Leicester City advanced to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup Wednesday evening. The match ended level, with first half goals by Maddison and Evans cancelled by second half strikes from Davis and Baines. Kasper Schmeichel saved the first two Toffees’ penalties and that provided the margin as the Foxes prevailed 4-2 in the shootout.
Manager Brendan Rodgers signaled his belief in the importance of this competition by naming a strong side, making only three changes to the XI that drew against Norwich on Saturday. Kasper Schmeichel get the start in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Wes Morgan, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi was again the midfield enforcer. Ayoze Perez and Marc Albrighton started on the wings, flanking a central pairing of Dennis Praet and James Maddison. Jamie Vardy spearheaded the attack as the lone striker.
Everton came out of the gates with intent, pressuring the visitors into an early mistake. A Maddison back pass was cleared by Schmeichel directly to an unprepared Alex Iwobi. The ball caromed off of him back into the area. Evans made poor contact with the ball, allowing Richarlison in, but the Brazilian wasn’t able to get good contact on the ball and it went behind for a goal kick.
It took a little time for Leicester to carve out a chance, but when they did, it was the sort you’d expect them to put away. Ricardo absolutely did his man on the right wing and pulled it back for Vardy. The former Fleetwood Town man played the dummy for Ayoze, whose first-time effort was just over the bar.
You’d think Everton would have learned their lesson regarding Ricardo, but you’d have thought very wrongly. On 23’, he was again given the entire right wing to exploit. He once again pulled the ball back to the center. This time Ayoze played the dummy, allowing it to run to Madders. The former Norwich man had a lot to do, and he did it with aplomb, finishing with the outside of his boot and giving Jordan Pickford no chance.
The Foxes doubled the lead only four minutes later. The hosts cheaply conceded a corner on the Leicester left. Maddison swung it towards the near post, where Vardy flicked it across the face of the goal. Evans was the first to react, tapping the ball home from short range.
The Toffees should have leveled just after the half-hour mark. Evans gave away a free kick ten yards outside the area. The ball was just dinked over the top, finding Yerry Mina completely unmarked 8 yards out. His diving header was goal-bound, but it lacked both pace and placement and Schmeichel was able to make a comfortable save.
As half time approached, the atmosphere was still absolutely rocking inside Goodison Park. The match was wide open, with long passes finding players in space on both ends of the pitch. There weren’t a lot of chances being created, but there was no lack of effort or entertainment. Only one minute was added on before referee Jon Moss blew his whistle and called time on one of the most full-blooded halves of football we’ve seen this year.
Great first half from #LCFC , but they need to keep the pressure on Everton second half. They’ve done a great job of silencing the home crowd but if they get back into the game the fans will get right behind them with Ferguson cheerleading. As ever, the next goal is huge.— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerLCFC) December 18, 2019
Rob Tanner’s crystal ball was as accurate as ever...unfortunately.
Everton sent on Moise Kean to start the second period, which did nothing but increase the wide-open play on the pitch. Ayoze had a good opportunity that was well saved by Pickford. Everton then picked up the ball in midfield and worked the ball wide to Kean, whose shot was well blocked. Mina should have scored from the ensuing corner, but he failed to get sufficient forehead on the ball from close range. The next time down the pitch, Praet and Ricardo played a one-two in space, putting the Belgian in on goal, but Pickford did well to keep it out.
Leicester were nearly home and dry after the hour mark. Vardy chased down a long ball over the top and back-heeled it into the path of Albrighton. The former Villa winger swung a curler towards the far post that didn’t dip quite enough and glanced off the crossbar. In an effort to deal with the pace of the match, Rodgers sent Demarai Gray on for the tiring Ayoze.
The open nature of the match was always going to present opportunities to the hosts and Leicester were made to pay on 70’. The Foxes failed to clear the ball out of their area and the ball fell to Richarlison on the Everton right. His cross was met first time by Tom Davies who volleyed home from the penalty spot to cut the Leicester lead in half.
With ten minutes to play, Rodgers made a defensive change, sending Çağlar Söyüncü on for Marc Albrighton and switching to three centre-halfs. Jon Moss finally made his presence felt by making a very Jon Moss call, awarding Everton a goal kick from a Maddison shot that deflected off an Everton player and off of Pickford’s glove. Rodgers made his final throw of the dice, withdrawing Praet for Hamza Chouhury.
Playing five at the back and with two defensive midfielders, Leicester struggled to get the ball out of their area as the Toffees poured forward. As the fourth official put up the sign indicating four minutes of time added on, Leighton Baines took aim from outside the box and hit an absolute screamer that snuck inside the near post. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat - there’s no stopping a shot like that. Everton were level and that meant we’d be going to the football version of the coin flip: Penalties!
Shades of Vincent Kompany.
Maddison went first. He struck it well, but Pickford guessed correctly and dove to his right to save it: LEI 0 - 0 EVE
Tosun stepped up for Everton and tried to misdirect Schmeichel, but he sort of telegraphed it and Kasper was able to easily turn it away: LEI 0 -0 EVE
Chilwell went next for Leicester, sending Pickford the wrong way and rolling it into the right side: LEI 1 - 0 EVE
Baines took the next one for the Toffees, but Schmeichel was wise to his ways and saved easily: LEI 1 - 0 EVE
Ricardo sent Pickford the wrong way, stroking it to the England keeper’s right: LEI 2 - 0 EVE
Holgate went for power and hit the roof of the net. No saving that one: LEI 2 - 1 EVE
Gray went to Pickford’s right. The keeper guessed right, but couldn’t keep it out: LEI 3 - 1 EVE
Calvert-Lewin fired a shot past Schmeichel, who guessed correctly but couldn’t get a glove to it: LEI 3 - 2 EVE
Vardy took responsibility for the decisive penalty, sending Pickford the wrong way and breaking the hearts of Everton: LEI 4 - 2 EVE.
Let me be perfectly clear about one thing: even up 2-0 at the half, there was never a sense that Leicester were in complete control of the match. That is through no fault of their own as Everton were simply not in the mood to be shackled. It was a chaotic mess of a 90 minute cup tie and, while the better team prevailed, they were made to work for it.
Hell of a match, that was.
Who thrived in the chaos? Obviously, in a match with so many loose balls, Ndidi was going to find himself in possession of a ridiculous number of them. Ricardo was an absolute menace on the right and Maddison seemed to relish engaging in his defensive duties, but the laurels have to go to Kasper for those penalty saves.
Everton: ⛔️⛔️✅✅— Goal (@goal) December 18, 2019
Second in the league, and now the Foxes are through to the Carabao Cup semis pic.twitter.com/lxEYIC3tMW
The win has no effect on the table because this is the Carabao Cup and not a league match. If you didn’t already realize that, do try to keep up. Things only get tougher from here, as the Foxes have to take a deep breath and get themselves ready to face Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday. After that, it’s a Boxing Day clash at the King Power against leaders Liverpool. It’s been a great campaign up to this point, but we’ll know a good deal more about just how good it could be after these two matches.