It was difficult viewing for large parts of the second half, but the Everton players have bought into the defensive discipline that Carlo Ancelotti has been preaching in, and it showed. The Toffees had scored twice early on and then settled in for a strong rearguard action as they held on for the 2-1 win despite Leicester City dominating possession for most of the game.
Speaking after the game, Ancelotti commended his squad for their efforts.
“[Being resilient] is important, not always can you play your best. But what has to be the best, is the spirit. The spirit of the team is really good, they are showing a fantastic effort in training and games.
“In the first half we were efficient and had good control of the game. We had opportunities on the counter-attack and scored a fantastic goal, with a fantastic assist from Anthony Gordon.
“In the second half they changed their shape, we conceded a goal and the game was more difficult. We lost a bit of confidence but defended well. We had to defend more than attack and that was why we didn’t play the second half the same as the first.”
The Blues have now picked up two wins and a draw in their three games since the Premier League restarted, and remain in contention for a spot in Europe next season.
“That is what we wanted from this game: three points, playing well in the first half, then it was more difficult in the second half.
“But the points to continue the possibility of the dream we have. The next game will be really important but in the others we have to fight and be there.
“I am happy with the spirit the team has shown in these three games [following the Premier League’s resumption]. Sometimes we played well but everyone was focused – we didn’t make mistakes.
“We can improve the quality of our play but the key reason for the good results is the spirit of the team.”
The second half proved to be a managerial chess match, with Brendan Rodgers making the first move at halftime bringing on talismanic James Maddison and striker Kelechi Iheanacho, who had broken Everton hearts earlier this season with a VAR-overturned winner in time added on at the King Power Stadium.
It seemed to work, as Leicester continued to tighten the screws and thanks to a series of ricochets eventually found a way past Jordan Pickford thanks to a deflection off Iheanacho’s forehead. Ancelotti had had enough though, and took advantage of a Richarlison knock to bring on Tom Davies and switch to a 4-5-1, before throwing on Yerry Mina as well and moving to a 5-3-1-1 formation which time and again snuffed out the Foxes’ repeated forays forward.
“The first-half was good for us. We scored two goals and were in control of the game. The second-half was totally different. Leicester went out with power and intensity and we found it more difficult to cover the space.
“The fact we conceded a goal so early in the second-half was a little bit of a worry and we didn’t play as we wanted to, and as we had in the first-half.
“At the end, Leicester changed their shape in the second-half. After 60 minutes we changed the shape and tried to defend better.”
If it reminded you too much of direr times from recent years, then you’ll have to first take a gander at the list of players available to the veteran Italian manager before being too judgmental about how the result was gained. There will be a time to play magical football when Ancelotti has his players in place, but until then we’ll take the points any way they come.