Everton held in Opener
King Power Stadium
Saturday, August 16, 15:00
Everton were denied an opening day victory as an 86th minute equaliser to substitute Chris Wood earned Leicester City a point in their return to the top flight in a decade. Everton twice hit the front courtesy of McGeady and Naismith, however Leicester managed to fight back thanks to goals to debutant Ulloa and substitute Wood.
Everton lined up with 28mil man Romelu Lukaku making his proper debut for the club, however right back Seamus Coleman could only manage to make the bench, as did Mirallas, who continues his preseason following an extended break. With Barkley ruled out, Naismith replaced him in the line up.
The game started as expected really, Everton were set the task of trying to quell the excitement in the King Power Stadium, as Leicester came out with the excitement of finally being back in the top flight. However, the Foxes were quickly reminded of the gulf between the Championship and the Premier League. As the first half progressed, Everton gradually found their way into the game, and going forward were looking capable of breaching the Leicester defence at any given time, however, chances were few and far between in the early exchanges.
That all changed as Aiden McGeady opened up Everton's account for the season with a fantastic finish in the 20th minute. A long range Baines effort was deflected into the path of Distin who saw his shot saved by a sprawling Schmeichel, the ball bounced out to McGeady, and with Schmeichel closing him down, and 3 Leicester players on the line, McGeady took a touch and curled an unstoppable shot right into the top corner, with the help of the woodwork, to give Everton the lead.
However, as the old saying goes, you are most vulnerable when you score and Leicester found themselves on level terms a mere 90secs later as record signing Leonardo Ulloa scored on his Foxes debut. Sylvain Distin failed to clear the ball from a corner kick, and his half clearance deflected into the path of Ulloa, who took full advantage to square the ledger.
After that, Everton continued to ask questions of the Leicester defence, and Leicester were finding some joy with long balls as Distin and Jagielka struggled to deal with long balls all afternoon, the match seemed like it was going into half time level, but on the stroke of half time, some neat work on the left from Pienaar and Baines, who found a lot of joy in the first half, resulted in a cutback cross from Baines into the path of Pienaar, who managed to get a toe onto the ball and deflected it into the path of Naismith who made no mistake with the finish to give Everton the lead heading into half time.
However, the 2nd half saw a completely different Everton side, after a bright first half, with some brilliant football on display, it completely dried up in the 2nd half as it seemed like Everton were content with holding onto the 2-1 lead. Chances were few and far between for both sides as it seemed like Everton would record an opening day victory, however, 4mins from time, Leicester managed to find themselves an equaliser courtesy of a deflection which saw the ball pop out to an unmarked Chris Wood who made no mistake with the finish to earn the Foxes a point.
Everton then tried to save the game, however, it was far too late as Everton were forced to settle for a draw. There are plenty of questions that need answering after the performance. After such a bright start, the Everton players really did struggle with fitness in the 2nd half, Leicester players were clearly the fitter players as they over-ran the Everton side. The substitutions Martinez orchestrated also need to be addressed, with such a tiring side, Martinez failed to use his 3 subs, only using two, and both came in the last 10mins.
It may be only the first game, but with Arsenal and Chelsea up next, these were crucial points to drop, and could potentially lead to Everton being behind the 8 ball, which is never good so early in the season. The first half showed plenty of promise, but the 2nd half left a sour taste in the mouth of Everton fans as they need to bounce back next weekend at home to Arsenal.