Leicester City fell to Everton 1-2 at the King Power stadium Saturday afternoon. City allowed yet another early goal only to level the score before the break. A bright start to the second half was cancelled out by a foolish red card and the Toffees were quick to make the man advantage pay. A second Leicester comeback wasn’t in the cards as poor finishing and sloppy use of the ball blunted any efforts to get back into the match.
Once again manager Claude Puel rang in the changes and (checks team sheet) kept the starting XI from the 2-0 win at Newcastle last week. That means Kasper Schmeichel in goal behind a back four of Daniel Amartey, Wes Morgan, Harry Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Nampalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi resumed their partnership in central midfield behind what were listed as three attacking midfielders in birthday boy Ricardo Pereira, Kelechi Iheanacho, and James Maddison. Jamie Vardy was the lone recognized striker.
The opening exchanges would best be described as “sloppy”, with both teams spurning clear-cut chances inside the opening five minutes. Ndidi gave the ball away deep in the Leicester half, but the Blues failed to get a shot off in spite of outnumbering the home defense. Shortly after that, the visitors returned the favor, handing the ball to Maddison, who found Iheanacho inside the area, but his low cross to the onrushing Vardy was too close to Jordan Pickford, who gathered easily.
If you thought that the Foxes had avoided their all-too-frequent calamitous start, I have some bad news for you. On 8’, the Merseysiders worked the ball down the Leicester right. Bernard made mugs of both Ricardo and Amartey. The Brazilian lofted a cross toward the back post that Schmeichel could only touch into the path of the unmarked Richarlison, who smashed home from short range.
Conceding the early goal seemed to wake up the Foxes, which is both the reaction you’d want and a phrase I’ve had to use far too often this year. Chilwell was finding acres of space on the left and, on the 15’ mark, he easily beat his man and crossed to Vardy, whose glancing header was just wide. Everton struck back with pace, carving up the centre of the Foxes defense with ease, but Walcott’s curling effort from the edge of the area was easily saved by Schmeichel.
The next fifteen minutes fell into the all-too-familiar pattern of Leicester having all of the possession without really creating much while their opponents looked comfortable in defense and dangerous on the break. And, may I interrupt this match report for a moment to discuss the Everton away kits? They look as though someone who liked the Nigeria World Cup uniforms but didn’t properly remember what they looked like tried to emulate them, got confused with regards to diagonal and vertical lines, and didn’t have nearly enough blue ink to complete the job. Really shocking stuff.
Leicester missed a golden opportunity to draw level on 38’. A hopeful ball over the top somehow found Vardy, who outpaced the entire Blues’ defense, leaving him one-on-one with Pickford, but the former England man tried to tuck it into the corner and missed wide when you’d have bet the house on him to score, or at least I would have, which is why I rent.
Leicester leveled the score at the end of the half in the most Leicester way possible: an extended period of pressure from the visitors resulted in multiple corners. City got the last one clear and were off to the races. Ricardo played a give-and-go with Iheanacho and carried the fully half the length of the pitch and blasted the ball into the back of the net. Pickford got a hand to it, but he was never going to stop the Portugal man from opening his City account. That was it for the half, which ended level on one goal apiece.
The first ten minutes of the second half featured a good deal more action than quality as both teams did a great deal of running but were loose with the ball and unable to find the final pass that would unlock the opposition. The best chance feel to Chilwell, who cut inside from the left wing and shot just over with his right foot.
The intensity was rising as the hour mark approached, with both sets of fans in fine voice at the King Power. It seemed only a matter of time before the cards would start flying. Wes Morgan, already on a yellow, lunged in on Richarlson near the half way line and caught the former Watford man’s toe. The referee had been giving Morgan some leniency on earlier challenges and decided that this was one too many and the Leicester captain was shown his second red card of the season.
Puel withdrew Iheanacho and brought on Albrighton, switching to a 4-4-1 formation with Vardy alone up top. The Foxes were quickly under the cosh as the Toffees won a corner on their right and Schmeichel was forced to make two good saves in quick succession before clearing through Amartey. The next chance fell to Gylfi Sigurdsson, whose shot from distance was turned around post by the suddenly-busy Danish keeper.
It was the Iceland man who broke the deadlock on the 75’ mark. Sigurdsson beat Maddison with a Cruyff turn and, from well outside the area, fired a raking shot into the opposite corner that left Schmeichel no hope of getting a hand to it. Madders had a chance to make amends at the other end when Vardy knocked a ball back to him on the edge of the area, but the former Norwich man’s half-volley was miss-hit and screwed badly wide of the net.
That would be Maddison’s last contribution as Puel sent Rachid Ghezzal on to try to rescue a point in the last ten minutes. It was Everton who should have scored next when yet another Everton corner found the unmarked Kurt Zouma in the six yard box, but he headed over when you would have expected him to hit the target. With five minutes remaining in regular time, Puel sent on Okazaki for Pereira and switching to a back three.
City won a corner two minutes into extra time. Schmeichel came forward to try to match his father’s feat of scoring against Everton, but the ball instead found Amartey, whose glancing header was just wide. Chilwell won a richly-deserved yellow taking Sigurdsson’s legs after Calvert-Lewin nicked the ball off the England left-back. That would be the last action of the match as the referee blew the whistle for a full-time result of Leicester City 1 - 2 Everton.
If you wanted a highlight reel of the problems City have faced, or rather “brought upon themselves” during the Claude Puel era, this match would do nicely. The Foxes lack of concentration put them behind inside the first ten minutes yet again. We had a preponderance of time on the ball, but struggled to make that possession pay. We scored a brilliant goal on the counter, but a lack of discipline meant we were playing most of the second half down a man. If any of that sounds familiar, you’ve obviously seen a lot of Leicester football over the last 11 months.
This defeat will be especially frustrating for the gaffer as he kept the starting XI unchanged for the first time this year. Surely his expectation was that, by keeping the lineup the same, the team would develop some cohesion but there was little evidence of that in today’s match. The ball was given away far too cheaply far too often, forcing us into the kind of fouls that have referees reaching into their pockets. Everton were anything but great today and a solid performance would have taken three points.
It’s hard to find too many performances of note after a match like this. Vardy was, as always, a willing runner and a hard worker, but his shooting and passing let him down. Ricardo had a nice first half, Chilwell was a menace on the left, Maguire did a fine job in defense, and Schmeichel made some top drawer saves. That’s about it.
Our next league match is away to Arsenal on 22 October after the international break. Wes Morgan will be suspended for that match and the West Ham match on the 22nd. Expect there to be more than one change, however, as the manager’s faith in his starters was surely shaken by what he saw on the pitch today.
So Puel had got 3 new defenders in the summer. Not one is a regular starter & we’re still persisting with Morgan. But that’s not Puel’s fault though hey....... #lcfc— Mark Norman (@mnorman1985) October 6, 2018
I expect that to change on, oh, just guessing here, October 22.