Everton 0 City 1
Report by Colin Hall
A 58th minute strike from Jamie Vardy proved enough to secure victory for Leicester City in the first Premier League game of 2019.
Vardy's winner gave the Foxes only their second league victory at Goodison Park since 1985 and the first win in a game televised live on Sky since a 2-0 victory, also against Everton, in October 2017.
But while the team and the Blue Army will take heart from beginning the new year in positive fashion, the manner in which this result was achieved will do little resolve the long-raging debate within the fanbase over whether Claude Puel is the man to take the club forward.
After the horror show against Cardiff the previous weekend, it was no surprise that Puel rang changes. The banishment of the attacking trio of James Maddison, Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray to the bench left little doubt as to the area of the side the City boss held most responsible for that dismal display.
In welcome contrast to several recent City visits to this venue, the game began in bright sunshine. However the first half did little credit to either side or to the league whose upper reaches they currently occupy, with misplaced passes in abundance and instances of creativity rather less so.
The home side managed just one meaningful attempt on goal during the opening 45 minutes, when a long-range drive from Kenny struck the top of the visitors' crossbar. At the other end, Ghezzal, who had hitherto endured a particularly wretched afternoon, managed the first Foxes effort on target, albeit with a tame effort comfortably saved by Pickford.
Nevertheless, Puel heeded the calls from the visiting contingent for Albrighton's introduction, and the substitute certainly raised the tempo in the City attack when taking the field after the interval.
But it still remained likely that the opening goal would be a result of individual error rather than inspiration, and so it was to prove.
A Kasper Schmeichel clearance was headed backwards by Walcott and miscued by former Foxes loanee Keane into the path of Ricardo Pereira. The Portuguese international, playing in an unfamiliar left-midfield role, instantly sent Vardy clear on goal, and the veteran striker found the net with a fine angled left-foot drive.
The goal did not cause City to change their game plan or instil any noticeable sense of urgency in the home side. The visiting defence – protected, as in previous victories, by the defensive midfield trio of Hamza Choudhury, Wilfred Ndidi and Papy Mendy – dealt comfortably with attempts by the Everton attack to secure an equaliser.
There was a brief moment of alarm, though, when Jonny Evans sent a wayward header into Tosun's path, but Schmeichel reacted smartly to block the shot by the home striker.
In the closing minutes, the visitors seemed more likely to add to the scoresheet. A Harry Maguire header was blocked by Keane's flailing arm, but referee Atkinson deemed the contact unintentional. Maguire then sent a close-range shot over when he might have been expected to hit the target.
Just when City thought they had safely seen off what little threat the hosts had provided, Tosun again came close to an leveller deep into stoppage time, but Schmeichel once more proved equal to the challenge.
Although the performance was definitely more functional than fluent, Puel will be grateful that the points gained will have done a lot to dispel the storm clouds that had again begun to gather over him following the defeat by Cardiff.
Yet it remains to be seen whether he can fulfill the ambitions of the owners or the fanbase during the months ahead. As other teams have discovered in recent times, teams who produce this type of grim, joyless fare on a regular basis tend not to enjoy a prolonged shelf-life in this league.
Everton (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Kenny, Keane, Zouma, Digne; Gomes (Bernard 62), Gueye; Walcott (Tosun 70), Sigurdsson, Richarlison; Calvert-Lewin. Subs not used: Stekelenburg, Coleman, Baines, Mina, Davies..
Bookings: Digne, Gomes, Tosun.
Leicester (4-3-2-1): Schmeichel; Simpson, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell; Ndidi, Mendy, Choudhury; Ghezzal (Albrighton 45), Ricardo: Vardy (Gray 90 + 2). Subs not used: Ward, Söyüncü, Fuchs, Maddison, Okazaki.
Goal: Vardy (58)
Referee: Martin Atkinson Attendance: 39 052
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