A quick response was needed following Saturday’s disappointing home loss to Newcastle United, and Carlo Ancelotti received exactly that from his players.
Goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin earned Everton a hard-fought win against The Whites after a resilient second-half defensive display ensured the Toffees took maximum points.
A Raphinha goal just after the break halved the deficit but the visitors held on to move four points off a Champions League place with two games in hand.
First Half Response
Last Saturday’s lacklustre defeat left club captain, Seamus Coleman apologising for the lack of fight shown. However, the first-half performance at Elland Road showed plenty of fight and provided Ancelotti the response he would have been looking for.
Everton opened the scoring in the ninth minute when an unmarked Sigurdsson tapped in Lucas Digne’s cross. The French left-back has six assists in 12 Premier League matches this season, the highest for a defender.
Despite the possession stats favouring the hosts, who almost equalised when Ezgjan Alioski’s strike thundered off the post, Everton defended well and fought hard in the middle to limit Leeds' chances and to preserve their lead.
The Toffees doubled their advantage five minutes before the break when Calvert-Lewin ended a goal drought of seven league games. Ben Godfrey's near post flick-on from a corner fell to the striker at the back post who directed his diving header away from Illan Meslier.
Calvert-Lewin now has 12 Premier League goals to his name in what has been an impressive season for the England international.
Robin Olsen started his third league game since joining from Roma on loan in the summer with Jordan Pickford sustaining a rib injury in the defeat to Newcastle.
The Sweden international took full advantage of a rare start by producing a fantastic performance to ensure Everton left with all three points. Olsen made two important first-half saves and continued his work after the interval, pulling off three crucial stops in quick succession to prevent the hosts equalising.
With Pickford set to have recovered in time for Everton’s trip to Old Trafford at the weekend, Olsen’s fine performance will leave Ancelotti with a decision to make as to who he starts between the sticks.
Ancelotti made two defensive changes to the Newcastle starting line-up, bringing in Godfrey and Mason Holgate to replace Coleman and Michael Keane. The decision paid off as Godfrey was named Man of the Match in a dominant display alongside the rest of the backline.
Despite conceding three minutes into the second half, to a goal considered soft on Everton’s ends, the defence dealt perfectly with everything the home side threw at them.
Marcelo Bielsa was left frustrated his side came away pointless, feeling as though enough was done to at least earn a draw if not won the game.
The centre back partnership of Godfrey and Yerry Mina dominated aerial battles and when faced with goal threatening chances, Olsen was on hand to provide protection to all three points.
Ancelotti faces another difficult choice as to who starts centre back next time out.
The Toffees weakness in recent seasons has been their form on the road, however this season, it has been without doubt their strength. Victory in West Yorkshire brought yet another away win, a seventh in 10 league games this season.
Everton have now won their last four straight top-flight away games for the first time since 1985 and currently sit on their highest away points total in five seasons.
The last time the Merseyside outfit won more than seven away league games in a campaign was under the reigns of Roberto Martinez in 2013/14 who guided Everton to a fifth-place finish. The Toffees won eight matches away from Goodison Park, including a first victory at Old Trafford since 1992.
Josh King Debut
Everton’s only addition in the transfer window was Josh King who arrived from Bournemouth on Deadline Day in a deal till the end of the season.
The Norway international made his first appearance in a blue shirt, albeit for the final five minutes when he came off the bench to replace Alex Iwobi on the right-wing.
King’s already received high praise from his new manager who spoke of his ability to play anywhere in a front three and hailed his new number 11 for making Everton’s squad complete.
Onto Manchester United
Everton travel to Old Trafford on Saturday night to face a Manchester United side that obliterated Southampton 9-0 on Tuesday.
The Blues have only won three times in the last 30 years at Old Trafford with their last victory coming courtesy of a late Bryan Oviedo goal to overcome a United outfit managed by former Everton manager, David Moyes.
The sides have already faced each other twice this season, the Red Devils coming out victorious on both occasions at Goodison Park. A 3-1 defeat was inflicted in the league meeting before two late goals knocked Everton out the Quarter Final of the Carabao Cup before Christmas.
Ancelotti will be hoping to make it third time lucky against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team this season and end a personal run of six games without a win against Manchester United.