Everton’s excellent week continued with an outstanding 2-0 victory at The King Power Stadium against Leicester City.
Following on from his side’s exceptional win against Chelsea at the weekend, Carlo Ancelotti made just the one change to his starting eleven. It was to be a surprising switch. In-form goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made way for the on-loan Robin Olsen, who has made just one appearance for the club since his arrival from AFC Roma in the summer.
Enthused by three straight wins in all competitions, Leicester began brightly, testing Everton’s back four with quick interchanges between the likes of Maddison, Barnes and the ever-threatening Jamie Vardy. But with the likes of Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré in their midfield, Everton held firm and began to work their way into the match, showing glimpses of threatening play on the break.
It was through such a phase of play that the deadlock was broken. After twenty one minutes of play, the visitors shifted the ball wide to Richarlison, who cut back inside and unleashed a low, powerful drive past Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal. Whilst the goalkeeper should have pushed the shot to safety, the goal was an illustration of the threat which Richarlison can pose on the counter and how with service and space, the Brazilian can test most, if not all defences in the big league.
In typical Everton fashion, however, Leicester almost equalised straight from the restart. A brilliant burst and cross from James Justin, who was arguably The Foxes’ best performer on the night, saw the ball fall to an unmarked Vardy, who headed straight at Olsen. Either side and the hosts would have been level.
Following this chance, Everton reverted to the strong, unified structure that had characterised the first fifteen minutes or so of the match. This was to suffer a major blow though when Allan was forced off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The heartbeat of this Everton team, his departure not only cast doubt on the outcome of the match but also on how Everton’s Christmas period is to unfold.
In his absence, who would stand up and be counted for The Toffees?
Half time- Leicester 0-1 Everton
The second half started in a very similar vein to the first: some positive flashes from Leicester here and there but for the most part a tepid tempo, lacking the urgency needed to really test the resilient away side.
Half chances for Tielemanns and Maddison came and went but Everton were extremely comfortable. Much of this was indebted to Doucouré, who enjoyed arguably his best game in an Everton jersey.
Responsible for two outstanding interceptions, the Frenchman dominated the middle of park, breaking up play with an ease that was reminiscent of former Toffee Idrissa Gana Gueye. After an inconsistent start at Goodison Park, you would hope that after this display the Doucouré that was raved about at Vicarage Road will emerge once again.
Following twenty five minutes of soaking up Leicester pressure, Ancelotti’s men clinched a crucial second. After a Sigurdsson corner caused great confusion in the Leicester penalty area, Mason Holgate poked the ball home to put the game beyond doubt.
It was a goal Holgate’s performance deserved. Despite reservations about his ability as a right back, he kept the tricky Barnes silent for the ninety minutes and showed a willingness to offer an option on the overlap, something that has been severely lacking on Everton’s right this season.
They may not be fullbacks by trade but both Holgate and Ben Godfrey have been outstanding for Everton in recent weeks. Whilst limited in attacking quality, both players give Everton the agility and energy needed to make the side’s back four a competent defensive unit, one that has been responsible for back-to-back clean sheets against two high flying sides in recent days.
With ten minutes to go, Leicester tried to turn up the heat but to no avail. They will feel disappointed not to have had a penalty after Ayoze Perez fell in the penalty area after a clumsy challenge from substitute André Gomes but in all honesty, it would have been unfair to take a goal away from The Toffees tonight.
Sharp, focused and extremely well-disciplined, it appears Ancelotti’s decision to go back to the functional system that defined the early part of his stay on Merseyside is working wonders at the moment. With an out of sorts Arsenal set to visit the 2,000 fans at Goodison on Saturday, it would be hard not to argue against the Italian’s well-oiled machine making it three wins from three before Christmas hits.
Full time- Leicester City 0-2 Everton