Everton 1 Foxes 1
Match Report by Graham Tracey
We had to settle for a point on a wet night at Goodison Park despite an excellent performance. It was difficult for me to decide whether this was a point gained or two points dropped. In the glass half empty, we dominated the second half against a timid Toffees team who seemed to treat their half time lead as minnows would in a cup tie, and so we would have liked to press on for the win.
In the glass half full, coming from behind against tough opponents in our first league game without Vardy, and with Ndidi injured in the first half, is a decent result, especially as Everton spurned two late chances and we gained a point on Manchester Utd in this round of matches.
Perez replaced Vardy as signalled by his appearance in the cup and struggled to make too much of an impact on the game despite maximum effort. This is not a criticism, as it was a huge act for him to step into this role, but his game is totally different to Jamie’s, dropping deep like an ineffective Harry Kane. He played the full 90 minutes, with two injury substitutions leaving us unable to give Iheanacho a go. However, we made a good start, Barnes making driving runs into the box and Castagne and Albrighton linking well on the right. The closest we came was a typical Maddison effort from outside the box which just cleared the bar.
Everton grew into the game and took the lead out of the blue on the half hour. This was not from the source I feared – either a header from a corner by Calvert-Lewin or the usual goal against us by the surly Richarlison who I ‘hate but rate’. Instead, Fofana was a little unlucky in mis-controlling a clearance to Rodriguez, who stroked the ball home off the far post with his supposed weaker foot. With Everton’s back four of all natural centre halves giving us nothing, and Ndidi being replaced by Mendy feeling his hamstring, I felt that we would do well to get anything from the game in the second half.
Instead, the second half was a revelation. Everton seemed immediately content to sit on their lead and defend deep, which I doubt a vocal home crowd would have tolerated. This allowed us to control the ball, Mendy filling Ndidi’s boots well, and Maddison and Tielemans coming to the fore with their probing. Justin shot narrowly wide from a corner, and various forays to the touchline led to parries or clearances.
We were still struggling to create clear-cut chances, but it is a bizarre situation when I am delighted to be facing England’s first choice goalkeeper because I always feel he can gift the opposition a goal. This is exactly what happened halfway through the half, as Pickford first unnecessarily turned behind Barnes’ cross, flapped at the corner, and then when it was played back to Tielemans, he managed to get away a shot under pressure. The shot went through defenders, but lacked real power and Pickford had plenty of time to see it, only to palm it onto the post and into the back of the net. The only upside of watching the game on telly was the immediate cut to the watching Gareth Southgate. His inclination for Pickford is as strange as his disinclination for Maddison.
We had been about to bring on Under to add guile to the attack, and we persisted with the substitution anyway in the search for the winner. The Turk provided an excellent cameo and was joined by his countryman Soyuncu as Evans had to leave the action after a clash of heads. I was worried about the Fofana-Soyuncu partnership debuting in the closing stages of a crucial game, and a Fofana mistake led to Calvert-Lewin putting a free header wide from a position he has scored with ease from all season. In a frenetic finish, Maddison’s snap shot on the turn was deflected over from close range with the keeper probably beaten, before Gomes mis-controlled with the goal at his mercy from a corner in the last action of the game.
I’m of the school that results are always more important than performances, but the quality that shone throughout the whole team in the second half, and the obvious respect from strong opponents, can only give all supporters huge pride and an endless sense of wonder at how we have reached this level given most of the first decade of this century.
LEICESTER: Schmeichel 6, Justin 8, Castagne 7, Evans 8 (Soyuncu 7), Fofana 7, Barnes 8, Tielemans 8, Maddison 9, Ndidi 7 (Mendy 8), Albrighton 7 (Under 8)
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