Joel Robles shines in goal
With Maarten Stekelenberg out of the line up with injury, Joel Robles was called upon to make only his second start. In both games he kept a clean sheet in with identical 2-0 victories (Everton beat West Ham United 2-0 nearly two months ago). The sight of Robles in net has rarely inspired confidence in the coaching staff or supporters of this club, but the Spaniard put in an impressive performance against Leicester. Not only did he make the easy saves, but he made a crucial save when Leonardo Ulloa got a free header away just feet from the goal. The ball was fortunately directed into the waiting hands of Robles, but his quick reactions kept the score in Everton’s favor.
Even more impressive though, was Robles’ command of the penalty area throughout the match. While Stekelenberg has been solid in net for Everton, Robles showed an uncanny confidence and ability in leaving his line and snatching crosses and lobbed passes out of the air. As Leicester pushed forward looking for an equalizer, Robles was able to relieve the pressure time and time again by adeptly taking the ball out of the air and quashing the opposing attacks.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the beauty of an assist Robles provided on the opening goal of the match. In the most direct goal possible, Joel thumped the ball down the pitch and found a streaking Kevin Mirallas for what would be the deciding goal. This may not be a viable strategy going forward, but it was nonetheless an impressive kick by Robles.
Tom Davies gets another chance to impress
When 18-year-old Tom Davies entered the match for Gareth Barry I’m sure more than a few of us watching the game were left scratching our heads. With Everton’s tenuous lead still intact, it seemed a bit odd to sub out one of our better defensive players for the talented but largely unproven Davies. However, any doubts were quickly squashed as the youngster put on an impressive display in central midfield. Davies may not have the tactical acumen of Barry, or the strength in defensive situations, but he skillfully moved the ball around the pitch, made smart runs and consistently moved the ball into open space.
The confidence Davies showed was impressive as well. Clearly not bothered by the bright lights of the Premier League, he never looked nervous and even took a crack or two at goal when given the space. Moving forward Davies should certainly be getting looks ahead of a player like Tom Cleverley. The youngster appears to offer that creativity and skill that Everton have been lacking and could certainly be a change of pace over the players we are used to seeing in central midfield for Everton.
Everton finally close out a match
This was the first time since October 30th against West Ham that Everton have taken a lead late into the second half and actually kept it. Too many times this season Everton have gone behind and then desperately hoof the ball towards goal in search of a late game equalizer to steal a point. Rarely have they dictated the terms of the game themselves. While things certainly looked shaky at times, Everton took the lead and didn’t necessarily sit back and pray for the final whistle.
Sure, they went into a more defensive posture as the game wore on, but they were still moving the ball forward and looking to seal the match with a second goal. That second goal finally came when the team actually played to Romelu Lukaku’s strengths. Ross Barkley’s clearance gave Lukaku the opportunity to run at the ball in open space as opposed to heading it down to nobody, as has often been the case this season. While not the most adept dribbler, the striker was able to use his strength to muscle through Leicester’s defense and seal the victory for Everton. With Lukaku’s isolation up top still a glaring issue, perhaps Everton would do well to give the striker the opportunity to run with the ball in space. If these opportunities become more abundant, I think it’s fair to say that we might see the Belgian’s goal numbers soar as well.