The dreaded six pointer is here. Leeds are currently sitting in 17th place on 19 points. Everton start the day in the relegation zone, one point behind. An Everton win would take them out of the relegation zone, with Leeds taking their place in the bottom three.
This fixture at Goodison Park has been good for the Blues. Everton have lost just one of their past 10 Premier League games against Leeds, a 1-0 home defeat in November 2020. That is Leeds United’s only victory in their last 15 league visits to Goodison Park. Leeds have failed to score in 10 of their 14 Premier League matches at Everton. Long may it continue!
Interim boss Michael Skubala continues in the managerial hot seat as Leeds continue to search for a new manager. Sean Dyche has had the high of Arsenal and the low of the Anfield defeat.....he must wonder which team will turn up to Goodison Park for the Saturday 3pm kickoff.
️ | Sean Dyche's final thoughts ahead of #EVELEE...— Everton (@Everton) February 18, 2023
Everton manager Sean Dyche had said it wass “improbable” that Dominic Calvert-Lewin will recover from a hamstring injury in time to face Leeds United and that was true. Nathan Patterson and James Garner played for Everton’s Under-23 side on Friday following injury.
In the end, Dyche had only made one change and that was the inclusion of Neal Maupay in place of Ellis Simms. Quite interesting that Conor Coady keeps his place after having a challenging match at Anfield. There was lots of talk this week about the need for a switch after several matches that have been below par for the St. Helens born man.
Today’s Toffees! #EVELEE pic.twitter.com/puZXxguuM0— Everton (@Everton) February 18, 2023
Caretaker boss Michael Skubala named an unchanged side from the one that was beaten by Manchester United last Sunday. Liam Cooper made the bench after recovering from injury but two players were still missing. Full-back Pascal Struijk and Marc Roca had returned to training but were still missing.
Your #LUFC Starting XI... pic.twitter.com/GaszRfrGtd— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 18, 2023
The game started with a minute of applause for Christian Atsu, former Everton loanee who had been found amongst the rubble in Turkey. Huddersfield-born Andy Madley, brother of Bobby Madley, was the man in the middle as the game kicked off for this important six pointer. Goodison was packed and the fans were in fine voice.
Everton were the first team to get forward and looked lively using the width of Mykolenko to get the ball into the box. Leeds did have the first corner of the match which was well defended by Coady. The game plan was clear with Everton getting the ball forward quickly towards Maupay, however, each time there was support around him to get the second ball. Amadou Onana was at the centre of this action and was being used to thread the ball forward into the channels.
Leeds then had a period of possession in the Everton half with Bamford trying to get onto the end of the crosses unsuccessfully. A throw in that eventually ended up on the head of Onana was almost put into the path of Maupay. Everton’s pressure continued and Mykolenko ended up on the ground in the box but no penalty was given.
Everton’s first corner was taken by Iwobi and handled nicely by Meslier. The wind was playing it’s part with the stiff breeze holding up the ball on Pickford’s goal kicks whereas Leeds were having the ball run away from them heading towards the Gwladys Street End.
It was then a Doucoure pass out to Iwobi that was crossed but was intercepted by Koch. Everton’s pressure continued A nice ball from Iwobi to Doucoure was then given to McNeill who overhit the cross. Everton’s possession was up to 60% when Everton had their best opportunity when Meslier dropped an attempted catch and McNeil tried to pass the ball into Onana with an open net. His hesitation took the chance away.
It was then McNeil cross that was whipped through the six yard box but there was no one there to tap it in. Positive play but no resulting end. Gueye was then taken down just outside the box and McNeil’s free kick went nowhere.
Leeds then broke away and it was great to see how quickly Everton found their shape. Weston McKennie then drifted wide and had a shot deflect but Pickford was there to mop up. Shortly after, Amadou Onana was on the ground and the physio was brought out to look at his right leg. Thankfully he walked off but Davies immediately got up to get warm. Onana did get back on the pitch to warm Goodison applause.
A very good Everton move saw Gueye flashing the ball across with McNeil leaving it for Onana who skied the ball into the Sir Phillip Carter stand. Leeds then broke quickly but Bamford’s shot went narrowly wide of the Everton goal. The game started to open up. Iwobi put Doucoure through and an important block denied the chance and resulted in an Everton corner. The deep cross that was so effective against Arsenal saw Tarkowski put it back into the middle and the resulting scramble saw McKennie clear the Maupay header off the line.
The final ten minutes of the half arrived and the Everton pressure continued with Iwobi pulling the strings. McNeil then put in another corner and Meslier made a great save on a James Tarkowski header that was goal bound. It was then Iwobi’s turn to take the corner but Onana’s header went wide. The set pieces were once again Everton’s most effective route to goal.
A scuffle between McNeil and Adams got out of control with McNeil ending up being pushed into the hoardings. Abdoulaye Doucoure went absolutely ballistic at the push and it was up to referee Madley to sort it out. In the end, yellow cards were given to McKennie, Adams, Doucoure and McNeil. Much ado about nothing.
