Everton got caught up in a track meet they seemed ill-prepared to participate in against Leeds United, and were both fortunate and unfortunate at the final result yesterday. Leeds United won 1-0 after a first half where the visitors could have had a flurry of goals, but the Toffees missed a couple of gilt-edged chances themselves and were unfortunate to have two goals chalked off for offside decisions too.
Young defender Mason Holgate had the honour of leading out the Blues at an unfortunately quiet Goodison Park in the closed doors game for the very first time in his career, and reflected on the moment after the final whistle.
“Everton is a massive club and it’s the first time I’ve captained the team in any game. For it to be in a Premier League match is a big moment for me and my family.
“This club has been a massive part of my life so it is proud moment for me, but it still comes with the disappointment of losing. We know the team and squad we’ve got is better than what we’ve been doing in recent weeks.
“We need to get consistency levels in our performances and results again.”
Everton have been better this season when controlling the tempo of games, but did not appear prepared to handle Marcelo Bielsa’s expansive gameplan. Holgate admitted that the players forewent their instructions from Carlo Ancelotti as they got caught up in Leeds’ strategy.
“There’s lots of different things [we could have done differently]. The main one being on the ball, not pushing things as much as we did.
“Obviously, we know what kind of game they like to play, which is man-to-man, intensive, back and forth. We know the way we wanted to play and ultimately we didn’t do that.
“It felt like we got involved in a game of you attack, we attack. The intensity they made the game... as soon as we got the ball, we felt we had to go forward as fast as we could as well. That led to it being back and forth, back and forth. When it’s like that, it makes it into a 50/50 game.
“They got the goal in the end, and that’s won them the game. On a different day, we could have nicked that and we could be talking like it’s a good result. It’s disappointing but all we can do is regroup and get ready to go again.”
There’s not too much time to reflect, as the Blues will play a further seven games in just 24 days starting next weekend. They will need every fit player they can for that stretch, and Ancelotti can be relieved that Holgate is finally fit after picking up a preseason injury.
“I felt comfortable, I’ve had a good few weeks training now. I’m feeling fitter. Obviously, you’re not going to be 100 per cent because that comes with matches.
“To be able to get matches in now is good and, hopefully, we can now get a few wins on the board.”