Smash and grab at the Champions' lair

By Michael Kenrick 26/12/2016  180 Comments  [Jump to last]

Joel Robles started in goal in place of Maarten Steklelenburg who has a dead leg.

Everton travel to Leicester with Robles, Holgate and Mirallas given starts, with Jagielka and Barkley on the bench.

Maarten Stekelenburg is injured after Leighton Baines crashed into him last week, so Joel Robles replaces him in the starting line-up and young 'keeper Mateusz Hewelt gets promoted to the bench as cover along with bright prospect Tom Davies from the Under-23s.

Everton kicked off with the now requisite hoof forward that then lost possession. The early exchanges saw the visitors controlling the play without really penetrating the Foxes defence. After some lame pass-the-parcel at the back, Colemans early cross was straight to Schmeichel.

After 10 mins, it was Leicester's turn to apply some pressure as Amartey fired in on Robles. For Everton, they were relying on forward balls through Coleman wide right and this ploy won the first corner, taken by Barry but looping in high to Schmeichel. From his release, Gray ran forward and fired wide.

Chilwell put in a good run that won Leicester a corner as the tempo increased a little. But Everton's play out of the back was painfully slow and ultimately wasteful. An attack down the left saw Baines put on a better-quality cross, but it was Baines who gave away a free-kick coming in late on Gray.

Barry tried to pick out Lukaku with a sharp forward ball but it ran away from the big man. Holgate tried the same thing from deep. When Baines did pick out Lukaku, Mirallas was well offside in front of him.

When Everton did play the ball forward at pace, there seemed to be a lot more space opening up, but still no end-product was forthcoming. Gueye played a great ball directly in to Lukaku's feet and it just bounced back off him.

It was laboured at best, albeit with Everton dominating possession but producing absolutely nothing in the way of a meaningful attack on goal. Mirallas did win another corner, that he took, Funes Mori almost connecting, follwed by abetter movement and a scuffed shot from Baines but still not testing Schmeichel as a dreadful 45 minutes of what now passes for Premier League football mercifully ended.

The laboured play continued until a long clearance from Robles bounced nicely fro Mirallas and he struggled to control the ball enough to deflect it off a defender past Schmeichel and into the Leicester net. Route one pays off!

The goal bought some much-needed life to proceedings, with Mirallas threatrening to get a second but for close attention from the Foxes defence. ALbrighton got a chance to threaten the Everton goal from a free-kick but it was played straight to Robles.

Williams overstretched to clear a ball and may have damaged his hamstring as the home side were willed on by their fans, Everton. Ulloa replaced Gray and almost cored off a free-header, Robles well-positioned to catch it as the Yellows had to batten down the hatches under repeated Leicester forays, with Davies replacing Gareth Barry as the pressure continued to mount, Baines picking up the armband.

Some real pressure now, the Everton defence tested but holding firm, with Barkley getting the call to replace goalscorer Mirallas for the last 15 minutes. Davies broke forward and tried a curler past the far post, and was a live wire in mdifield. Simpson booked for a foul on Barkley.

The quality of the football was still remarkably poor from both sides, but all that mattered to Everton was retaining a precious lead. Mahrez and Ulloa had other ideas, with another great ball in to the far post but this time under defensive pressure from Williams.

Everton finally got some decent passing and took the sting out of it, Lukaku getting forward off a superb ball from Barkley, but out wide he played the cross to Gueye, positions bizarrely swapped and the open goal predictably missed. Why oh why wasn't Lukaku in the box instead of making the cross?

Drinkwater drew a yellow for fouling Lennon, which led to a corner taken by Barkley, with Davies firing in the third ball at goal. Cleverley replaced Lennon to break up the play a little as the minutes ticked away towards a precious Everton win.

Into 4 minutes of added time and Everton trying their best to keep the ball away from Robles and Barkley did brilliantly to get the ball out to Lukaku who did the rest as only he can when running with the ball after batting away Wes Morgan.

Lukaku then played in Coleman who could not control his late shot, while the travelling Blues revelled in the moment with a fine retinue of songs as the KP Stadium rapidly emptied. An excellent result from a really poor display of football. That is apparently the best we can expect until the Koeman 'project' is complete... two years from now.

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