Leicester City and Everton shared the honors at Goodison Park on a damp Wednesday evening. The Toffees led at the half through a spectacular James Rodriguez strike. The Foxes dominated the second period and leveled through Youri Tielemans and neither side could find a way through for a winner.
In spite of some impressive performances by Ricardo Pereira, Cengiz Ünder, and Çağlar Söyüncü against Brentford in the FA Cup, manager Brendan Rodgers reverted to as close to his first-choice starting XI as he could minus one Jamie Vardy. Kasper Schmeichel captained the side behind a back four of Timothy Castagne, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans and James Justin. Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans partnered in central midfield while Marc Albrighton, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes comprised the attacking trio. Ayoze Perez got the nod to lead the line as the lone striker.
The match started with the Foxes on the front foot with Barnes looking a man possessed and carving through the Everton defense with powerful runs, but ultimately leading to nothing. The hosts struggled to get the ball out of their own area but their defense held on to deny City any serious scoring opportunities in the early going.
The Toffees started to get back into it and the play over the next quarter hour or so was very even as neither side was able to get past their opponents’ defenses, let alone trouble the goalkeepers. After a spell of having to play in their own half, the Foxes started to exert control again, and it looked as though a breakthrough might be coming.
And come it did, albeit not in the fashion Leicester would have wanted. A turnover in the Everton half saw the Toffees break through a long diagonal ball to Lucas Digne. The fullback slid the ball to James Rodriguez, who tried to play in Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Fofana intercepted the pass, but he only knocked it back to James. The Colombian took one touch and curled a right-footed shot off the far post and into the net. It was the first shot on goal of the match, and there was no stopping it.
Can't work out if that's unfortunate or poor defending by Fofana. Thoughts?— Jordan Blackwell (@JrdnBlackwell) January 27, 2021
Whichever, it was a brilliant strike (and against the run of play). #LCFC
As my friend Sterling is wont to say: “A little Column A, a little Column B.”
As the half approached, the Foxes suffered another blow that might prove even more damaging in the long run than the Everton goal. Ndidi challenged Richarlison and there seemed to be nothing in it, but the Nigerian midfielder went down and didn’t get back up. He received lengthy treatment on the pitch but was unable to continue and was replaced by Nampalys Mendy.
It remained scrappy for the rest of the half and Leicester finally got a shot on goal with almost the last kick of the half. A scrum on the left saw the ball roll across the top of the area, Albrighton charged onto it and lashed it towards goal, but it was directly at Jordan Pickford. If the scoreline was determined by the run of play, this one would be exactly level at the half, but “run of play” doesn’t figure into it and James’ goal was the difference at the break.
As with the first period, the Foxes started brightly as they chased an equalizer. Barnes drifted over to the right and was able to get past his defender, but his shot from a tight angle was parried by Pickford. The rebound just eluded Tielemans but it fell kindly to Justin just outside the penalty spot; he attempted to guide the ball inside the far post but his effort went agonizingly wide.
Justin remained Leicester’s biggest threat as Maddison found Albrighton in a pocket of space in the Everton area. The former Villa man crossed to the near post and Justin made a diagonal run to meet it, but Pickford just got a hand to it before the fullback struck.
The equalizer was coming and finally arrived on the 67’ minute mark; Barnes did remarkably well to evade his defender and get the ball to Tielemans just outside the area. Tielemans lined up the shot and fired in a low drive that somehow evaded the entire Everton defense. Pickford got a hand to it, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the back of the net.
Rodgers had already decided to make an attacking change, but he signaled his desire to go for all three points by withdrawing Albrighton in favor of Ünder. It was the hosts however, who carried threat after the Leicester goal. Calvert-Lewin narrowly missed getting on the end of a ball across the face of the box and then moments later came together with James, losing an opportunity when either of them would have had an opportunity if the other had left it.
The next change was an unusual one: Evans came off for Söyüncü. The Northern Ireland defender was struggling with his movement and, as is true of most defenders, he’s not as mobile as Söyüncü under the best of circumstances. Neither team was really creating chances at this point as both sides began to look fatigued.
Both sides should have won it in the 90th minute. An unfortunate pass from Fofana was picked off and fell to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who found an unmarked Digne. The France defender picked out a perfect cross to Calvert-Lewin, but he steered his stooping header wide. At the other end, Barnes picked out Madders on the spot. The former Norwich City man turned and fired it off of Michael Keane with the goalmouth beckoning and seemed shocked at how much space he had. Neither side were able to break the deadlock and both had to settle for a point.
My heart says we should have won this one but my head (and eyes) have seen enough matches like this to know that sometimes you just have to take the point. The first half was very even and we were unfortunate to be behind. We were dominant in the second and unfortunate not to find a second, but Everton had two late golden chances and, all in all, we just have to accept that football is like this sometimes. It can always be worse: Manchester United lost to Sheffield United at Old Trafford tonight.
Brendan Rodgers tells @talkSPORT Wilfred Ndidi has a tight hamstring but will know more in the next couple of days.— Jason Bourne (@JasonBourne1986) January 27, 2021
My fingers are as crossed as...something that is really, really crossed. Look, I’m tired, ok. Figurative speech is hard.
The draw keeps us third on the table with 39 points from 20 matches. We host Leeds United this Sunday, and then it’s off to venerable Craven Cottage in one wake to take on Fulham and hopefully get a little payback for the reverse fixtures.