Everton continued to shake the rust off as they fell to Leicester City 1-0 in their second preseason match at Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok, Thialand. With regulars Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady in the line-up for today's friendly, Everton looked solid in possesion throughout the first half. The Toffees threatened to score on several occasions, the best chance being a Luke Garbutt cross that found Gareth Barry at the far post, however the midfielder was unable to find the back of the net. An excellent run by Steven Pienaar opened up space for Leon Osman to put a shot on goal but he was turned away by the Leicester City goalkeeper. Both teams had solid opportunities throughout the first half but were unable to convert on any of them, leaving the game at a 0-0 draw going into half time.
Roberto Martinez made a handful of substitutions at the half bringing on several of the Toffees youngsters while switching formation from the 4-2-3-1 to the 3-5-2. The team appeared out of sync in the second half, making several defensive mistakes that could have turned into goals were it not for the excellent tackling and recovery of John Stones. Leicester City finally broke through in the 54th minute when Leicester City's Jamie Vardy beat keeper Joel Robles to the ball leaving the Spaniard well off his line. Vardy crossed the ball through several lunging defenders and found Gary Fletcher-Taylor who neatly slotted the ball home for the goal. Everton failed to create any significant opportunities in the second half and the game ended with Leicester City winning 1-0.
- Luke Garbutt impressed yet again with his solid defensive performance, excellent crosses and even showed off his free kick ability with a curling effort that was saved by Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Garbutt has thus far done a wonderful job of getting forward and contributing in the offensive third and has been consistent defensively. The young left back has certainly made a case for more minutes this season and Martinez will have a tough decision to make as to who Leighton Baines' back up will be. With Bryan Oviedo still getting back to full fitness, Garbutt is making a strong case to jump ahead of the Costa Rican in the depth chart.
- Everton's back four had a very consistent game with Sylvain Distin continuing to be a rock at center back, while Shane Duffy performed well despite the occasional mental lapse. As I stated above, John Stones improved on his performance from Everton's first preseason match against Tranmere, making several timely tackles to keep the score low.
- Both Aiden McGeady and Steven Pienaar played very well today. Now fully fit, McGeady is starting to show the pace and dribbling skill that will make him incredibly tough to defend going forward. When he had the ball, McGeady was a constant threat in the final third and created a hand full of scoring opportunities early in the game. On the left side, Pienaar had a strong showing today as he was all over the field creating passing options for his teammates. He nearly had an assist after a surging run put Leon Osman in a good position to score, but Osman was unable to capitalize on the chance.
- Most of the youngsters had a solid showing as well. Conor McAleny and Chris Long created a few opportunities and showed off their speed and dribbling skills. But neither player was able to find much room to get a shot off as Leicester City did a good job of getting numbers behind the ball. John Lundstram had a moment of brilliance when he flicked the ball over the head of a Leicester City defender on the left flank but the team was unable to turn the chance into a scoring opportunity.
- Joel Robles struggled in net for the second consecutive game. The keeper was able to make the easy saves when called upon but was caught way out of position on Leicester City's only goal of the night. Robles has proven to be a solid shot stopper, but he will need to cut down on mental mistakes going forward since he will be the primary keeper for cup matches.
- The lack of a full time striker was an issue for the Toffees in this game. Steven Naismith has shown a knack for timely goals in previous seasons, but was unable to get going in this match. Hopefully, Romelu Lukaku will be on his way sooner rather than later to sure up the striker position, but Everton will need better options than Naismith and Arouna Kone if they are to replicate last seasons success. That being said, the transfer window is still open and the team will surely sign reinforcements at striker before the season begins.
Despite the loss, Everton played a solid game today. There are still some signs of off-season rust in the squad, but the preseason is the time for the team to make mistakes. This squad is very likely to undergo more changes before the two teams meet again in August and the result will likely be very different from the once we saw today. The Toffees next friendly will be August 3rd when they take on FC Porto at Goodison Park.