Everton left it extremely late to claim a much-valued point against Leicester City to continue their surge away from the Premier League relegation battle. Goodison Park had to wait until deep into second-half stoppage-time for Richarlison to finally bury a chance and send a shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
The home side’s efforts had warranted at least a point; their second half was much improved from the first and they edged the shot count. The celebrations from pitch to dugout to stands told of how important this goal was.
Before then, Frank Lampard had been counting the cost of a defensive lapse in the fifth minute. The game had barely got going before Harvey Barnes pounced on unsure Everton defending. Brendan Rodgers’ side took that and ran with it for as long as they could.
They have little to gain from the rest of their Premier League campaign: sat in 9th in the table, and the travelling foxes sang of ‘Going Rome’ in anticipation of their Europa Conference League semi final with Roma. Rather it was Everton in need of points. They had 11 days to dwell on the 1-0 triumph over Manchester United last time out — a sole win in their last three — and with a Merseyside Derby to come on Sunday, knew something tangible from this home game was necessary.
Twenty-three of Everton’s 29 points this term have come at Goodison and this latest one takes them four points above 18th-placed Burnley who face Southampton on Thursday evening in their game in hand. Everton’s cause hasn’t been helped by the news that Dominic Calvert-Lewin had suffered a ‘quad sensation’ in training during the week and would miss this game along with the trip across Stanley Park to Anfield.
Story of the game
Rodgers made seven changes to the team that lost to an injury-time winner against Newcastle United on Sunday and brought in a completely different back four. He set up with attacking intent, however; James Maddison, Kelechi Iheanacho lining up along with Barnes. They started with purpose too. Within 30 seconds, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall had been sent through on goal requiring Seamus Coleman to slide in and dispossess the Leicester midfielder.
A jarred knee for the Everton captain was the worst outcome from that early fright but it only took a further four minutes for Lampard’s side to experience greater punishment. It was a move worked neatly down the right flank. Kasper Schmeichel passed to Ricardo Pereira who took the ball forward before exchanging passes with the influential Dewsbury-Hall. Maddison was quickly sent to the byline where he centred for Iheanacho. His jabbed effort was blocked by Yerry Mina but the ball fell for Barnes to sweep home.
That sucked any early life out of Lampard’s players. Mina, one of two changes, was back after 10 weeks out with a hamstring injury but his presence alone couldn’t paper over those familiar defensive cracks. Leicester found it too easy to play through their hosts and swiftly Maddison saw a shot claimed by Jordan Pickford after another waltzing move across the Goodison pitch.
Exasperated, the home fans saw their team launch their first attack on 17 minutes when Anthony Gordon capitalised on Timothy Castagne’s slip. The subsequent cross was a rare good one for Richarlison but the Brazilian wasn’t ready and the ball dribbled wide. It took another half dozen attempts to deliver the next half decent cross and on that occasion Richarlison’s header missed the target.
A corner routine straight from the training ground lacked the finish that could have sent Everton in at the break level, Demarai Gray’s shot was always travelling over though. As was Alex Iwobi’s effort which opened the second half. Still that didn’t stop the home crowd from urging their team to press on. Their first dominant period in the game stemmed from it.
Yet that wasn’t enough and the need for a goal, along with Richarlison demonstrating that he flails when playing as a lone striker, led to Lampard sending on Dele Alli and Salomon Rondon on the hour. The Venezuelan had an immediate impact when he flicked on a route one ball from Pickford into Richarlison’s path, his low shot was parried by Schmeichel.
Having sat off Everton, Leicester found a second wind. Maddison brought a flying save out of Pickford another of the midfielder’s shots rolled off Fabian Delph’s shin into the side-netting. Wesley Fofana met the subsequent corner with a free header but sent it wide.
There was still time for a grandstand finish. In the final 10 minutes Richarlison mis-headed Gordon’s corner from gilt-edged range and Rondon also sent a header wide. Coleman dithered with a shot allowing Daniel Amartey to block. Yet then, in the second minute of time added on, the scruffiest of finishes came from Richarlison’s right boot as he spun and took aim. However, few here cared how such a precious goal arrived.
Everton: Pickford; Coleman, Mina, Godfrey, Mykolenko; Allan (Dele 58), Delph, Iwobi; Gordon, Richarlison, Gray (Rondon 66).
Subs (not used): Begovic, Keane, Kenny, Holgate, Gomes, Doucoure, van de Beek.
Leicester: Schmeichel; Pereira, Fofana, Evans, Castagne; Mendy (Amartey 83); Barnes (Lookman 66), Tielemans, Dewsbury-Hall, Maddison; Iheanacho (Daka 77).
Subs (not used): Ward, Justin, Soyuncu, Albrighton, Choudhury, Perez.
Referee: David Coote.