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Venue: Goodison Park
Premier League
Wednesday 27 January 2021; 8:15pm
Everton
0 0
Leicester
Rodriguez 30'
Half Time: 1 - 0 
Tielemans 67'
Attendance: BCD
Fixture 18
Referee: Mike Dean

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Match Report
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EVERTON
  Pickford
  Holgate (Iwobi 80')
  Keane
  Mina
  Godfrey
  Davies
  Gomes
  Digne
  Richarlison
  Rodriguez booked (Sigurdsson 85')
  Calvert-Lewin (Coleman 89')
  Subs not used
  Olsen
  Lössl
  Kenny
  Onyango
  Gordon
  Bernard
  Unavailable
  Allan (injured)
  Delph (injured)
  Gbamin (injured)
  Branthwaite (loan)
  Gibson (loan)
  Kean (loan)
  Simms (loan)
  Walcott (loan)

LEICESTER CITY
  Schmeichel
  Castagne
  Fofana
  Evans (Söyüncü 77') 
  Justin booked
  Ndidi (Mendy 42')
  Tielemans
  Albrighton (Under 68')
  Maddison
  Barnes
  Perez
  Subs not used
  Ward
  Thomas
  Amartey
  Choudhury
  Pereira
  Iheanacho

Match Stats

Possession
35%
65
Shots
8
19
Shots on target
2
6
Corners
5
11

Premier League Scores
Tuesday
C Palace 2-3 West Ham
Newcastle 1-2 Leeds
Southampton 1-3 Arsenal
West Brom 0-5 Man City
Wednesday
Brighton 0-0 Fulham
Burnley 3-2 Aston Villa
Chelsea 0-0 Wolves
Everton 1-1 Leicester
Man United 1-2 Sheff United
Thursday
Tottenham 1-3 Liverpool


Match Report

This was a potentially massive game for Everton, one in which a win would have been another “statement” result; a signal to the rest of the teams fighting it out in the top four that the Toffees can’t be easily discounted from the race for a Champions League spot.

They were well on their way to three points, a Premier League double over Leicester and a place back in the top four behind the Foxes when James Rodriguez produced the kind of moment of magic that few players on the planet can. It was a strike worthy of being the winner and but for a lapse by Jordan Pickford in the second half, well might have been.

That’s not to say that Everton would have been worthy winners; in truth, they were inferior to the visitors for long periods of the game, ceded two thirds of the possession to them overall, managed just two shots on target all game, and came within a 90th-minute Michael Keane block of giving up all three points.

But, just as they did at the King Power Stadium last month, they took the lead, were content to try and contain Leicester in defence of it and, no doubt, hoped that they could grab another to see the game out. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the strategy failed and Carlo Ancelotti’s attacking change in response to losing the lead came 10 minutes too late. As if to underline the point, they created two good scoring chances in the closing stages and with the Foxes suddenly uncertain in the face of their hosts’ late charge, you have to wonder how many more opportunities might have been carved out had Alex Iwobi come on sooner.

The Nigerian’s introduction for Mason Holgate injected the requisite energy into Everton’s attack that had often been lacking over the preceding 80 minutes. Perhaps the fitness of Iwobi, who missed the FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday, wasn’t quite up to him starting but the team missed his direct running and with Richarlison continuing to disappoint, frustrate and confound in equal measure, André Gomes providing a solid if unspectacular presence and neither of Allan or Abdoulaye Doucouré there to add dynamism in midfield, the Blues often lacked fluidity and cohesion going forward.

Indeed, they were barely in the game for the opening quarter of an hour, a period of the contest where Leicester enjoyed almost 80% of the possession and it was telling that Rodriguez didn’t have a meaningful touch of the ball until he collected a return ball from André Gomes at a short corner and swung in a dangerous cross that Kasper Schmeichel had to fist away and Tom Davies skied the rebound high over the crossbar.

A couple of minutes earlier, James Maddison had whipped an effort a few inches over Pickford’s crossbar but despite Leicester’s early pressure, the Everton keeper wouldn’t be asked to make a save until first-half stoppage time.

In between, James handed Everton the lead with a tremendous piece of individual brilliance. Gomes’s sweeping cross-field ball had found Digne, who was playing as a left-midfielder again to accommodate Ben Godfrey and his pace at left-back, and after he laid it off first time to Rodriguez, Youri Tielemans’ out-stretched boot took the sting out of the Colombian’s attempted delivery into the Leicester box.

Wesley Fofana’s poor control of the ball was seized upon quickly by the alert James just outside the box and after dropping his shoulder to sashay to his right, he curled a lovely shot with his weaker foot around Schmeichel and into the goal via the far post.

