After this match it was difficult to know which stretched over credibility: Claudio Ranieri the claim that he was not aware of the more than 30,000 people in the stadium wearing Jamie Vardy masks, or the fact that Leicester City are the English champions.
The last time Leicester hosted Everton, in May, were presented with the trophy of the Premier League; here everything what was on the screen was a small public relations stunt and a sad contrast between the title winners of last season and this Leicester side. Everton don’t need to excel to claim their first victory away from home since September.
The City of Leicester give the fans of 30.000 Jamie Vardy masks to use in protest at the ban
Everton finished to see how it achieves travelers, but in general it is a poor quality of the contest that made it especially painful to see supporters of the home side. That includes Vardy, who sat in the stands as he began his three-match suspension for his red card against Stoke City. Leicester had been so injured in the Football Association’s rejection of an appeal against the ban that the club organized for the masks of their striker, to be delivered before kick-off. Some kind of protest? Ranieri said that he knew nothing about it. That, at least, was wise.
Vardy’s punishment must have been feeling particularly serious in view of the calibre of game that had to see. The first 45 minutes were miserable, amounting to a late but compelling entry for the worst half of football in 2016. Everton were especially pale initially and must be reinforced Ronald Koeman the eagerness of lead in the blood during the transfer window of January.
Koeman’s side improved in the second period, however, finally summoning the wit to take advantage of the fact Leicester had been forced to deploy a weakening of the defense due to the prohibitions of Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs. The home team, the replacements were a war veteran, the 36‑year-old center Marcin Wasilewski, and a rookie, the 20-year-old Ben Chilwell. This last is done well, but the lack of pace alongside Wes Morgan in the centre of the defence was exposed by Everton in the 51st minute.
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All it took was a long punt over the defence by the visiting goalkeeper, Joel Robles. Kevin Mirallas departed on his search, easily running away from the clearing center, back. Kasper Schmeichel was unable to prevent the Belgian from firing Everton in front.
That was the Everton of the first strike on goal in the match. His only previous attempt in the general direction of the target, a weak header by Ramiro Funes Mori after a cross by Mirallas, it was so harmless that most of the statistical it is very unlikely that it registered as a shot.
Leicester had gone only a little closer, Daniel Amaratey forcing a routine save out of Robles in the 10th minute with a respectable shot from 20 metres after a house exchange with Shinji Okazaki. There was a serious lack of creativity from both sides.
Ranieri has tried to change that in half the time by replacing the introduction of Danny Drinkwater of Okazaki. After Everton took the initiative and began to grow in the confidence of Ranieri threw on Riyad Mahrez, too. Of his decision to omit from the alignment of the Premier League player of the year last season, the manager said later: “He is not in a good moment and I want to encourage him. He should give more for the team.”
Leicester City fans to be entertained with Jamie Vardy masks during a turgid first half. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
Leicester supporters were also in the mood for telling truths. They booed Ranieri third substitution, not because I had anything against the new arrival, Leonardo Ulloa, but because man has substituted, Demarai Gray, had been Leicester’s brightest attacker. Ranieri said that the change was made for the sake of team balance. Ulloa’s header within moments of arriving it was easily saved by Robles. That was the nearest Leicester came to infiltrate into the Everton of the three-man defence.
Everton controlled the game as it wore on, with Tom Davies, a vibrant centre of the field presence after his introduction midway through the second half. Idrissa Gueye should have made certain of the victory in the minute 82, but shot over the bar from close in after a low pass across goal from Romelu Lukaku. In the 90th minute Lukaku did the work himself, racing in another long ball forward before outmuscling Morgan, circumventing Wasilewski and stylish finish. What began as a sad fare ended up as a highly successful trip for the team of Koeman.