If reaching 50 league games in charge of Leicester City feels an achievement for Claude Puel, the greater feat is the manner in which the misunderstood Frenchman reached the milestone.
After being under pressure, Puel has recorded victories over Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton in a festive period marred only by the unexpected home loss to Cardiff. In the process, he has taken to Leicester seventh place, which is the best 2016’s improbable champions can realistically hope for.
While Jamie Vardy has admitted he is not ideally suited to Puel’s style of football, he has helped shore up the manager’s position by scoring winners in successive away matches at Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park.
And although Puel’s decision-making can cause consternation, the unexpected choice of right-back Ricardo Pereira on the left wing bore fruit when the Portuguese supplied Vardy’s goal. While Puel rested James Maddison and Leicester initially missed his creativity, they improved after the half-time introduction of Marc Albrighton to increase Everton’s problems.
Marco Silva’s side broke into the top six in November. They could begin their FA Cup campaign in the bottom half of the Premier League after a run of just one win and no clean sheets in eight games. After a difficult December, Jordan Pickford was largely unoccupied and blameless this time, but another defensive error proved Everton’s undoing.
Michael Keane’s stray touch may have been an attempted pass and could have simply been a poor piece of control. Whichever, Pereira latched on to it to release Vardy. His first shot of the calendar year was so wayward it almost resulted in a throw-in for Everton. He was altogether more clinical this time.
For a while, it had seemed like the first game of 2019 would be a contender for the unwanted tag of the worst and it seemed as grey as Leicester’s away kit. Certainly, both sides started slowly and sloppily.
Even the first major opportunity stemmed from a misplaced centre. Lucas Digne missed a host of targets with a low cross and Jonjoe Kenny ran on to the loose ball and cracked a shot against the outside of the post. The England Under-20 World Cup winner was inches from a first senior goal and may be getting closer to a regular spot in the side. If Seamus Coleman was rested, the Irishman has had a troubled first half of the season and Kenny made another positive impression with a cross Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed just wide.
Yet Everton struggled to build on that or to muster much of a response when they went behind. Kasper Schmeichel twice denied the substitute Cenk Tosun, parrying a fierce shot and blocking a close-range header, but Everton struggled to create. At the other end, Harry Maguire spurned a chance to double Leicester’s lead. He was wrongly given offside but neither his wayward finish nor the officials’ faulty eyesight cost Leicester.
FT Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Goodison Park is already half empty by the time the full time whistle blows but there are still plenty of boos. It was certainly not a classic but Jamie Vardy’s second half goal that has grabbed the win. Nine points from 12 points over the festive period for Claude Puel’s team.
Everton meanwhile looked leggy and lacking in quality. A day at the office to forget for the home side.
90 mins +2 Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Leicester running the clock down as goalscorer and likely match winner Vardy trudges off to be replaced by Demarai Gray.
Thirty odd seconds left.
90 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Chance! Three added minutes for Everton and they have a corner. Tosun is at the near post but Schmeichel comes out to smother. Astute from the keeper who has had very little to do in this match.
89 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Frustration from the Everton fans starting to be heard here. And you can see why. They’ve been wayward today.
87 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Claude Puel is three minutes plus stoppage time away from proving his doubters wrong here. Both Maddison and Gray left on the bench (getting some valuable rest time Puel might argue) but Leicester are winning here thanks to Vardy.
Meanwhile Bernard bursts down the right for Everton and puts a low cross in but Evans is once again there to clear.
83 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Talking of Everton let offs…Maguire again ghosts in at the back post, this time on the right from a freekick. Zouma is caught on his toes and the England defender is all alone but his close-range volley somehow goes over.
80 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Penalty claim! Maguire is incensed as he believes Leicester should have a penalty after his back post header appears to strike the arm of Keane. He looks spot on too as replays show Keane’s arm hits the ball. Let off Everton
78 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Chilwell on the charge! After some concerted Everton pressure, the defender comes away with the ball. And continues to come away down the pitch towards the Everton box. Vardy’s dummy run opens up space but Chilwell’s low right-footed shot is weak and Pickford gathers.