Having extinguished much of Leicester’s early fire, finally got to grips with Harvey Barnes and restricted Maddison’s options, it was ultimately hugely disappointing that Everton failed to use the platform provided by Rodriguez to ramp up their game and look like a team capable of finishing in the top four.

Unfortunately, it was the away team once again who carried the greater threat in the early part of the second half, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin heading a Maddison free-kick over his own crossbar, James Justin placing a side-foot shot wide from a really promising position after Pickford had pushed away a Barnes effort and the England goalkeeper having to do similar to a teasing Tielemans delivery into his penalty area.

Sloppy fouls by Richarlison and Yerry Mina gifted inviting opportunities for Maddison to have a go from direct free-kicks but, thankfully, both efforts hit the defensive wall and in the 65th minute, Pickford had to be alert once more as Timothy Castange was played in and he centred for Justin into the six-yard box but the keeper smothered the ball at his feet.

Having played well up to that point, however, the liability aspect to Pickford’s game reared its head at an inopportune time. Michael Keane had done well to slide in to take the ball off Maddison’s toe and concede a corner, one that ended up with Barnes on the far side and his cross was sailing wide of the far post when Pickford lost his bearings and needlessly palmed it behind.

He flapped at that corner that Jonny Evans knocked back to Barnes who in turn passed square to Tielemans on the edge of the box and his shot flew past Holgate and Calvert-Lewin. The effort was close enough to the middle of the goal that it should have been fairly routine but Pickford got only a weak arm on it and it bounced in off the upright.

Seven minutes later, Maddison eased past Gomes and forced Pickford to parry behind and substitute Cengiz Under had an effort that deflected wide but it wasn’t until Iwobi came on with 10 minutes left that Everton displayed a bit more life.

Mina arced an excellent deep ball that found Richarlison wide on the left but Castagne got back quickly to knock it behind for a corner. Gylfi Sigurdsson, just on for the tiring James, swung in the resulting set-piece and Richarlison rose to meet it but couldn’t keep his header down.

Then, in the 89th minute, Fofana’s giveaway ended up with Digne and his cross found Calvert-Lewin in trademark territory eight yards out but the striker steered his header the wrong side of the post.

There was one last chance for Maddison when he popped up near the penalty spot at the other end but his shot took a decisive deflection off Keane and flew over and for a split second, Gomes looked to have a chance in front of goal from a corner but if bounced too heavily off his thigh. And that was pretty much that.

Obviously, in the context of the season, Leicester’s unbeaten form since Everton beat them a few weeks ago, and the manner in which Brendan Rodgers’s side held the upper hand in this game despite being without Jamie Vardy, a draw was a good result.

Given the potentially unique opportunity that this unpredictable season is presenting, though, every match feels like a cup final at the moment so when Everton don’t give a good account of themselves, which they clearly didn’t this evening, it’s hugely disappointing.

Nevertheless, they now have two eminently winnable matches against Newcastle and Leeds to come before they have to travel to Old Trafford where, in another 8:15pm kick-off, Manchester United betrayed their own fallibility by losing to the bottom club, Sheffield United.

Back-to-back wins in the next week would keep Everton very much in the hunt for the top four; they just have to find a lot more attacking potency than they had against Leicester if they are to get those six precious points.

Lyndon Lloyd

Matchday Updates

Everton missed an opportunity to gain ground on Leicester City and move back into the top four as they were pegged back by the Foxes and ultimately had to settle for a point.

James Rodriguez had lit up a patchy first half that was largely dominated by the visitors with a goal out of the top drawer on the half hour mark but the Blues were punished for trying to contain Brendan Rodgers's side for too long in the second half when Jordan Pickford failed to keep a Youri Tielemans shot out of his net.

Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin had headed chances to win it late on while Michael Keane's deflection prevented James Maddison from stealing the points at the other end so it was honours even when Mike Dean blew the final whistle.

Pickford had been recalled to the starting XI as part of Carlo Ancelotti's policy of rotating his goalkeepers, Michael Keane was restored at centre-half alongside Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne started wide on the left ahead of Ben Godfrey after missing the FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday.

But it was Leicester who began the game in more enterprising fashion, controlling the early part of the contest and they went close to opening the scoring in the 14th minute when Maddison curled a shot into the roof of the net from 25 yards out.

Everton had struggled to fashion anything meaningful going forward themselves until a loose touch from Wesley Fofana fell to James who engineered space with a touch to his right and then whipped a right-footed shot in off the far post to hand the home side a precious lead.

It was the first shot on target by either side to that point and Leicester wouldn't test Pickford until first-half stoppage time when Marc Albrighton drove a shot in from distance.

