Leicester City on shaky ground as Everton continue rise at Goodison Park

Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson strike to keep Brendan Rodgers's team at one win in eight league games

Brendan Rodgers has known worse days at Goodison Park, but only one. The manager Liverpool sacked 90 minutes after a Merseyside derby had long looked on the brink of a cathartic achievement but while Leicester City have been in the top four since September, their position is now imperilled. They have the wrong sort of momentum at a point where rivals have acquired the right kind. The Champions League may not beckon after all.

Leicester paid for a lame, tame first-half display in a 1-2 defeat to Everton. If they improved after the break, possession was not allied with incision. Their autumnal brilliance feels a distant memory as they now have a solitary win in eight league games, while exiting both Cup competitions.

The team on the rise now are Everton, who are unbeaten at home under Carlo Ancelotti and who maintained that record. They have only conceded once since the restart and Kelechi Iheanacho’s goal came in strange fashion. Everton’s concern came from the sight of their scorer Richarlison departing injured, hurt in a challenge by Wilfred Ndidi, but he and Gylfi Sigurdsson struck within seven decisive early minutes.

Marco Silva was Richarlison’s mentor but, symbolically, Ancelotti has got more from the Brazilian. He has used a player previously regarded as more of a winger almost exclusively as a striker and is reaping a reward. Richarlison swept in his 13th goal of the season after a cutback from Anthony Gordon, who had latched on to a header from Lucas Digne.

It was a moment that is likely to live long in the memory of the supplier. It was the teenager’s first Premier League assist and came on just his second top-flight start. Injuries, particularly to Theo Walcott, may have accounted for Gordon’s opportunity but he is taking it.

Ancelotti has spoken positively about the young talent at Goodison Park and if Mason Holgate and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have been beneficiaries of his appointment, Gordon could prove a third.

Change came in other ways. Everton had not scored a penalty at home since 2017 and were the only team who had not been awarded one in this season’s Premier League. Neither is true anymore because, while an interminable delay extended their wait for a few more minutes, VAR eventually ruled that Ndidi had handled when jumping with Michael Keane.

Kasper Schmeichel had saved a penalty from Neal Maupay in Leicester’s previous league game but there was no action replay as Sigurdsson casually sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

Sandwiched by Everton’s goals, Dennis Praet angled a shot just wide after being found by Marc Albrighton and Jordan Pickford made a fine save from Jonny Evans but that was the sum total of Leicester’s first-half efforts.

What happened to Vardy?

They are struggling to recapture their edge. The anonymous Jamie Vardy remains rooted on 99 Premier League goals. He spurned an early opportunity to bring up his century with a poor touch while there was a lack of creativity until James Maddison, who had missed Sunday’s defeat to Chelsea, came on. Frank Lampard turned that game with a triple half-time change and Rodgers’ dissatisfaction yesterday was apparent as he brought on two substitutes.

They made a difference, even if Leicester’s goal was scarcely the product of expert planning. Rodgers introduced Iheanacho and he scored in scruffy fashion when the otherwise redoubtable Mason Holgate’s attempted clearance hit his head and then flew past Pickford.

With Iheanacho’s intelligent roaming, Maddison’s assurance on the ball and Ben Chilwell surging forward, Leicester applied pressure. And yet when they almost levelled, it was because of errors, not excellence.

Pickford’s mistakes are more frequent for club than country and two blunders almost cost Everton. He spilled Albrighton’s low cross, deflecting the ball on to Keane. The defender had to recover well to clear the ball off the line. When the goalkeeper failed to gather another cross, Iheanacho hooked his shot over the bar.

Pickford compounded an unfortunate spell by getting booked for time-wasting. It was a sign Everton were holding on and, after starting playing 4-4-2, they ended up with 5-4-1, with Calvert-Lewin the loneliest of lone strikers, after Ancelotti summoned on a fit-again Yerry Mina to stem the Leicester tide. Everton did and now Leicester’s task is tougher.

Published: July 1, 2020 11:22 PM

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