EVERTON 2 FOXES 1
Match Report by Graham Tracey
A long and intense day for all of us connected with the club ended with a second 2-1 defeat on Merseyside since Christmas. With our players no doubt distracted by the Mahrez saga, we threw away the game with two soft first half goals Ben Chilwell completed a sobering month in his still fledgling career following his red card at Chelsea by being at fault for both the Everton goals.
It was a below par performance by the whole team, with more misplaced simple passes than I can remember for a long time. Nonetheless, there was much to regret, as we could still have taken something from the game, hitting the woodwork three times and enabling the Toffeemen to close the gap on us in the league.
News came through around 5.00 that talks with Man City about Mahrez moving had broken down. I supported our stance, and hope that the player can take on board that he will have our blessing to leave in the summer when we have the luxury of time. Meantime, why not try and win us the FA Cup! Reports of him alienating his teammates by wagging training are of course though worrying.
In other news, I was gobsmacked that we have let both Slimani and Ulloa go out on loan. For me, one of these ariel threats on the bench is crucial and was sorely missed tonight. I remember Matt Eliot scoring a brace as a stand-in centre forward on this ground. It was also a sad day to see Andy King prepare to wear another shirt. For many years, I would have reckoned that Leicester would be simply too strong for him to feature as unlikely as my boyhood hope that we would one day be better than Forest! Finally, not taking the chance to offload Calamity Benalouane, especially now that Huth is back, is unfathomable to me.
Despite the changes and uncertainty in our ranks, we played well for the first 20 minutes. James, Amartey and Dragovic all showed composure in their roles, finding their feet in their extended runs in the team. The Puel way of controlling games through greater possession was in evidence. However, our only threat was the crosses of Albrighton, notably when Ndidi headed against the bar from a corner. Vardy could not get a touch of the ball, and Gray unfortunately had his worst game for us, just when he could have made a statement about his succession to Mahrez.
The home crowd were quiet at a normally atmospheric ground, and I was conscious that we should not let them get the first goal. However, Chilwell dallied ridiculously in his own box rather than clearing, and the ball was squared for Theo Walcott to score his first goal for his new club. Niasse then missed a sitter from Amartey’s lame clearance. However, the reprieve was short-lived, as Rooney had time to float the ball into the box, and it was headed across goal where Chilwell lost Walcott at the far post who scored again. From the kick off, we gave Niasse a one-on-one but luckily he overran it. We were lucky to be only two down at half time, but there looked little chance of a revival.
I recalled a comment by Ruud Gullit on Match of the Day a while ago: “football is a game of the least mistakes”. Wise words, unlike the moronic utterings of Danny Murphy about us every time he is on the same show.
The weather deteriorated in the second half, and the streets were actually starting to flood outside at full time. I had a dismal view on the front row by the corner flag, actually below pitch level and got soaked, but sat near a lovely bunch of seasoned fans from a coach and our disabled supporters
We got a lifeline through an unexpected penalty that could only be seen by watching TV later – it looked soft with a tug on Ndidi by Rooney. However, Vardy got us back in it with his much improved tactic of aiming for the corner with his spot kicks.
Diabate and Iheanacho came on as subs, as did Fuchs as we went 3-5-2. From a corner, the more confident-looking Iheanacho flicked then hooked the ball onto the bar and post within seconds of each other. It was an agonising moment. Shortly after, James could not steer home a great cross from Chilwell, which he may well have done in dry conditions. Everton ran down the clock, and the ‘not our night’ feel was summed up by the last act of the game, when Fuchs wound up for a long throw but could not grip the ball and it went straight up in the air.
There have been countless ups and downs in the season and a half since we were champions. At the weekend, I felt we were in a great place, but with word that Mahrez may not be mentally fit to play for some time, our season stands at a crossroads once again. We have seen Puel the tactician – now we must hope to see Puel the man manager.
CITY: Schmeichel 7, Amartey 6, Chilwell 2, McGuire 7, Dragovic 7, Albrighton 7, Ndidi 6, James 6, Gray 4, Vardy 6, Okazaki 5. Subs: Diabate, Iheanacho, Fuchs
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