Everton were the latest victims of newly promoted Leeds United’s swashbuckling style after The Whites took all three points from Goodison Park this evening.
Buoyed by a return to winning ways at Fulham last weekend, Everton started with an unconventional formation, with Tom Davies and Alex Iwobi playing as inverted wing-backs. Whilst Iwobi worked well in this position last weekend, he was found wanting all too often for Carlo Ancelotti’s liking as Leeds roamed free down Everton’s left.
The visitors’ high press caught Everton cold on many occasions in the first half. Great opportunities came and went for the likes of Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and skipper Luke Ayling, with Jordan Pickford producing a handful of stunning sides to keep a rampant Leeds at bay. At times, it appeared Marcelo Bielsa’s side had an extra man such was the intensity and accuracy of their passing and going into the break, the Argentine will have been frustrated that the game was still level.
That’s not to say that Everton didn’t have their fair share of chances in the first period. Their first meaningful attack of the game nearly resulted in the opener, with Davies’ excellent cross to the stretching Abdoulaye Doucoure diverted to safety by Illan Meslier in goal. This was followed by two disallowed goals from James Rodrguez and Richarlison, both of which were close but correct calls by referee Chris Kavanagh. Despite not being at their best in the first half, Everton had caused Leeds enough problems to suggest a goal for the home side might not be too far away.
Half time- Everton 0-0 Leeds
After a frantic first ten minutes or so of the second half, the game began to cool, with both teams only offering threats when on the break. Leeds continued to find a man with ease, however, whilst Everton’s passing fell way below the standards needed to break the Bielsa press. The introduction of Andre Gomes and Fabian Delph stemmed this flow of poor interplay somewhat but neither player brought the attacking endeavour required to turn the game in The Toffees’ favour.
Meanwhile, Leeds looked comfortable and, most importantly, confident. Even the most cynical of Evertonians would admit they looked the part on Saturday evening. In Phillips and Klich, they have an outstanding central midfield, which is as tenacious as it is technical, and in their front three they possess genuine pace, power and potency. Whilst a little shaky at the back at times, this is a team of unquestionable class.
That class was to tell ten minutes from time. A well worked counter saw the ball find the impressive Raphina on the edge of the box. Aided by a passive Ben Godfrey, the Leeds winger’s neat footwork presented him with the space needed to rifle past Pickford into the Everton net and give the newly promoted side a well-deserved lead. Whilst they weren’t at their creative best after the interval, Leeds’ structure and composure throughout the match had warranted that moment.
It was to prove to be the last highlight in an otherwise tepid last ten. Everton are a poor side when chasing a lead. They resort to loose, direct football which often brings about more problems than answers. If they were to find an equaliser, it was to come through luck, as they showed no signs of breaching the Leeds backline.
Carlo Ancelotti has done a lot of good since arriving at Everton last December but he has to improve The Blues’ creativity if they are to regain their momentum from the start of the campaign. Leeds are a very good side, yes, but with the money spent and the personnel on display, Everton should have been much closer to the former than they were today.
Full Time- Everton 0- Leeds United 1