Digne then goes into the book for tugging back Albrighton. The sub has made an impact since coming on.
75 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Chance! Everton applying some pressure in search of the equaliser. And sub Tosun nearly gets it. The previously impressive Evans cushions his defensive header straight into the path of Tosun on the edge of the box, who shoots at Schmeichel.
Evans then tries to atone for his mistake but clatters into Richarlison and concedes a freekick with a yellow card to boot. Maguire is the Leicester man to ensure the freekick comes to nothing.
74 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Here’s a closer look at Leicester’s goal. It was actually Walcott’s backwards header which played Keane into trouble with the Everton defender only able to shin the ball to Ricardo Pereira who in turn played in Vardy. The rest they say…
70 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Vardy has got his tail up here and giving the Everton players plenty to think about.
Second substitution for Everton as Walcott who, unlike Vardy has faded from this game, comes off for Cenk Tosun.
67 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
As things stand, Leicester City would be up to seventh in the table after that goal, moving above Wolves. Not bad for a manager supposedly under pressure.
Still plenty of time for Everton to get back into this though.
62 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Everton make their first change. But it’s not Davies who comes on but Bernard for the previously booked Gomes.
60 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 1
Everton must be sick of the sight of Vardy. He’s been directly involved in seven goals in his eight Premier League appearances against Everton, scoring five and assisting two.
Everton look to try and hit back when Sigurdsson ghosts into the box but his shot is high over the bar,
GOAL!!!! Everton 0 Leicester City 1 (Jamie Vardy 58 mins)
He only needs a sniff doesn’t he? He’s had very little to feed off all afternoon but a horrible mistake at the back from Michael Keane is punished by Vardy.
The former England international is played in by Ricardo Pereira after Keane doesn’t clear on the edge of his box and coughs up possession and Vardy makes no mistake, sliding into the far corner.
And there’s a cartwheel celebration to go with it too!
57 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Everton corner, won by Digne on the left. Vardy is back doing his defensive duties to clear. It’s a touch of the ball at least for the striker…
Third corner of the game for Everton. Same result, Vardy clears.
54 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Midfield minefield out there today. Tom Davies looks to be getting ready for Everton. He’s a central midfielder so no doubt will relish the chance to get involved in this game.
50 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Much better from Leicester already as Albrighton immediately tries to pick out Vardy in the box with a cross. Those quick deliveries into the box were severely lacking in the first half.
48 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Albrighton nearly makes an instant impact. The cross comes in from the left and he attempts to meet in in the box. Pickford is out bravely though to gather while Kenny also applies some defensive pressure to put his opponent off.
47 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Again, not much to report on. So instead I will report on hats. Unlike Pickford in the first half, Schmeichel has elected not to pop on a baseball cap against the sun. Brave. Or just a hat hater?
46 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Back underway. An improvement in this game would be much appreciated.
Leicester City making a change at half-time. It’s not Maddison or Gray though, instead winger Albrighton coming on for Ghezzal. Early indication is it is tactical rather than an injury.
Difficult day for Vardy
Got to feel for Vardy today. In that first 45 minutes, he touched the ball nine times! That was fewer than both keepers and 12 less than nearest outfield player, Everton defender Michael Keane. Time for Maddison or Gray to come on and assist him?
HT Everton 0 Leicester City 0
The exact opposite of last night’s New Year’s fireworks. No crash, bang, wallop to start 2019 Premier League football so far. Local boy Jonjoe Kenny the closest to break the deadlock with a fierce shot against the woodwork for Everton. Leicester lacklustre in attack.
45 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Befitting of a low key first half, just the single minute of added time here. What these supporters would give for a goal…and the sun disappearing behind a cloud perhaps.
43 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Alas, back to long-rangers for Leicester. Ricardo Pereira the latest to try his luck. His right-footed effort is off target and baseball-cap wearing Pickford casually watches it fly by.
42 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Leicester have a corner. Ah, the chance to create something that isn’t a long range shot. Zouma’s head prevents that though.
