Fifteen minutes after the final whistle a bouncing, hazy blue away end resembled something of a pub lock‑in and Frank Lampard said he understood the Everton fans’ reluctance to make tracks home after watching their team record a precious victory in the fight for Premier League survival.
After all, they had a first win away from Goodison Park since August to cherish and, better still, victory hoisted Everton to 16th, a point above the relegation zone with the advantage of a game in hand on those below them. Even a calamitous mix-up between Yerry Mina and Séamus Coleman, which allowed Patson Daka to cancel out Vitalii Mykolenko’s stunning volley, would not tarnish this day out, with Mason Holgate exposing Leicester’s vulnerabilities at set pieces to head in a winner.
Four days since Tammy Abraham powered in at a corner to send Leicester packing in the Europa Conference League at the Stadio Olimpico, Brendan Rodgers was left with another agonising clip to pore over. Richarlison crashed a free header towards goal from the former Leicester winger Demarai Gray’s outswinging corner and, with Kasper Schmeichel unable to palm the ball to safety, Holgate feasted on the rebound.
“Mason was sick yesterday, couldn’t train with us, couldn’t travel with us, turned up to the hotel separately,” Lampard said. “He said: ‘I’m playing this game,’ and that is the attitude that will get us to where we want to be this season.”
For Everton, who again had Jordan Pickford to thank for a catalogue of fine saves – arguably the best of which prevented Nampalys Mendy from finding the top corner with a curling shot – successive victories for the first time since September breathes life into their hopes of staying up with four games to play, the first a trip to relegated Watford on Wednesday.
The Ukraine full-back Mykolenko opened the scoring in style on six minutes, lashing a sweet left-foot volley into the top corner from the edge of the 18-yard box. “That goal for him is a culmination of going through a tough time, arriving here in the Premier League mid-season, [with] what’s going on at home no one can imagine how his head is with that, and he’s been brilliant,” Lampard said.
Such joy proved short-lived as Leicester hit back in comical fashion five minutes later, seconds after Abdoulaye Doucouré almost doubled Everton’s advantage when Schmeichel required the help of a post to keep the midfielder’s effort out. Schmeichel wellied the ball downfield to Kelechi Iheanacho and at that point a slapstick moment unfolded. Mina and Coleman collided as they went for the same bouncing ball and the pair ended up allowing Daka to race clean through and finish past an exposed Pickford.
But on the half-hour Everton regained the lead, feasting on more slack defending by Leicester, who were without James Maddison and James Justin through injury. The hosts improved when Harvey Barnes entered at the interval but their fans left thoroughly dissatisfied, prompting Rodgers to have “honest conversations” with his players.
“After games I don’t normally say so much,” he said. “Normally I’ll let it go into the next day and reflect. But it was hugely disappointing. We need some honest feedback in order for us to go forward.”
Youri Tielemans’ aimless pass midway through the second half, which was gobbled up by Pickford, offered a microcosm of a painstaking performance.
It is now seven games without victory for Rodgers, who turned to Jamie Vardy for inspiration on 66 minutes. Barnes forced a couple of fine saves out of Pickford, the first after Daka kept Iheanacho’s cross alive at the back post, and late on when he sent a header narrowly wide from a Timothy Castagne cross. The pained, impassioned expression on Pickford’s face said it all. The same could be said for Rodgers.
Leicester, who were booed off at full time, have conceded 23 times from set plays this season, including 18 goals from corners. “The biggest disappointment was the corner,” Rodgers said. “To get back into the game and to concede from that, considering I changed the system to try and put extra height into the team because I think it was something we have lacked, that profile of player.But I thought it was sheer determination, to defend the ball into the box. That’s on me. I need to keep looking at that to try and make it right until the summer, when we can actually do something about it.
I thought we started the game well but then we have undone our good work.”