LEICESTER CITY 2 EVERTON 1
Match Report by Paul Weston
It was a strange feeling for this City fan turning up for a home match expecting to win. Everything pointed to a home win. Everton were struggling for form, with their manager Silva apparently about to be sacked. LCFC were on the crest of a wave after five consecutive victories, second in the table and chasing Liverpool. What could go wrong?
Rodgers picked the same team as usual, although there was a mild surprise in the subs. Gray was absent, apparently ill, and Choudhury took his place. The much-maligned forgotten man Kelechi Iheanacho was also on the bench – more about him later.
City started confidently, as did Everton, and we all waited for the first goal to happen. It did, after 20 minutes, but it was Everton who scored. Sadibe, who was a menace throughout the match, sent in a good cross from the right and Richarlison got ahead of Ricardo for a forceful header past Schmeichel.
City continued to dominate possession but much of it was too slow which suited Everton’s defensive line up and allowed their players to regain places in defence. Everton’s cynical fouls started to add up with referee Graham Scott, who had an inconsistent game, reluctant to bring out his card.
Perez bore the brunt of some fouls but often went down too easily which did not help his cause. He broke through on two occasions, once shooting narrowly wide and again being tackled just as he seemed certain to score.
Little was seen of Jamie Vardy until he seemed to be upended for a possible penalty. In the immediate confusion Chilwell also seemed to be brought down just within the penalty box as he broke forward. The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Vardy took hold of the ball to take the penalty. But then the long wait took place as VAR pondered over the decision.
The ref, as normal since VAR was instigated, did not consult the pitch side screen to help check whether he made the correct call. What on earth is the point of not using the technology? VAR decided it was no penalty and no contact. Chilwell was not booked for “simulation” so can someone please explain that to me?
The injustice of the decision brought City to life but few further chances were created in a rather disappointing first half. No-one was playing that well, play was too ponderous and Everton had looked well organised and capable of holding onto their lead unless City could change their approach.
City started brighter in the second half with Chilwell and Ricardo pushing forward. Ricardo burst through but his shot was saved. Tielemans shot over when in a good position. Meanwhile the Everton players started to waste time from the start of the second half with feigned injuries and other obvious ploys which frustrated the crowd.
Perez, who had not had the best of games, was taken off with about 30 minutes to go. To everyone’s surprise he was replaced by Iheanacho and, at the same time, Rodgers changed the team shape. We shall never know what Rodgers said to Kelechi as he warmed up ready to take the field but it certainly worked. From his first confident touch he transformed the game.
N’Didi also started to have a greater influence and Ricardo began to terrorise Everton’s defence as he became a right winger. Iheanacho first had a shot saved, then after a pass from N’Didi, hit a cross shot from which Vardy scored from a very tight angle. 1-1 at last.
Could City pull off a victory with time ticking away? Kean came on for Everton and nearly scored with a snap shot which fooled Schmeichel. Allbrighton came on for Barnes as City upped the pace. Vardy headed over narrowly from a good position.
Injury time beckoned. Surely Graham Scott would give at least 5 minutes primarily for Everton’s time wasting. Incredibly only 3 minutes injury time was awarded. Everton players kept falling over supposedly injured as they continued to waste time. In the last minute of injury time Iheanacho picked up the ball from midfield, sublimely beat his man and curled his shot past Pickford’s right hand. The linesman’s flag had gone up as soon as he had collected the ball and so, although VAR was assessing the situation, it seemed most likely that the goal would be ruled to be offside. Kelechi put his hands together in prayer as we all waited for a VAR decision.
After an endless wait IT’S A GOAL by the narrowest of margins! 2-1 and the crowd erupted. All the players ran towards Rodgers and piled into a heap as Everton players slumped to the ground in despair. There was hardly time to re-start as the match ended 2-1. It was cruel on Everton but their timewasting antics had not worked.
After such a euphoric end to the match it seems churlish to point out some of the flaws in City’s performance. Perhaps we now expect too much of our team? Even the top teams work out a way to win when not playing that well.
In the first half the passing was not fast or incisive enough and did not pull Everton’s well drilled team out of position. Chilwell and Ricardo did not press forward that much. However, that changed in the second half but there were still moments in defence when Soyuncu made some rare errors and Chilwell allowed Sadibe to drive in too many crosses. Tielemans, Barnes and Maddison did not make much of an impact in the first half but Maddison and N’Didi in particular exerted their influence in the second half.
My man of the match award would be shared between Ricardo and Iheanacho. Despite being beaten by Richarlison for Everton’s goal Ricardo was a constant threat and was one of the reasons why City upped a gear in the second half. Iheanacho I suspect surprised us all. In 30 minutes he became the catalyst as wave after wave of attacks bore down on Everton. His touch and control were sure and he took his goal with aplomb. After being written off by many (including me I admit) do we have a re-born striker to support Vardy?
Games start to come thick and fast and the match against manager-less Watford looms on Wednesday night. Can we keep the run going? Come on you Foxes!
Leicester: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Perez, Tielemans, Maddison, Barnes, Vardy. Subs: Ward. Morgan, Iheanacho, Choudhury, Albrighton. Praet. Justin
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