Leicester City 2 v 0 Everton
Report by Stuart Dawkins
When Sky picked this match for television, I suspect they were merely ticking off their quota of matches for these two relatively unfashionable clubs. They could not have anticipated one brand-new manager and one manager-less team, but that is what they got.
It was the traditional Remembrance Day fixture, and the use of the clap banners (together with plastic sheet for the away fans) worked well to produce a poppy-based backdrop to a moving rendition of the Last Post before kick-off.
Puel started with a trick up his sleeve: his first game in charge saw an imaginatively-chosen City line-up. Mahrez took the ‘number 10’ spot, with the youth of Gray and Chilwell chosen to provide pace and width. It looked like a side chosen to play against slow opposition, and for the majority of the first half, the plan worked a treat.
City players got behind the Everton defence a handful of times in the first quarter hour. City’s midfield dominated Everton’s, with Ndidi making a deep-lying Rooney look ordinary on numerous occasions. What was noticeable was that the flair players – Mahrez, Gray and Chilwell – were using an intelligent combination of running and passing. Too often this season the passing element has been absent.
City should have taken the lead in the ninth minute, when Chilwell skied a good opportunity. The deserved breakthrough did come around ten minutes later. It was a very good goal; Puel’s trick-and-treat plan personified. Gray took possession on the edge of his own box. He beat three players, outsprinting the Everton midfield with ease, then released Mahrez. The rest was predictable for a City team playing well: Mahrez found the by-line and cut the ball across the box for Vardy to sweep the ball in. The move took seconds to cover 100 yards, and was no more than Leicester deserved.
The number of times City players were beating their Everton counter-parts for speed and power was almost embarrassing. Ten minutes later, that dominance led to a second goal. Gray found himself on the left wing. His low cross did not reach Vardy, but Everton defender Kenny hooked the ball into his own net.
It looked as though Leicester would get a hatful. For the first 30 minutes Everton were as poor as any Premier League side I have seen. To their credit, they improved towards the end of the half, but only to the tune of a succession of long distance shots and corners. Fuchs was, however, lucky that his challenge from behind in the box did not result in a penalty, but other than that there was no substantial threat from the visitors.
Caretaker-manager Unsworth made two substitutions at the interval, and the second half was more of a contest. City’s players seemed slower: spending too much time on the ball, in contrast to the first half when passing and movement had been slicker. It was the City defence that caught the eye now, with Morgan giving his best performance for a while, clearing up several Everton moves that had the potential to menace the City goal.
Puel brought on, in turn, Okazaki, Albrighton and Iheanacho for Mahrez, Chilwell and Vardy. Unsworth brought on the £50m Sigurdsson for Rooney. City held on and Everton barely registered a shot on goal.
It was a good home performance and a deserved win. The way that Gray and Mahrez swapped roles throughout the game was interesting, and it was arguably Gray’s best game in a City shirt. Iborra continues to improve. Against today’s opposition he looked completely relaxed and in control: my girlfriend suggested that more performances like this might persuade the Club Shop to sell an Iborra-branded smoking jacket for Christmas (I’d probably buy one). Ndidi was solid. Chilwell had a decent game, although not as eye-catching as he can be.
Everton are a team in trouble. Even during the second half, when they had a lot of possession and attacking play, they did not look like scoring. The City faithful happily sang “all that money and you’re going down”, and unless a new manager makes significant changes for the visitors, that may well be an accurate prediction.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Gray, Ndidi, Iborra, Chilwell, Mahrez, Vardy. Subs: Iheanacho, King, Albrighton, Hamer, Dragovic, Slimani, Okazaki
Everton: Pickford, Kenny, Jagielka, Williams, Baines, Lennon, Davies, Gueye, Mirallas, Rooney, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Schneiderlin, Sigurdsson, Niasse, Holgate, Lookman, Robles, Baningime
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation