightly skeptical their bodies would hold up for a 38-game season even under the best (non-condensed) circumstances. September and October were wonderful for the Toffees as Rodriguez and Allan were healthy and fantastic. Then came November, and Rodriguez was showing up on the injury report with alarming regularity. He was fit enough to play, but hardly effective. Wednesday marked his second straight game missed, and also saw Allan suffer a hamstring injury that forced him off and appeared to have the Brazilian in considerable pain.
3. Top-four a bridge too far for either side: Given Everton’s injury issues — despite the result on Wednesday — the Toffees don’t have the feel of legitimate top-four contenders. They’ll outwork and outsmart plenty of teams this season, but they’ll struggle against the Premier League’s giants. As for Leicester, the Foxes are effectively handicapped by their every-game approach and will drop points in far too many games — for example, on Wednesday — they need to be winning.
Richarlison fired Everton ahead in the 21st minute, and Kasper Schmeichel will be wanting another crack at a save he should have made quite comfortably. The Brazilian cut in from the left wing and unleashed a powerful, bouncing strike from 22 yards out. Schmeichel saw it the whole way and put himself in perfect position to make the save. He just missed the ball.
Leicester needed a 15 or 20 to settle into the game and find their footing, but the scoring chances started to come after Everton took their lead. Vardy got his head to James Justin’s cross with goalkeeper Robin Olsen helpless in goal. The only problem: Vardy headed it straight into the hands of Olsen.
Leicester had another quality chance in the 27 minute, when Cengiz Under fired from 20 yards outs and forced Olsen into a fantastic desperation save low and to his right.
Mere seconds later, Everton should have gone 2-0 ahead. Dominic Calvert-Lewin had a virtually free header just outside the six-yard box. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner kick found him and all Calvert-Lewin had to do was put the ball either side of Schmeichel. Instead, he put it straight down the middle and into the big Dane’s waiting hands.
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Given his side’s halftime advantage, Carlo Ancelotti sent the Toffees out to do one thing, and one thing only, in the second half: defend, and they did it masterfully well. Leicester had an incredible amount of possession, but the Foxes could do very little with it as Everton erected an invisible wall around their penalty area.
Everton had few chances, but they needed just one, from a corner kick in the 72nd minute, to double their lead and put the game to bed. Again it was Sigurdsson who delivered the ball into the box. Schmeichel made the initial save, and the follow-up was blocked right in front of goal, but Holgate pounced to poke the ball home on the third try.
Leicester thought they had been handed a late lifeline in the 82nd minute as Andre Gomes, who replaced the injured Allan, was initially deemed to have tripped Ayoze Perez in the box. Upon video review, Gomes got the slightest touch on the ball first and the penalty was rescinded.
More frustration came for Leicester in the 89th minute, as Perez turned home a corner kick from an offside position after Vardy headed it on at the near post.