Everton appeared content to let Leicester continue to dictate matters in the second half and Harvey Barnes prompted Pickford into parried his cross/shot from the angle in the 50th minute and the England international had to push away a dangerous cross in from Tielemans in the 54th before smothering the ball at James Justin's feet 10 minutes after that.

Another teasing ball in from the Leicester left was going wide when Pickford helped it on its way and from the resulting corner the Foxes equalised. They retained the ball after the initial delivery was cleared and when it came to Tielemans on the edge of the box, he fired through the legs of the defenders in front of him and his shot squirmed off Pickford's gloves and in off the upright.

Pickford blocked another Maddison effort behind and substitute Cengiz Under had one of his own deflected behind but after Alex Iwobi's introduction, the hosts finally started putting some pressure on the Leicester defence.

Richarlison won a corner five minutes after the end and might have done better with Gylfi Sigurdsson's delivery but powered a header over and Calvert-Lewin would have an even better chance with one minute to go but he steered his header wide of the back post.

While the draw represents a decent result in the context of the season, it was hard to not to feel frustrated by Everton's overall performance and the missed chance to leapfrog above Liverpool in the table and into the Champions League spots.

Ancelotti will feel there is plenty of improvement to be made, particularly in terms of his side's often disjointed attacking play but must now look ahead to two winnable games against Newcastle and Leeds in the coming week.

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Everton return to Premier League action after a two-week hiatus to face Leicester City in a match that has taken on added significance as both clubs have maintained their challenge for a place in the top four this season.

The Toffees' recent inactivity because of COVID-enforced postponements of their games against Manchester City means that they have slipped to seventh place but they have as many as three games in hand while teams around them have continued to play.

The Foxes sit in third and are six points better off but have played two more matches, meaning that Everton can halve the gap between the two teams and move back into fourth place if they can complete the league double over their opponents on Wednesday evening.

This clash represents a big opportunity for Carlo Ancelotti's men to press their claims for a Champions League slot this season, then. However, in addition to Allan, who is expected back in the next week or so, the Italian will be without a key and often underrated presence in midfield in the form of Abdoulaye Doucouré.

The Frenchman serves a one-match ban for accumulating five yellow cards for the season and will be a huge miss but as Ancelotti hinted in his pre-match press conference, Tom Davies is ready to step in to deputise.

Meanwhile, Alex Iwobi and Lucas Digne are fit and available again after missing the FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday. The duo had minor knocks and were held back from the Fourth Round tie against the Owls as a precaution but Ancelotti confirmed that they are fit to face Leicester City in the Premier League tomorrow evening.

Fabian Delph continues his recovery from a hamstring strain and Jean-Philippe Gbamin is still working through his patient recovery from Achilles surgery while Niels Nkounkou is also ruled out.

"We have Digne and Iwobi back, and we have out Delph, Allan, Gbamin and Nkounkou. The others are all good," the manager said.

"We don't have a lot of injuries at this moment because Delph has started to train with us, so practically he is back. We have only Allan, Gbamin and Nkounkou that can recover soon.

"The squad are [otherwise] all in good condition."

Iwobi's return on the right flank will likely see James Rodriguez move into a more central roaming role with Richarlison continuing on the left playing off Dominic Calvert-Lewin who made a scoring return against Wednesday in the Cup.

That will leave Gylfi Sigurdsson and André Gomes to battle for the remaining midfield slot, one that Portuguese will feel he has earned with assists in each of the last two games while the Icelander offers a stronger presence on the press.

At the back, Michael Keane will likely return to partner Yerry Mina after sitting out on Sunday but it remains to be seen if Seamus Coleman will retain his place at right back or if Ancelotti opts again for Mason Holgate. Jordan Pickford is expected to rotate back in between the posts.

Leicester successfully negotiated a potentially tricky cup tie of their own against Brentford at the weekend but this will be their first League game since Jamie Vardy underwent hip surgery, a potentially significant loss for Brendan Rodgers, particularly given his side's penchant for playing on the break away from home where they are among the top flight's most effective outfits.

However, the Foxes have talent in all areas of the field and Ancelotti will be hoping his players can shut their opponents down in the same manner in which they did in the reverse fixture six weeks ago when they ran out 2-0 winners at the King Power Stadium.

Kick-off: 8:15 pm, Wednesday 27 January 2021 on BT Sport 1
Referee: Mike Dean
VAR: Simon Hooper
Last Time: Everton 2 - 1 Leicester City

Predicted Line-up: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Mina, Digne, Davies, Gomes, Iwobi, Rodriguez, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin

Lyndon Lloyd

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