An impressive second-half performance from Leeds United wasn’t enough to rescue a point against Carlo Ancelotti’s resolute Everton side in a game which saw a return to the scoresheet for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The two sides came into this game at a newly resurfaced Elland Road in different veins of form. Leeds United had won their last two fixtures, including a surprise victory over Leicester City, which had moved Marcelo Bielsa’s men to within two points of the top half. Everton, meanwhile, had not won in the league since their victory against Wolves on the 12th January and had barely recovered from their shock loss to Newcastle United.
Despite their positive result at the weekend, the three points against Leicester had come at the cost of Rodrigo, with the Spanish striker being ruled out for a number of weeks following an injury sustained against the Foxes. Mateusz Klich took his place in the starting lineup as the Pole looked to work his way back into the positive form he had found earlier in the season. Everton made four changes to their starting 11. James Rodriguez, Michael Keane, Seamus Coleman and Jordan Pickford all making way for Andre Gomes, Ben Godfrey, Mason Holgate and Robin Olsen as Ancelotti tried to mastermind a return to form.
Ahead of the game, a minutes applause was dedicated to Sir Tom Moore, who died yesterday. The national hero entered the hearts and minds of the nation through his words and actions and will be remembered as a shining light of hope and dedication for everyone.
The game then kicked off, and Leeds seemed determined to carry on where they’d left off at the King Power Stadium. Within a minute, Raphinha had forced a block inside the area and won a corner. Leeds’ delivery from set-pieces has improved in recent weeks, but the resulting kick did not threaten the Everton defence.
The game then slowed down. Carlo Ancelotti had sent his team out to play football at their own pace to prevent Leeds from sucking them into a basketball game, and it seemed to work. The home team failed to build up any momentum to their attacks as Abdoulaye Doucoure and Andre Gomes marshalled the midfield. When they won the ball, the midfield looked to switch it out to the wings quickly, with Lucas Digne and Alex Iwobi constantly pushing wide to create option. This tactic had effect almost immediately as Everton went ahead within 10 minutes.
Leeds lost the ball in midfield. Andre Gomes span and stroked a ball into the path of Digne. Raphinha had stayed with the Frenchman but was unable to cut out the cross. Gylfi Sigurdsson came crashing onto the ball in the middle of the box and turned home pat Meslier. The goal was much to easy for the Toffees, Kalvin Phillips had lost his man on the edge and his side had been punished for it. The important thing for Leeds now was to react as they had against Leicester.
Mateusz Klich attempted to curl one from a distance as his side pushed forward, Robin Olsen was there to tip it past the post. Patrick Bamford then met a Luke Ayling cross in the air, but his header sailed up into the air. Ezgjan Alioski then came as close to a goal as Leeds had been when he volleyed sweetly from the edge of the box directly from a corner, only to see his shot rebound off the post.
It didn’t end there though, Pascal Struijk, so impressive in defence recently, came close to his first senior goal when he nodded a Kalvin Phillips free-kick towards the Everton net, even a deflection off the head of Dominic Calvert-Lewin was not enough to carry the ball in though, and Leeds won another corner.
Everton were still in this game though and offered Leeds a swift reminder when Illan Meslier was forced into a save from Gylfi Sigurdsson after Ben Godfrey had gone on a run from deep. This opportunity seemed to encourage the visiting team and they had a spell of pressure of their own. Alioski lost the ball in midfield and gave Calvert-Lewin the chance to counter. The Englishman brought the ball forward but opted to shoot rather than lay-off the better placed Richarlison, Meslier was there to make the save.
Then Everton won a corner, and we all know what happens from those. A good delivery was flicked-on and Calvert-Lewin was at the back post to turn in. Luke Ayling was the responsible party this time, having failed to stick with his man.
So it was 0-2 heading into the break, with the visiting side perhaps slightly lucky to be heading in with a clean sheet.
That clean sheet didn’t last long though, only three minutes after the restart, Leeds were back in it. Some excellent pressure from Jack Harrison won the ball back inside the opposition area, Patrick Bamford slid the ball across to the arriving winger and Raphinha curled home with a lovely first-time effort.
Again, Leeds piled on the pressure. Stuart Dallas unleashes a venomous volley from the edge of the box which was blocked. Mateusz Klich was then played in and had the freedom the 18-yard box to pick a pass, but ended up missing everyone. Then came the maddest spell of the game, a one minute period which could have seen Leeds have the ball in the net four times, but instead ensured that post-match plaudits would be sent the way of Robin Olsen.
It started with a Mateusz Klich shot from 18-yards, it was heading down the ‘keepers’ throat before Patrick Bamford got a touch on it. Somehow Olsen reacted quick enough to keep the ball out. The chance was not over there though, the ball was moving in the air and, upon it bouncing, the spin sent it towards the goal. Olsen was ready again though, he had somehow rotated himself around to push the ball away again. Raphinha was onto it this time though and shot from a narrow-angle. Saved again. Finally, the ball fell to Jack Harrison, who lashed a volley towards the near-post where Robin Olsen was waiting to make the save.
That was the chance for Leeds to equal things up, but they were forced to keep pushing. Patrick Bamford headed onto the crossbar from a looping Stuart Dallas cross as Leeds hit the woodwork for a second time.
Calvert Lewin then had a few chances to bury the game. His first came from an angle, a shot that was easily saved by Meslier. Then came the big one. Doucoure collected the ball in his own half and ran it forward brilliantly. He played Calvert-Lewin in one-on-one with Meslier, but the young goalkeeper read the situation excellently and made an important save.
Unfortunately, it would count for nothing. Leeds pushed until the end, Luke Ayling had a shot blocked inside the area and Tyler Roberts put a volley over the bar in the last minute, but it wasn’t enough to break down the defence of the travelling team. Marcelo Bielsa admitted after the game that he thought a draw would have been a fair result, and I can’t help but agree. The second-half performance was much improved though, and 3 points from two games against top-six contenders isn’t bad going at all. The focus now is on Monday, as Leeds look to right the wrongs of their 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace earlier in the season.