From a second corner, Evans heads goalwards from the back post but it’s lacking in power and Pickford gathers.
37 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Ghezzal, who previously tried a long-range effort from 25 yards on the angle, goes for it again for Leicester. Like Vardy before him, it’s also wildly off target. Leicester in need of some shooting practice. Or just a system better utilising their attacking players.
36 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Everton definitely the stronger side here. Again Digne enjoys some luck down the left hand side and sends the ball in. Relief for Simpson as the Leicester defender slices the ball straight into the arms of his goalkeeper.
33 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Zouma fancies a goal this afternoon. He’s just tried his luck from a full 30 yards out. It flies off target though.
30 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
What a body check! It’s a miracle recovery from Richarlison on the left hand side who immediately dinks the ball over Choudhury. The Leicester man just stands there and pushes his opponent down in quite comical fashion.
From the freekick, Zouma heads goalwards and Schmeichel easily claims.
It may be low on quality but at least this game has a bit of bite to it now.
28 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Ouch! Richarlison goes for the ball with Evans over on the left hand side and slides into the defender in the process. Martin Atkinson waves play on and Leicester do so to start with with boos from the Goodison Park faithful. Eventually they relent and kick the ball out so the Brazilian can get treatment. He’s fine to continue though.
26 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
So far Vardy has managed to touch the ball seven times in this match. Isolated.
25 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
You know how people do the usual thing of setting New Year’s resolutions about being a better version of themselves and then normally crack a few days and weeks in? These two sides are doing it within 25 minutes. It’s been scrappy and lacking in real quality so far.
19 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Chance! Impressive at the back, Kenny has just nearly demonstrated his talent in attack too. Everton work the ball out well on the left, Digne sends in a low cross which looks to have evaded everyone. But storming forward was Kenny who walloped the ball against the angle of post and bar.
17 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Leicester finally enjoying a bit of concerted pressure around the Everton box. But the cutting edge is lacking while local lad Jonjoe Kenny also throws in a couple of crunching tackles, much to the appreciation of his supporters.
Here’s an indication of just how far off target Leicester’s only effort has been so far, via Vardy.
11 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Maguire guilty of coughing up possession on the edge of his own box (He’s not the first to give the ball away in this match so far!) and Richarlison tries to curl and effort on target but Evans is there to block. There’s faint claims for handball but nothing doing. That would have been harsh.
10 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
First sight of goal for Vardy as he picks up the ball on the edge of the box. There’s only one thing on his mind but he scoops it high.
7 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Pinball football! Loose play in midfield sees Richarlison burst forward, the ball falls to Digne but his shot ricochets off an Everton leg or two and out.
Everton almost in again as Sigurdsson tries to find Walcott on the edge of the box but there’s a breakdown in communication and Calvert-Lewin actually gets in the way of his teammate.
6 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
It’s a first touch for Jamie Vardy but Michael Keane is there to nick the ball off him. It could be a long afternoon for the retired England international who has looked isolated so far.
4 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
An early cheer for Everton as Theo Walcott runs into the box but the Leicester defence mop up with no problems.
3 mins Everton 0 Leicester City 0
Fairly quiet start to proceedings as both teams suss each other out. Goodison Park is half in shadow and half not.
When play goes into the sun-bathed part, it’s actually quite tricky to tell the difference between the players with Leicester in grey and Everton their blue home shirt.
Teams are out
It’s a gloriously sunny day at Everton. Imagine a few people in the crowd might be nursing some sore heads after last night’s New Year celebrations. Nothing like a bit of football to improve your mood.
We’ve just had a minute’s applause for the Evertonians that were lost in 2018 as well as the Leicester City helicopter tragedy that took the lives of club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four others.
Almost time to go now.
First of three Premier League games today
It’s a Premier League triple header to begin 2019.
12:30 Everton vs Leicester City
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Pickford in a pickle
It must have been mixed emotions for Jordan Pickford during last night’s New Year’s celebrations. A massive summer at the World Cup establishing himself as England’s number one.