The final chance of the half had Junior Firpo getting to the by line and floating a cross into the six yard box that was met by Summerville who looped the cross just over the bar. Madley had had enough and blew the whistle. The teams were still going on about the melee with McNeil and Adams as they descended down the steps into the very narrow tunnel.
The second half kicked off with Everton shooting at the Gwladys Street goal. Leeds made the only switch with Max Wöber being replaced by Rasmus Kristensen. The half started with both sides struggling to get control. The scrappy play made it difficult to gain any extended control. The one change for Everton was the ability of Jordan Pickford to use the wind to get the ball down the field.
It was Iwobi who was active down the right side who crossed the ball over to McNeil who met it and the ball flashed wide of the post. Leeds then countered and their cross was also overhit. Iwobi and Gueye linked up but the pass was overhit. All were proof of why these teams are struggling at the wrong end of the table.
Neal Maupay had the first shot of the half as he swiveled but his shot was weak and easily stopped by Meslier. The crowd found their voice and tried to push their team forward. Brendan Aaronson was stripped and ready to go for Leeds. He replaced Crysencio Summerville. Any time that Leeds went forward you could feel the tension in the crowd. Gnonto switched side with Aaronson with Harrison going straight through the middle to support Bamford.
A positive move from Everton saw Mykolenko break out and it was his shot that needed to by stopped by Meslier. It was then possibly the most unlikely of heroes to step up. A lovely ball from Iwobi down the channel was met by Seamus Coleman and from the tightest of angles he caught Meslier completely unaware with a blistering volley. His last goal had come against Leeds one year ago. The crowd was rapturous but there was still 25 minutes to play.
Everton were back in the drivers seat and another corner saw Tarkowski flash the header over the bar. Leeds tried to respond quickly and it took a solid clearance from Onana to prevent a good chance. With Leeds attempting to get back in the match it looked like Everton were happy to counter attack.
In the 74th minute Tom Davies was brought on to replace the struggling Amadou Onana. A worrying turn for the Toffees. The defenders had been using Onana as a target on the diagonal ball and it would be interesting to see how things changed. The battle lines were drawn and the final fifteen minutes had arrived with Everton dropping deeper.
Leeds were given a foul when Gueye dragged down Aaronson. The resulting free kick was taken by Harrison and the delivery was awful. Another example of the poor quality on show. Weston McKennie was taken off and Rutter replaced him. Georginio Rutter joined Bamford up top so Leeds were throwing everything at the home team. Another free kick from Harrison was wildly overhit and meekly crossed the end line.
It was then Everton’s turn to make their first switch and Neal Maupay made way for Ellis Simms in an effort to get fresh legs up front. Could he make the difference in the final 9 minutes? Simms was straight into the action and it was some good pressure that caused difficulties for the Leeds defenders.
The game became very choppy with both sides frantically getting the ball and giving it away. Jack Harrison was replaced by Sam Greenwood just as Harrison was about to take a corner. Greenwood’s corner was much better but was cleared away. The Leeds free kicks were piling up and the Everton defenders were getting deeper but the gaps were getting bigger behind them. A great ball from Ellis Simms put Doucoure through one versus one on the goalkeeper but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. Panic football at it’s best.
Four minutes of additional time was shown by the fourth official. Iwobi was still running and his effort was being appreciated by the Goodison crowd. The final flourish saw both Davies and Gueye blasting the ball at goal but the final whistle blew and the three points were happily taken by Everton.
The inclusion of Conor Coady after several difficult matches was surprising. That would also be true for the two full backs, Seamus Coleman and Vitaliy Mykolenko. It says a lot about Sean Dyche and his willingness to stick with the players that he believes fit into his system. His difficulty up front to find someone to replace DCL has had Ellis Simms given a chance against Liverpool and today it was Neal Maupay. Today, all of these players did the work that was required and the defense was solid throughout the game.
Before this game started, Everton have the worst goal scoring record in the division this season, with their 16 goals coming from 10 players. Only Anthony Gordon when he was here, Demarai Gray and Dwight McNeil have netted more than once. They have scored multiple goals in only two of their 22 league games. This game saw chance after chance finish with little quality. Maupay worked tirelessly but he rarely finishes. Thirty touches in the game, 2 shots on target and only one successful dribble. Nothing else needs to be said other than the fact that it was the one piece of attacking quality from Seamus Coleman that decided the game.
In the two home games that Seamus Coleman has played under Sean Dyche he has bossed the attacking prowess of Arsenal and today, Wilfried Gnonto. Coleman may have been the greatest 60 grand that a team has ever paid in Premier League history and my own doubts about his inclusion in the squad today was shot down in flames by the tireless work of our leader. My apologies to this treasure.
Sean Dyche has come with a system and we have 6 points from 3 games. Our home form in two of those games could be summed up in one word: battling. At this juncture in time that is what is required. We have turned the tide and must now start looking up the table after getting out of the relegation zone in just three matches and we need to stay there. The next goal is to solve our away form.