Leicester City edged Everton by a score of 2-1 at the King Power in Sunday’s late affair. Everton took a deserved first half lead through Richarlison, but second half goals from Vardy and Iheanacho gave the Foxes their sixth Premier League win on the trot. Oh, and there was some VAR drama. There was a lot of VAR drama.
Because he retired from international football. His call. https://t.co/JkgG2YYEMa— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 1, 2019
This tweet has very little do with the match, but it’s Gary Lineker making Piers Morgan look silly, so of course I’m going to link it.
Despite saying something about “squad rotation” midweek, manager Brendan Rodgers stuck with the starting XI that has won five league matches on the trot. Kasper Schmeichel got the nod in goal, with Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell filling out the back four. Wilfred Ndidi slotted in behind a midfield four of Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy, as always and hopefully forever, started up top as the lone striker.
The opening quarter hour wasn’t anything to write home about. Everton lined up with three at the back and defended in numbers, allowing the Foxes to knock the ball around but largely nullifying the threat. The Toffees broke at pace a couple of times, but never really threatened Schmeichel’s goal.
The Foxes were starting to get some joy down the right through Ayoze, who had a shot drift just wide and then a half-hearted penalty shout. It was very much against the run of play then that Everton took the lead. The Toffees had three attackers against four defenders, but Chilwell seemed averse to closing Sidibe down on the right wing, allowing him to pick out a cross. Calvert-Lewin dragged both Evans and Söyüncü with him, allowing Richarlison to meet the ball just ahead of Ricardo and plant it past Schmeichel.
Leicester attempted to pick up their lethargic pace immediately. Ayoze saw a significantly stronger penalty appeal waved away. A Maddison volley was well-blocked, and Vardy finally got a touch, but the “touch” was an attempted scissor kick from the edge of the area that wound up somewhere beyond row Z.
The Foxes seemed bound and determined to win a penalty every time down the pitch. Vardy went down under a poor challenge that probably that would have been extremely soft had it been given, but it wasn’t. However, Mason Holgate lunged in on Chilwell immediately afterwards and referee blew the whistle and pointed to the spot. VAR gave it a look and determined that it was not a penalty on account of the fact that Holgate had made no contact whatsoever.
Leicester finally found, if not top gear, then at least a gear after the disallowed penalty and then immediately slipped right back out of it. After a few minutes of moving the ball quickly, things returned to the sluggish lack of urgency we’d seen all half. Leicester ended the first period with 70% of the possession and twice as many shots as the visitors, but there was no appreciable menace in the Foxes’ attack and Everton just about deserved the 1-0 lead. It was comfortably the worst half of football we’d seen from Leicester in some time.
Note: There are no images or tweets included in the first half of the match report. This is by design. The commentators said we looked like we were playing under Claude Puel in the first half, and they weren’t wrong. You’re better off not seeing any of the evidence.
Rodgers stuck with his starting XI to start the second half but it was the visitors who started on the front foot, winning a couple of corners and generally making life unpleasant for Schmeichel. Leicester’s first chance of the half came from Ndidi setting Ricardo free to make a run into the box. The Portugal international got a shot on target that Pickford spilled and Keane put it behind for a corner. The corner was awful, a training ground move that went wrong, and the chance was lost.
It was all going very shithouse-y. In preparation for an Everton corner, Yerry Mina elbowed Ndidi, who shoved back in retaliation and may have even made slight contact, but Mina went down as though shot. The referee wasn’t having it, but Rodgers had seen enough. He sent Kelechi Iheanacho into the fray for Ayoze. The former Manchester City man played a neat one-two with Ndidi, but his shot didn’t have the pace or accuracy to beat Pickford.
The equaliser finally came through good work by Leicester’s Nigeria contingent. Ndidi carried the ball deep into the Everton half. He slid the ball to Iheanacho on his right and the striker laid a perfect ball into the path of Vardy who smashed home from close range. It was, as my sister put it, a “very Leicester goal.” Twenty minutes left to get a winner? It suddenly felt very much in the cards.
It almost happened immediately. Harvey Barnes did absolutely everything to break down the defense and then backheel the ball to Vardy. The former Fleetwood Town man found Maddison charging in on goal, but his first time effort was directly at Pickford. A long ball over the top released Vardy for the first time in the match, and his cross found Iheanacho in the box, but his first touch was poor. Right afterwards, Tielemans lofted a delightful ball for Vardy to run on to in front of goal, but it was just behind the striker and his header went just over.
That last paragraph described only three minutes of action. It was very much one-way traffic at this point.
Going in to the last 10 minutes, Marc Albrighton came on for Barnes who had a very Harvey Barnes-match: He always looked like he was this close to doing something special but never quite managed it. Everton went into full time-wasting mode, going down at the slightest touch (which, given the first half penalty appeals, I can’t really complain about).
With time winding down, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen and suddenly...it did! Ricardo won the ball in midfield and, with Iheanacho in an offisde position, he had to delay...delay...delay...and then make the pass. The Nigeria man did brilliantly to take the ball, send his man the wrong way, and then rifle the ball into the back of the net...
...but the flag was up. VAR took three minutes to look at it, three very long minutes. But, the replays were clear: Iheanacho was onside. VAR got its second big call right, and the goal was given. Welcome back from the wilderness, Kelechi!
That was not a great match. We’ve been winning comfortably for a while now, but this was anything but comfortable. You might say we got away with one, and you’d be right, because that’s exactly what we did. Leicester were far from at our best, but we were just good enough in the second half to get the three points.
On 80 minutes, I was going to be singing Wilfred Ndidi’s praises because he had an absolutely imperious display, but if Iheanacho doesn’t get the game ball, then it’s a travesty. Also, it turns out that Vardy is in pretty good form. That’s 13 goals on December 1. I’m no math whiz, but I’m pretty sure that puts him on pace for like 200 or something. I’d also like to give credit to Rodgers credit for changing things up. City have been cruising and that makes things easy on a manager. Today, he changed the shape and the made a key substitution that made all the difference.
The win keeps Leicester 2nd on the table with 32 points from 14 matches. We remain 8 points behind Liverpool, but just as importantly, we’re now 12 points clear of 5th-place Spurs. We host bottom of the table Watford on Wednesday, and then travel to Birmingham for a Midlands derby against Aston Villa next Sunday.