Yet he will no doubt be glad to see the back of December. 15 goals conceded, the second most in the Premier League, and a couple of high profile blunders, against Spurs and Liverpool. Here’s hoping for a calmer January for Jordan.
Puel defends team selection
As mentioned at 12:05, Puel is having a tough time proving his doubters wrong. He could well be in for more flak today after an interesting team selection which sees attacking duo Gray and Maddison left on the bench.
Puel’s reasoning seems to be based on player fitness after a busy run of fixtures. He’s the coach, and knows his players better than I do.
It’s to try to keep a good balance. I said we needed to manage the physical condition of the players. We will see the situation in the game.
Marco Silva calls for consistency
Everton plumped for Marco Silva in the summer to rejuvenate the team previously led by Sam Allardyce. Most would say their playing style is much more exciting but the stats show Everton’s record after 20 Premier League games is actually exactly the same as it was at this stage last season.
Silva wants more consistency from his team who haven’t won at home since November and were thumped 6-2 by Tottenham last time in front of their home fans.
I’m always confident in our squad and the work we are doing. We’ve not been consistent in the last few games.
We know the Premier League is tough, December is tough
In this moment we have to do some rotation, it’s impossible to keep playing the same 11, you need fresh legs. If you can change two, three players it’s always good.
Much was made heading into Christmas about how Leicester City manager Claude Puel was under pressure for his job. Then followed impressive wins over Chelsea and Manchester City. And defeat to Cardiff City.
He’s favourite with the bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager to be axed but today marks his 50th Premier League game in charge of Leicester City. Milestone.
Bring on the goals!
This fixture has averaged almost four goals a game since Leicester returned to the top flight in 2014. I’ve probably jinxed it now….
And for the traditionalists
Everton: Pickford, Zouma, Digne, Keane, Kenny, Sigurdsson, Gomes, Gueye, Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, WalcottSubs: Stekelenburg, Baines, Mina, Coleman, Davies, Bernard, Tosun
Leicester: Schmeichel, Chilwell, Maguire, Simpson, Evans, Mendy, Ndidi, Pereira, Choudhury, Ghezza, VardySubs: Ward, Fuchs, Soyuncu, Albrighton, Maddison, Gray, Okazaki
Leicester team news
Leicester City, meanwhile, opted for a slightly more intimidating team reveal on Twitter, packing all their players together in a photo rather than team formation. But it’s also four at the back with four changes from their loss to Cardiff City.
Hamza Choudhury and Rachid Ghezzal get the nod to start ahead of Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray, Jonny Evans returns from injury while James Maddison, interestingly, drops to the bench. Imagine it’s not as a result of that penalty miss against Cardiff…
Everton team news
Teams are out ahead of the 12:30 kick-off and Everton make three changes to the side that succumbed to Brighton.
Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin return while Jonjoe Kenny, 21, replaces 30-year-old Seamus Coleman for his first start in almost two months. It’s a traditional back four approach for Everton this afternoon.
Happy New Year!
It’s out with the World Cup year and in with 2019, which promises plenty of footballing drama once again and perhaps, just perhaps, some silverware for England in the Nations League this summer. But first of all domestic matters, and the powers that be have elected to go for Everton and Leicester City to kickstart the 2019 Premier League football.
With the so-called ‘big six’ occupying the top six places, today’s early kick-off at Goodison Park represents the battle for the ‘middle league’ and possibly sneaking into Europe next season. Both Everton and Leicester grabbed impressive Boxing Day wins, over Burnley and Manchester City respectively, but then they both slipped up by a single goal in their last match.
Leicester hold the edge in the league, sitting one point and two places above the hosts today in what is the 100th top flight meeting between the two. Everton have won four of the past five league encounters, including the last two by a 2-1 scoreline but they are on a sticky run of late, losing three of their last four Premier League games.
Leicester, meanwhile, have lost three of their last five league games. A perfect opportunity for one of these teams to start turning things around as part of their New Year’s resolution.
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