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Everton 2-1 Leicester City - Toffees grind out vital win to boost Europa League hopes

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Richarlison and Sigurdsson win it for the Blues

FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-LEICESTER Photo by JON SUPER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

What a gutsy and vital win that was.

Everton withheld a second half barrage from Leicester to edge to a 2-1 victory that puts them right in the mix for a Europa League place.

They are now just two points behind Arsenal in seventh, which could yield a Europa League qualifying spot next season.

With games against eight-placed Tottenham and sixth-placed Wolves to come in the next 11 days, Everton’s European destiny is very much in their own hands.

It was a victory that is down to the tactical nous of Carlo Ancelotti.

Leicester were all over Everton at the start of the second half, but the Italian recognised the and made crucial substitutions and tactical tweaks to see Everton home

First half

Everton were on it from the off, taking the lead with a lovely goal from Richarlison after just 10 minutes.

Lucas Digne combined well with Anthony Gordon down the left and the youngster’s low cross was swept home by the Brazilian from close range.

Six minutes later it was two, with the Toffees winning a penalty for the first time in the Premier League this season, though it took a lengthy VAR check to establish that Wilfred Ndidi had handled the ball ahead of Michael Keane.

Sigurdsson stepped up and calmly sent a no-look spot-kick beyond Kasper Schmeichel.

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

That was the good bit, now the bad bit.

Everton faded after their bright start, allowing Leicester to dominate possession.

Chances remained at a premium, though Jordan Pickford had to be alert to deny Jonny Evans from close range.

All good at the break, however.

Second half

Kelechi Iheanacho, without a Premier League goal since December, is rapidly developing into one of those players who always scores against the Toffees, no matter how out of form or low on confidence.

He netted a stoppage-time winner in the reverse fixture at the King Power Stadium and he got the Foxes back into the game here, though he benefitted from a huge dollop of fortune as Mason Holgate’s attempted clearance struck him in the face and rebounded past Pickford.

Everton were rocking at this stage and nearly conceded a horror own goal when Pickford let a tame cross through his legs, luckily Keane was alert to clear off the line.

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Peter Powell/Pool via Getty Images

Pickford was involved again moments later when he failed to claim a far post heave into the area, but Iheanacho fired over from close range.

Ancelotti responded by tightening things up, adding Tom Davies into midfield to keep an eye on James Maddison, before Yerry Mina was introduced to slot alongside Keane and Holgate.

It worked, as Leicester’s threat was significantly blunted, allowing Everton to see the game home.

It was far from fluent, but few teams have hit top speed since the lockdown. It’s all about results at this stage and Everton have taken seven points from nine to lift themselves right into the European mix.

Magnifico.

Everton FC v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images